The Offering of Faith
"By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4).
Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Cain and Abel. As recorded in Genesis chapter four, Cain worked the ground and Abel was a keeper of sheep. Both had good and honest jobs. Both made expressions of worship; both made offerings to the Lord in accordance with their livelihoods. But God did not receive the worship of these two men equally. As the Bible says, "The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard."
Why did the LORD delight in Abel's offering and disdain Cain's? Some have speculated that God received Abel's because Abel offered up a sheep whereas God did not receive Cain's because Cain offered up grain. This speculation falls short, however, when we consider that God prescribed both animal and grain offerings to the people of Israel (See Leviticus chapters 1-2 if you wish to read more about the Lord's prescribed offerings). Some have suggested that Abel offered up a good sheep whereas Cain offered up bad grain. God's divinely inspired Word offers a different explanation. Hebrews chapter eleven, verse six, says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." And again, "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4). Why then did the LORD delight in Abel's offering? God delighted in Abel's sacrifice because Abel offered it by faith. And why wasn't God pleased with Cain's offering? God was not pleased with Cain's offering because Cain did not offer it by faith and without faith it is impossible to please God.
“Yes, pastor,” you might say, "That is what Hebrews eleven says, but is there any evidence in Genesis that Cain did not have faith?" Why yes there is. Genesis chapter four tells us, "For Cain and his offering He had no regard. So Cain was very angry and His face fell. The LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Sin desires to have you, but you must rule over it'" (verses 5-7). Then we read that Cain rose up and killed his brother. Cain acted according to what was in his heart. And what was in his heart was not faith, but murder. 1 John chapter 3 comments on this, saying, "We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous" (verse 12).
What does all this mean for us? First, it means that righteousness is by faith. If you trust that Jesus has died for you for the forgiveness of your sins, and that God now receives you on account of what Jesus has done for you, then by that faith you are righteous. This faith is a gift of God. It is not of yourself, it is the gift of God (See Ephesians 2:8-10). Second, if you are righteous by faith, then God also accepts the offerings, worship, and works you render unto Him. God receives the gifts of His children because He loves them. He receives the praises of His children even more happily than parents receive the artwork of their young children. But if you do not trust in Jesus as your Savior, then God does not accept your offerings, your worship, or your works. If you do not trust in Jesus then Jesus will one day say to you, "Depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels for I never knew you."
Finally, this shows that God is holy. He does not receive just any worship, offering, or work. He receives only that which is offered up by faith in accordance with His Word. For, as Jesus says, "The LORD is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth" (John 4:24). We worship in accordance with His Word, by Spirit and truth, when by the Spirit, we trust in Jesus.