Why did God prefer Abel’s offering over Cain’s?

Genesis 4 begins with the story of Cain and Abel. The account is well known as the first murder in human history. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to God. Cain was a farmer and his offering was the fruit of his crops. Abel was a shepherd and his offering was a firstborn from his flock. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. Cain was very angry over his rejection and in the end murdered his brother. What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God?

Genesis says little about why God accepted Abel’s offering. In Genesis 4:7 God tells Cain, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” God’s assessment of Cain’s sacrifice was that Cain did not do good, but Genesis does not tell us in what way Cain erred.

Hebrews 11 adds a little insight to Abel’s sacrifice. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.” The reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice was because Abel made his offering “by faith”. The difference between Cain and Abel was faith.

Cain brought an offering to God. He obviously believed in God and believed God should be worshiped. Cain’s lack of faith was something other than doubt about the existence of God. The rest of Hebrews 11 describes faith as believing God’s Word to be true and obeying His commands. In some way Cain did not believe and obey God’s Word.

Hebrews 11:4 says that God spoke well of Abel’s gifts. This may suggest that the kind offering Abel brought was part of what made it acceptable to God. The description of Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering in Genesis 4 seems significant. Cain brought produce, Abel brought a sheep. The pattern of sacrifices found later in the Bible reveals that God required His people to offer animal sacrifices. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” While Genesis does not say that God commanded Cain and Abel offer animal sacrifices, maybe Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he did not obey God’s requirements for sacrifice.

In Genesis 3:15 God promised Adam and Eve He would send a deliverer who would rescue them from the horrors of sin. Maybe Abel was accepted because he believed God’s would send a deliverer and his offering was a reflection of his faith in God’s promise.

Possibly one of these suggestions is the correct answer. Possibly a combination of both. The Bible does not give a definite answer. Some questions cannot be fully answered with all the details we would like. The Bible clearly states that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he offered it by faith. Even today faith is required to come to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a reward of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

What happens to a Christian who dies in sin?

A young man meets an attractive girl. He asks her out but before she will go on a date with him he must attend church with her. He agrees and the next Sunday morning is seated next to her in church. He hears the gospel, believes and is saved. He is crazy about her, but after a couple dates she spurns any further advances from him. Filled with rage and disappointment he kills her and then takes his own life. Does he go to heaven?

A young man professed salvation at church youth group. One night a couple years later he prepares to go party with his friends. On the way out the door, he tells his parents he is going to the library. On the way to the party he is hit by a drunk driver and killed. Does he go to heaven?

The drunk driver had spent most of his adult life battling alcoholism. After his fourth DUI he entered rehab, sobered up and began attending church. Several months later he walked down the aisle and asked Jesus to be His Savior. One day he learns he has cancer and is given a few months left to live. In despair he leaves the doctor’s office to go to his favorite bar. Hours later he staggers out of bar, gets in his car and on his way home careens into the oncoming lane. He kills a teenager and is killed in the crash. Does he go to heaven?

The same question could be posed in many different ways and with many different scenarios. The real question revolves around passages like Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What happens when a person who professes Christ dies in sin? Whether it be murder, drunkenness, adultery, lying or theft the Bible says that none who do those things can enter heaven. If a professing believer commits one of those sins and dies before confessing his sin, is he forgiven? Does he go to heaven?

The genuineness of someone’s salvation cannot be determined with absolute certainty by others. God knows those who are His. Those who are His are to depart from sin, but no one, Christian or otherwise, is without sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) The authenticity of someone’s salvation is not measured by a complete absence of sin. Neither is salvation dependent on the person’s ability to not sin.

Those who have been saved are transferred out of the bondage of sin and are now the children of God. The Bible describes two categories of people. Those who are dead in sin and those who are alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2) At salvation the one who was dead in sin is made alive with Christ by the active working of God’s grace. Life in Christ is always and only by the grace of God received through faith.

