By Paul Smithson
The eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews not only tells us that we must have faith in order to be pleasing to God (v.6), but it also shows us what faith is. Through examples of faithful individuals of the past the Lord has clothed the concept of faith that we might see it and understand what it involves.
The writer begins with the example of Able and how faith involves acceptable worship. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4). I am impressed that at the very beginning of man’s history the first thing that man sought to do by faith was to worship the Almighty God. True faith always seeks to worship. The Scripture tells us that Able “offered to God a better sacrifice.” The word “offered” in this passage literally means “to bear or to carry something.” Able brought something to God. The reason he did was because he realized his deficiencies before God. Able realized he was a sinful man and recognized the righteousness and power of God. With this understanding Able sought to do something. So, he offered, brought, carried something to God. True faith in God always will seek to worship God. Before anyone will faithfully worship God, they must recognize God’s righteousness and power and admit their sinfulness before Him. When one comes to understand these things, it is then that he will seek to bring an offering before God’s throne by faith.
True faith, however, not only seeks to worship, but seeks to worship as God directs. To explain how true faith worships, God uses the lives of two individuals; one who sought to worship in his own way, and another who by faith sought to worship as God directed. The record of this story in Genesis 4 tells us that Able offered the firstlings of his flocks. That is, Able offered to God a blood sacrifice. Cain, however, made a vegetable offering. It is inconceivable to think that Cain and Able were left on their own to determine how they were to worship God. The Scriptures state that Able offered “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Able must have had some revelation from God as to how to worship, something upon which to base his faith. In the beginning, long before He would pour out the blood of His own Son for the sins of man, God made it known that whenever sinful man approached God, he needed to bring a blood sacrifice. Able gave to God what God wanted. Cain, however, gave to God what Cain wanted.
It is important to note that it was not the worship of a false god that condemned Cain. It was the worship of the true God in a false way that condemned Cain. False religion is trying to come to God or worship God in any other way than that which God has directed. “There is a way that seems right unto man but the end thereof is death” (Prov. 14:12). To worship God acceptably one must have faith in God and follow His direction. Faith always seeks to worship as God directs (Jn. 4:24).
People everywhere are looking for a religion that they like. Many go from church to church trying to find the one that appeals to them. When they find the things, they want to do and hear the things they want to hear they will worship there. Yet, when we adapt religion to please ourselves, whether it is concerning how we live our lives or what we do in our worship assemblies, God is not pleased. Whatever we teach or practice must be based on the authority of God’s word (Col. 3:17). Only then can our worship be offered by faith.
In teaching us concerning saving faith God uses the contrast of two kinds of worship. Cain’s is a worship of convenience according to man’s way that was not acceptable to God. Abel’s, however, was a worship of faith. He offered to God as God directed, thus obtaining God’s approval.
Are you seeking God’s approval? Are you living and worshipping before Him by faith?