The first faithful witness Hebrews 11 mentions is Abel. What does this passage emphasize about Abel? It is his more excellent sacrifice that he offered up to God. Of Abel it is said, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain; through him he received the testimony that he was righteous, in that God bore witness to his gifts, and through him he still speaks, though he has died” (Heb. 11:4). Abel knew exactly what God desired, namely the firstborn of his flock and the fat thereof. Although Abel lived long before God gave the official commandment, he already knew that God wanted sacrifices from His people as the proper worship. Abel also knew that he could not offer just anything to God. He knew that his offering had to be of the firstborn of his flock. Later in the Law it says, “There you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the heave offerings from your hand and your vow offerings and your freewill offerings and the firstborn of your oxen and sheep” (Deut. 12:6). Abel knew God and consequently knew what God wanted. Therefore, his sacrifice was “the more excellent sacrifice.”
What about us Christians today in the New Covenant? God still requires His people to offer sacrifices to Him for worship – but these are now spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ. We are not to worship God according to our own imagination. Rather, we should take God’s way when it comes to worship. Cain, Abel’s brother, did not take God’s way. He took his own way and sacrificed fruits of his field. God calls this the “way of Cain” (Jude 11) and “evil” (1 John 3:12). Let us learn from Cain how not to worship God! God’s way of worship is the firstfruits of the flock and their fat. Applied to us today, this means that for worship we should offer our best experience (the firstfruits) of Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) as spiritual sacrifices to God. This is God’s way!
Unfortunately, many of us Christians today have our own preferences, ideas, and traditions about how we want to worship God. Yes, we worship God, but do we do so according to His way? Or do we follow our own way like Cain and not ask God what His way is? It is so important that we learn from Cain and Abel. On the one hand, we learn from Cain how not to do things. On the other hand, we learn from Abel what the way of God is. Finally, it comes down to God bearing witness to our gifts. Our spiritual sacrifices are not to please people. They are for God! It doesn’t matter what people say about them. After all, we do not bring our sacrifices to people. What we should strive for is God’s testimony. Genesis 4:4 says, “And Abel also offered an offering of the firstborn of his sheep, and of their fat. And the LORD looked with favor upon Abel and his offering.” The Lord our God Himself testified that Abel’s sacrifice pleased Him. Cain’s sacrifice, on the other hand, was not pleasing to God.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself also desired only God’s bearing witness to Him. In John 5:34-37, Jesus said, “But I do not accept the testimony of man…And the Father who sent Me has Himself borne witness about Me.” Jesus sought to have God bear witness to Him. He did not depend on the testimony of men. What a wonderful testimony God gave to His Son: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Let us also strive to receive such a testimony from God through our Lord Jesus Christ! No wonder Peter speaks of our sacrifices being “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Let us learn from Cain and Abel to offer sacrifices that are pleasing to God!