Why Is Abel Included in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith”?

Brad Simon

Published Aug 29, 2023
Why Is Abel Included in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith”?

Abel’s faith was characterized by his genuine devotion and obedience to God’s command. As Christians, we are called to emulate this kind of faith – a faith accompanied by sincere actions of love for God.

In the earliest days of mankind, one young man remained faithful to his Lord. With a heart for God, Abel walked with his Creator by faith and lived in obedience to His Word.

Abel grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Cain. His mother said of Cain at his birth, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man” (Gen 4:1). There is no such proclamation recorded in Scripture concerning Abel.

Cain and Abel were the first two children born on earth. It’s hard for us today to imagine growing up without friends to play with and explore the world around us, but that is all Cain and Abel knew. They had only the companionship of each other and their parents, and perhaps some sisters.

Adam and Eve shared stories of living in the Garden of Eden and all that God had commanded them to do. Before Moses wrote God’s laws, oral traditions were passed from generation to generation. Parents and grandparents shared stories about God and His requirements.

Abel became a shepherd, and his favorite story may have been how God had his father Adam name all the animals (Gen 2:19-20). He could only dream of being in the Garden of Eden, walking with the Lord, and listening to His voice. The more his father taught him, the more Abel grew in his faith and belief in God.

As the boys grew into manhood, they differed in character and in their relationship with God. Abel was a humble and devout man. He developed a deep reverence for God and a desire to please Him. Jesus called Abel a righteous man (Matt 23:35). Cain was the total opposite. As the older brother, he was probably used to getting his own way, and he grew up to become a proud and self-centered man. He believed his efforts alone would be enough to please God.

The First Sacrifice

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, Adam made a covering for them out of fig leaves. Being a gardener, Adam tried to cover their sin with the work of his hands. But man’s attempt to cover sin by his own efforts is never adequate. God covered their sin with the skin of an animal. By sacrificing the animal and shedding its blood, He made clothing to cover their nakedness. In doing so, God demonstrated what is taught throughout Scripture, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

Whether their parents passed down God’s instruction or the brothers received it by direct revelation isn’t revealed in Scripture. But Cain and Abel knew they were to offer sacrifices, and it was only by the shedding of blood that their sacrifice would be acceptable. 

In obedience to God, the two men brought an offering. God accepted the sacrifice of Abel, but rejected Cain’s. It is possible God signified His acceptance by sending fire from heaven to consume the offering as He did with Moses and Arron (Lev. 9:24), David (1 Chr. 21:26), and Elijah (1 Kin. 18:38). Or maybe God spoke His acceptance audibly from heaven as He did at Jesus’ baptism (Mat. 3:17). Whatever the method, it was obvious to both. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s.

By Faith Abel Believed and Trusted God

Both Cain and Abel knew what God required. Cain rejected God’s instruction and acted in unbelief. He brought a sacrifice of the fruit of his labor, trying to please God by the works of his hands.

Abel acted in faith and belief in God, offering a sacrifice with unwavering trust in His plan. He followed God’s instruction and offered a slain animal, demonstrating his belief and trust in God’s Word.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Abel’s sacrifice wasn’t merely an act. It was an expression of his unwavering belief and trust in the Creator. His heart overflowed with faith as he saw beyond the visible. He believed in God, whom he had not seen, and trusted in His promises. As a result, God approved his offering.

When doubt whispered, Abel listened to the voice of faith that echoed in his heart. In a world often clouded by doubt and uncertainties, Abel’s faith inspires us to believe and trust in God’s guiding hand.

By Faith Abel Obeyed God

Cain rejected God’s directive and brought what he wanted to bring. By faith, Abel obeyed the Lord and offered an acceptable sacrifice. God’s pleasure wasn’t just in the lamb’s sacrifice, but in Abel’s obedience. He obediently gave according to what God had instructed. 

The prophet Samuel told King Saul, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). 

Through obedience, our faith finds expression. James tells us, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Genuine faith always leads to obedient action. Abel’s faith was not simply words, but revealed through his act of obedience to God.

Abel’s faith was characterized by his genuine devotion and obedience to God’s command. As Christians, we are called to emulate this kind of faith – a faith accompanied by sincere actions of love for God.

By Faith Abel Gave His Best to God

With a heart full of reverence, Abel approached God, offering not just any sacrifice. He brought the very best he had and truly sought to please God. But Cain did not have that attitude of faith. He didn’t bring the best crop, just “some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord” (Gen 4:3). Abel brought the “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (Gen 4:4). Abel brought his best work to God. He did his best for God.

Abel recognized that giving his best to God reflected his love for the Creator. He presented a sacrifice that mirrored his belief in God’s goodness. God’s acceptance wasn’t solely about the gift. It was acceptance of Abel’s sincere devotion.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col 3:23-24).

Whatever we do for God, we need to do our best work. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned the water into wine. The servants took the wine to the headmaster, who tasted it and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2:10). Jesus didn’t do mediocre work. He did his best; he created the best wine. We are always to do our best for God. And that’s what Abel did. He brought the best portion of the first of his flock.

Abel’s Legacy - An Enduring Testimony

“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).

Despite a warning from the Lord about the need to overcome his anger, Cain plotted against his brother and murdered him. Abel’s life was cut short, but he became an example for future generations by leaving a legacy of sincere faith and humble obedience. His life has encouraged generations of believers to live a life devoted to God. It is not the size of our offerings that matter to God, but the condition of our hearts. By faith, we are to offer our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:16).

The account of Abel reminds us that righteousness and faithfulness have an enduring impact. When others see our belief and faith in God, they are influenced by it. As we walk in obedience, we honor Abel’s legacy, our lives become a testimony to others, and we bring glory to God. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/ImagineGolf

Brad Simon has shared God’s Word for over forty-five years, with a unique blend of storytelling and Bible exposition. He is a retired Master Jeweler and relies on the God-given creativity that won him several national and international jewelry design awards to craft Biblical Narratives and Life Stories that are engaging and thought-provoking. Once a speaker, author, and publisher for the jewelry industry, now he is putting those skills to work to promote the beauty and appeal of God’s Word. Download a free copy of his devotional on prayer.