No part of salvation is dependent on the deeds of men. Salvation is entirely the grace of God. If it can be won or lost based upon something a person does, it is of works. “If it be of works, then it is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6) God’s grace saves and saves completely. “He is able to save them to the uttermost that cometh unto God by Him.” This is one of the most crucial doctrines of the Bible.

If salvation is achieved by any thing the person does, then Jesus died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21) If you can do something, anything, to be saved, then you do not need a Savior.

If a person is truly saved, then he cannot die in sin. He may commit murder, but he is not counted by God as a murderer. He may lie, but he is not counted by God as a liar. When a person is saved he is declared righteous by God. The righteousness of the Christian is the righteousness of Jesus transfered onto the believer. No sin can ever mar or remove the righteousness of Christ.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and all those who believe have been made righteous by the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) Nothing the Christian does or fails to do will ever remove the grace of God and the righteousness of Jesus. If the murderer, liar or drunkard is truly saved then yes, he is in heaven.

Is Faith Blind?

Blind faith. The phrase conjures up images of a leap in the dark and a trust in the unknown. At times this kind of faith is praised as a bold step forward by those who believe in themselves. At times this kind of faith is derided as a foolish hope in nothing.

Many people, including Christians, have described belief in the Bible as a blind faith. Those speaking in defense of Biblical faith may describe it as blind because it believes in something which cannot be seen. The more skeptical may be describing belief in God and the truth of the Bible as blind because it believes despite all evidence to the contrary. Some call Christian faith blind because it believes what it cannot see, and others call Christian faith blind because it believes and refuses to see.

Is the Christian faith blind to all opposing evidence? Is Biblical faith an irrational faith that refuses to admit it is wrong even when all the facts say otherwise?

Biblical faith starts with a presupposition: Some truths cannot be discovered by observation and deduction. Some truths can only be known by revelation. Specifically, truths about the origin of everything, the creation of mankind, the purpose of humanity, the destiny of individuals and the end of the universe are only known. The Creator has revealed truth to mankind through the Bible.

Christians are not the only ones who approach evidence with a presupposition. No one is a truly impartial observer with a mind completely open to all possibilities. Everyone examines truth claims based upon a set of fervently held assumptions. Those who reject supernatural revelation have the presupposition that reason, observation, logic and deduction can determine truth. Ultimate truths can be discovered through physical processes. Supernatural revelation is contrary to this presupposition and is ultimately rejected by the individual.

Biblical faith is a response to the revelation of God. The Christian faith accepts the Bible as true and acts according to its direction. Because faith in the Bible includes accepting the Bible’s claims about itself Christian’s also believe the Bible is accurate in everything it discusses. Thus, when the Bible teaches that God created everything, that Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish and was spit up alive three days later, or that Jesus died on a cross and was raised back to life, the Christian believes these things are true. Accepting the Bible’s histories is not automatically an irrational act.

Rational people believe things based upon historical claims. We believe America once fought a war against England to gain its independence from the British crown. None of us were there, but we believe the historical records about the event. We believe a great Carthaginian General led his troops and elephantine calvary over the Alps to attack the city of Rome. None of us were there but we believe the historical documents.

Many of the claims of the Bible are supported by the observations of history and science. In most cases those who reach different conclusions are not observing different evidence, but are interpreting the evidence differently. For example, the fossil record is real. Those who accept the Biblical claim of a relatively recent creation interpret the fossil record as evidence for the flood described in Genesis. Those who accept the Darwinian claim of gradual evolution over billions of years interpret the fossil record as evidence for the slow rise of complex organisms. The evidence is the same, the interpretation is different. A persons presuppositions shape how he views the evidence.

Christianity is not contrary to reason, nor is it blind to evidence. Certainly some Christians are irrational and willfully ignorant, but this is not Biblical faith. Christianity believes what it can see. Christianity sees God’s Word and believes God to be true. Belief in the truth of God’s Word is a reasonable faith. Biblical faith believes the testimony of God over the often wrong opinions of men.

