Agonizomai: Heb 11 - 04 - Christ - Pleasing God in His Saints

Monday, March 22, 2010

Heb 11 - 04 - Christ - Pleasing God in His Saints

Heb 11 - 04 - Christ - Pleasing God in His Saints

Heb 11:4 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.

Why was the sacrifice of Abel more acceptable than Cain’s? Was it because Abel was a better person? Was he holier, more reasonable - smarter than Cain? The clue is that it was by faith that the sacrifice was more acceptable. It was on account of faith. And it was on account of faith and nothing else that might be found in Abel. Both Cain and Abel were sinners worthy of death. And, remember, the animal that died in and of itself had no efficacy in appeasing God or removing the guilt of sin.

So what was the true dynamic at work here? We simply can’t take the word "faith" and make it an attribute of our own. And since true faith bears fruit, we can’t strictly speaking make the action resulting from faith something commendable to the believer, in the sense of it propitiating God. Faith propitiates and atones for no one and nothing. It is the object of our faith that God sees when we come to Him for acceptance. So we do indeed exercise faith of our own volition, manifested in works of obedience - and that faith is pleasing to God - but it pleases God because of the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ, either anticipated or remembered, and as the basis upon which we demonstrate trust God for the future.

All this simply means that underneath everything are the everlasting arms of God. He causes those who have faith to believe because He chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, and effectually called them in time. Had He not done so then no one would have faith in Christ, and nothing any one did could or would be acceptable to God.

This is as true of sanctification as it is of justification. God is the mover, the author and the perfecter of our faith, Who will finish in us the good work He started unto the day of Jesus Christ. But we must believe and we must strive to obey - and if we are truly saved we will always be desiring (even when failing) to please God, due to what He has done for us and in us through Jesus Christ.

So this is a Romans 9 situation (as are all contrasts between the elect and the reprobate). Abel God loved and Cain He hated. By "loved" we speak of that elective, saving love whereby Abel was saved entirely by God for good works which God had prepared beforehand that he should walk in them. There were no good works for Cain and, for him, there was not that elective love by which some men are found in Christ. Cain was left to his own immoral, self-interested and rebellious choices.

So Abel, this first in a long line of the faithful from Jewish history, was justified and kept by faith in the God of the promise, just as we all are. He was commended as righteous - that is as if he was righteous, even though he was not. He did not commend himself, but was commended by God - the same God Who granted him faith and worked obedience in him. And, as we were reminded earlier in the sermon, what we know of Abel was written down for our edification, upon whom the end of the age has come. It is encouragement to keep both the Hebrews and us from growing weary - as are all the stories of the saints in this list.


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