Abel – Good Works vs. Good Intentions


Prayer:  Father God, as we look at the life and shed blood of Abel this day, allow us to see that unrighteousness is condemned by You, and righteousness is rewarded.  Abel who died many thousands of years ago is still remembered for his faith and his righteous act of sacrifice.  At the same time, Cain is still dishonored for his unrighteousness and the mark it left on him for the rest of his life.  May our badge be the mark of righteousness.  In Jesus' name we petition, you Oh Lord God.  Amen.

Main Scripture: Read Hebrews 11:4 and Genesis 4:2-8.

By faith, Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith, he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.  And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  Over time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him (Genesis 4:2-8).

Associated Scriptures:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?  Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.  And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:33-35).

This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreement (1 John 5:6-9).

Correlative Quotes:

Abel represents the righteous man referred to in 10:38, whose acceptance before God was based on a superior sacrifice. Like Abel, the readers found acceptance before God based on the better sacrifice of the New Covenant. Their unbelieving brethren, like Cain, found no such divine approbation. Even death does not extinguish the testimony of a man like Abel.[1] – Zane C. Hodges

Abel was a righteous man because of faith (Matthew 23:35). God had revealed to Adam and his descendants the true way of worship, and Abel obeyed God by faith. His obedience cost him his life.[2] – Warren W. Wiersbe

‎After the fall, God must be worshipped by sacrifices, a way of worship which carries in it a confession of sin, and the desert of sin, and a profession of faith in a Redeemer, who was to be a ransom for the souls of men.[3] – Matthew Henry

A very important principle is this: “God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before He inspects the gift, service, or worship.”  This means you must be in a relationship with God before you seek to worship or serve Him. Otherwise, your worship is unacceptable.[4] – Keith Krell


In the beginning, God had respect for the gifts of Abel because he offered with singlemindedness and righteousness, but he had no respect for Cain's offering because his heart was divided with envy and malice, which he cherished against his brother.[5] Irenaeus (AD 185).

There are many firsts in the account of Cain and Able.  For example, the first recorded birth (Genesis 4:1), the first children (vss.1-2), the first sacrifice (vss. 3-4), the first recorded display of anger (vs. 6), the first death, and the first murder (vs. 8).  However, the killing of Abel was not the first sin.  We have to look back to Adam for that act of disobedience (Genesis 3:6).  Through Adam came death to all creation and spiritual death to all mankind.  It was Adam’s sin that brought about the need for a blood sacrifice and, therefore, the act that led to the death of Abel.

When considering Cain and Abel and their sacrifices, the big question to answer is; Why did the Lord look “with favor on Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4) more so than Cain and his offering.

  1. The Sovereignty of God: “The Lord looked with favor on Abel” (vs. 4). Being sovereign means that God has ultimate power and the license to do as He pleases whether we agree with His decisions or not. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  Our responsibility is to be subservient to God’s will and accept and support whatever He decides.  Instead of being compliant with God’s decision, Cain became angry and bitterly disappointed (vs. 6).
  2. The Omniscience of God: “The Lord looked with favor on…his offering (vs. 4).” God knows all things. There is nothing that we can hide from Him.  He knows the deepest secrets of our hearts before they even become our deepest secrets.  God knew Abel’s heart and knew that his sacrifice was one of faith.  He also knew Cain’s heart and knew that he did not have a righteous intent.  God knows our hearts. 
  3. The Righteousness of God: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted” (vs. 7). God is Righteous and Just. It is not that he has an inclination toward righteousness and justice and therefore practices it, He is Right and He is Just.  He saw that Abel’s sacrifice met the criteria of a blood sacrifice.  It is only the blood that saves (Romans 5:9a).  Although Cain’s sacrifice may have been a worthy one, it did not focus on redemption.  We can see by Cain’s response that God knew Cain’s heart and even before the sacrifices were made, He knew that Cain’s reaction would be one of a sinful heart (vs. 8).

Summary Statement:

Adam committed the first sin.  Adam’s sin awoke the sin nature in all mankind (Romans 5:12).  Abel’s death was, therefore, a byproduct of Adam’s sin. 

Lesson within the Lesson:

What was the cause of Cain’s reaction and where did it begin?

What was God’s reaction to each of the two sacrifices?

What was Cain’s response to God’s questions and what does it show us about him?

What is the secret to a righteous response to God’s decisions?

[1] Zane C. Hodges, Hebrews, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, © SP Publications, Ltd., Fair Use Authorization, Section 107, of the Copyright Law, p. 807.

[2] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Fair Use Authorization, Section 107, of the Copyright Law.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Fair Use Authorization, Section 107, of the Copyright Law.

[4] Keith Krell, 8. Raising Cain (Genesis 4:1-26), Fair Use Authorization, Section 107, of the Copyright Law, bible.org/seriespage/8-raising-cain-genesis-41-26.

[5] Irenaeus, christian-history.org, Fair Use Authorization, Section 107, of the Copyright Law,