What does “the just shall live by faith” mean?

Four times the Bible uses the phrase, “the just shall live by faith.” The Bible uses that exact phrase four times. It is found first in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. The New Testament quotes Habakkuk 2:4 three times. The apostle Paul says it twice, once in the books of Romans (1:17) and once in Galatians (3:11) The author of Hebrews also uses the phrase in Hebrews 10:37.

To answer the question faith must be properly defined. Most people today think of faith as the personal acceptance of the truth of something or as an opinion held by the individual. An example of this kind of faith would be the statement, “I believe global warming is real.” Or, “I believe the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl.” This understanding of faith falls very short of what the Bible describes as faith. The Bible describes faith as the conviction of the truth of God’s Word that leads the person to obedience. One of the classic chapters on faith is Hebrews 11 which begins just a few verses after the statement, “the just shall live by faith.”

How do the just live by faith? They believe and obey God’s Word. Abel believed God’s commands about sacrifices and obeyed His instructions on how to properly sacrifice. Noah believed God’s warning about a coming flood that would destroy the world and he obeyed His instructions to build an ark. Abraham believed God’s promises to richly bless him and to make his family great. Abraham obeyed God’s command to leave his family behind and went on a journey to a destination he had not yet been told. Moses believed God would deliver the Israelites and he obeyed God’s instructions to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

Obedience alone is not faith. Faith must never never be confused with obedience. Obeying God’s instructions to love one another, to study the Bible and go to church is not the same as faith. Real faith will always produce genuine obedience, but obedience cannot always be traced back to saving faith. Many people go to church every Sunday, but not because they are Christian’s. Many people are kind to others, but not because they are saved or even believe in God.

Some people obey God thinking their obedience will be enough to outweigh their sin and get them into heaven. This is the exact opposite of faith. Obedience with the goal of achieving salvation is disobedience because it rejects God’s Word, refuses God’s grace and denies the need of Jesus’ death on the cross. Faith accepts God’s Word and follows its instructions. One is never made righteous by obedience, but those who have truly been made right with God will live in obedience. The just will live by faith.

The Bible makes clear that faith is more than acceptance of a fact. Biblical faith if far more than a personal opinion about something. Faith is more than personally accepting something as true for yourself. Faith is believing the truth of God’s Word so fully that you completely obey God’s Word. Biblical faith always produces obedience. Thus, those who are saved by faith (the just) are also those who will live in obedience to God’s commands (live by faith). Faith is not about stepping out to do something difficult. Faith is not imagining there is a presence with you when you are scared and alone. Faith is obedience to the Bible. The Christian lives by faith after salvation by being obedient to God’s commands.

The Bible means two things when it says, “the just shall live by faith”. First, those who are just were made just and given eternal life by faith. Salvation- eternal life- is only received by faith. Second, once a person becomes just the just person will live in obedience to the Bible. This obedience is not to try to get or keep righteousness, but is the natural result of true faith. The just will live by his faith. Through faith he will receive life life and faith will direct his life.

Do people not believe the Bible because of a lack of evidence?

Today’s essay is a follow up to the article I posted Wednesday and to some of the replies given to that article. One commenter said, “repeating a story is not going to convince an atheist to start believing it.” I agree. One who has rejected the Bible is not likely to suddenly start believing because of a restatement of the Biblical stories. Should Christians seek to find proofs that will conclusively show the Bible to be true and dependable?

Many proofs of Christianity can be shown, and proofs have been given over and over again. Evidences can be given, but is that the real issue? Do those who reject the Bible refuse to believe because the evidence is not convincing? As I said in the previous article, lack of information is not the problem. Nor is lack of evidence the problem. The reason for unbelief is simple. Unbelievers start from the presupposition that the claims of the Bible are not true.

