4th January 2023
Read Genesis 4:1-9 and Hebrews 11:4
Message Alan Burke
The first Martyr in the History of the Church was not John the Baptist (Mt 14:1-12), or Stephen in the book of Acts (7:54-60), but it was Abel who died for his faith, murdered at the hands of Cain. What we are told in the book of Genesis is that after Cain and Abel brought their offerings Cain responded to the Lord looking on Abel’s offering with favour by being angry and downcast. Cain was outraged by this state of affairs and despite God's warning he ended up taking his brother's life. The Lord in His Grace had warned Cain about the consequences of his sin and the failure to turn from it, but Cain rejected the gracious word of God. The concise and abrupt way in which the account Abel’s murder is told (v8) depicts to us the awfulness of what took place, sin had mastered Cain. What he had done to his brother was ultimately directed against God, he hated Abel because he hated God.
Whereas Abel we are told was, “By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.” (Heb 11:4)
Abel was commended as a righteous man by faith. And we know, from Romans 3, "There is no one righteous, not even one. No one who understands, there's no one who seeks God... There's no one who does what is good, not even one.” and that would include Abel (Rom 3:10). It’s not that Abel was righteous by virtue of his own goodness or morality, but because God commended, or declared, him as righteous by faith. Again we are reminded it was all about faith. It was faith in Christ that Abel had, that is why he was commended as a righteous man, it was faith in the promised one of God. Abel had faith in the one that his parents had taught him to believe in, faith in the one they hoped and longed for, the promised one who would deal with the sin that came into the world. Abel had faith in Christ, the one as Romans 3:25 reminds us, who came as a sacrifice of atonement, that the sacrifice of Jesus was for all sin before and after, because in His forbearance God and left the sins committed beforehand unpunished to demonstrate His justice (Rom 3:25).
The sin of Abel was placed upon Jesus Christ through faith, the atonement of Jesus Christ was once and for all, it was for Abel through faith who died before his coming and it is for us who through faith believe. If you are struggling to get your head round this, how it was by faith in Christ that Abel was saved look to Hebrews 11:26, because we are told in regard to Moses, that he turned his back on the death and pleasures of Egypt, for the sake of… Christ! Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, all those listed were looking to the promises of God in Christ, the Messiah, the promised one of God, Jesus Christ. What we have here is a wonderful reminder of how from beginning to end is from Genesis To Revelation about One Lord, One Plan, One People. Every sinner has ever lived, as well as all those who are listed in Hebrews 11, and let’s not forget us, those of us here who have faith, are made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
For each and everyone who has ever lived there is only one way that we are righteous before the Lord and that is by faith as the righteousness of Christ is given to us. There is a transfer, we are clothed by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ by faith. Abel looked forward with faith to what God would do in Christ Jesus, how the penalty for sin would be dealt with but not only that, that the one who would take the penalty for sin would live a perfect life, fulfilling the law for all who put their trust in Him by Faith. This is how we are to be justified before a holy God, by the perfect righteousness of another, the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is imputed to all who have faith. It is what is known as an alien righteousness, for it belongs to Jesus and Abel a sinner was commended as a righteous man through the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ and likewise we are commended as righteous through the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the wonder of what God has done for us!
Q41 Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments. (Deut. 10:4, Matt. 19:17)