Everyone brings a personal bias to truth claims and the supporting evidences offered. Evidence is always filtered through the hearer’s own worldview. Those who assert that truth can be discovered only through naturalistic means are expressing a presupposition about truth. Naturalism presupposes there is no spiritual agency at work in this world. It presupposes the absence of a Creator, a Divine plan or an eternal purpose. No one examines evidence in a completely impartial fashion. Every evidence is viewed from the foundational assumptions of the viewer. As a result, God is not proven or disproven based upon increased evidence or a recitation of the facts

Those who refuse to believe the Bible will not believe regardless of what evidences are presented to them. This is declared in Luke 16. Jesus tells of a rich man who dies and goes to hell. He asks Abraham to send one back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham respond, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man says his brothers will not believe the Bible. Abraham replies, “Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Even the most irrefutable evidence of Divine power will not convince those who have refused to believe the truth of the Bible. This is born out further in the life of Jesus. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the Pharisees response to the undeniable miracle was to plot the death of Jesus in attempt to prevent others from believing. When Jesus rose from the dead the priests knew He had been restored to life but they bribed the Roman guards to spread the story that the disciples had stolen His body. The evidence did not change the heart. Those who refuse to believe, will not be persuaded by the most convincing evidence.

From the human perspective the repetition of the Bible will not change the presuppositions of another. Yet there is no hope for faith apart from the Word of God. True faith is only produced by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person. Until the spiritual eyes are opened the heart will remain blinded. Only when God gives sight can the spiritually blind see the truth of the Son of God. Until then no evidence in the world will change the mind of the one who refuses to believe.

What role does obedience play in salvation?

The gospel message is God’s promise of full forgiveness of sin because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to life. Central to the gospel is the promise that salvation is received through faith alone apart from any individual effort to purchase, earn or deserve God’s salvation. Salvation is only by the grace of God and is never given as reward or repayment for good works. The classic way of stating this is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. This is the most basic Christian teaching. One is not saved who believes salvation can be gained, whether partially or completely, through any meritorious deed.

Obedience will never bring salvation to a person. Obedience will never secure salvation. Obedience will never sustain salvation. Obedience will never strengthen salvation. All obedience necessary to save a person has been completely accomplished by Jesus. Some protest that such a full and free salvation would encourage men to receive salvation and then live a sinful life with no regard for obedience. Paul answers this exact objection in Romans 6, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” The freeness of salvation is never an excuse to live wickedly. Since the obedience of the individual plays no role in gaining or securing salvation, what is the relationship of obedience to salvation?

Obedience shows the reality of one’s salvation. Obedience is the certain result of salvation. Many denominations and religions teach unbiblical ideas on this point, so clarity is crucial. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation, just like an apple on a tree. The apple itself brings nothing to strength or stability of the tree. Fruit reveals the health of the tree. The gospel seed that is received in a believing heart will bear fruit. One fruit of salvation is diligence to obey the commands of God. The absence of obedience does not remove salvation from the soul. The absence of obedience does not prevent one from being saved. The absence of obedience reveals the person was never saved. 1 John 2:4 says, “He that says, I know Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar.”

Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation but this does not mean the saved person will never sin, nor even that the person will never commit serious sin. Peter is a powerful example of this. Many remember Peter’s denial of Jesus. Though He most vigorously and blasphemously denied Jesus, Peter remained a disciple. The book of Galatians describes an event many years later. After the gospel began to spread into the regions around Jerusalem Peter fell into an act of collusion with apostates who denied the gospel. The seriousness of his sin brought a stern and public rebuke from the apostle Paul. Peter’s sin was one that undermined the gospel, but he never ceased to be a Christian, nor even to be an apostle. Failures in obedience do remove salvation, nor do incidents of disobedience disprove salvation. Rather, a pattern of striving to obey God in all things is a mark of genuine salvation. A life of willful disobedience is evidence that a professing Christian has not actually been saved. Obedience is the evidence of genuine salvation, the by-product of the transformed heart.

What is faith?

The book of Hebrews describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Following that description is a series of illustrations depicting what genuine faith looks like. In all cases faith is believing the Word of God to be true and acting according to God’s direction. Faith is the conviction of truth that changes how a person thinks and behaves. Saving faith is the conviction of the truths of the Bible about sin and the inability of a man to save himself. Saving faith is the conviction that Jesus is God, who died for sin, was restored to life and taken bodily up to heaven where He lives and reigns. Saving faith is the conviction that Jesus is God who did everything necessary for your own salvation. Saving faith believes the truths of the Bible and it responds to those truths as the Bible instructs us to respond.

Faith that brings salvation is far more than agreement with a set of facts. Faith that bring salvation is more than a realization that you have a spiritual problem and that you need help. Faith that brings salvation is more than the realization that you are guilty before God and deserve eternal punishment. All of these things are true, and must be agreed with. However, faith does not only agree with truth. Faith believes those truths apply directly to yourself and then applies the truths and promises to your own heart.

You may believe that Bill Gates is the most generous man in the nation. You may realize that you have a huge a financial need. You may even have a written promise from Mr. Gates that assures you he will give to you whatever is necessary to fully meet your financial need. Believing all those things will not supply your financial need. You must make your request to Mr. Gates, asking him to supply your need.

Saving faith does not just believe, it seeks God. Salvation is freely given to those who ask God for salvation according to the way He has provided. What is that way? God has commanded the sinner come to Him rejecting all efforts to save himself. God has commanded the sinner come to Him rejecting all other gods and beliefs. God has commanded the sinner come trusting in no one and no thing but Jesus. God has commanded the sinner come to Him turning away from all other attempts at salvation, false religions and false gods.

Genuine, saving faith accepts the truths of the Bible as truth, believes them as true about one’s self and then complies with God’s Word by responding exactly as God has instructed. Real faith does not just say it believes. Real faith does not only agree with a fact presented. Genuine faith complies to the instructions that God has given. Saving faith obeys God by calling out to Jesus for forgiveness. Saving faith obeys God by repenting of false worship, human effort and rejection of Jesus. Saving faith obeys God by relying only upon Jesus for salvation, without the addition of any personal effort. Faith believes God and that belief changes a person’s thinking and action to produce a right response to God.

Why is faith the deciding factor in salvation?

Most Christian churches insist that faith is necessary for salvation. Even among those groups who believe certain acts or rituals must be practiced to gain salvation, faith is still taught as holding a major role, usually the decisive one, in a person’s salvation. The pastors who are a part of the Everlasting Truths ministry unapologetically preach that one only receives salvation through faith in Jesus. Why is faith such an important part of being saved?

The first reason, which is sufficient by itself, is the Bible commands faith. The message of salvation is called by the Bible “the gospel”. The gospel is defined a set of facts about Jesus (He is God, He became man, He died on the cross, His death was to pay the punishment of men’s sin, following His death He was restored to life again and the Bible is the accurate record of these salvation truths). The gospel is that these truths of salvation are to be received by faith. The apostles Peter and Paul describe unbelievers as those who “obey not the gospel”. The book of Hebrews describes rejecting salvation as disobedience to God. In Romans 16 Paul says the gospel is published throughout the world, “for the obedience of faith.” 1 John 3:23 commands we believe in Jesus for salvation, “This is (God’s) command, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 3:23) Faith is a command of God. As the Author and Provider of salvation, God has every right to determine the conditions by which He will give salvation and to forbid salvation to those who will not come to Him under the terms He requires.

Second, faith is required for salvation because it is impossible for a person to save himself by his own effort. Salvation is either accomplished by something the person does for himself or by something Jesus does for the person. The Bible denies that any one can be good enough or obedient enough to save himself. Titus 3 says salvation is, “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Ephesians 2 says salvation comes, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 3 and Galatians 2 both declare that the keeping of God’s laws are totally unable to bring righteousness to man. The problem is so great, that the one who attempts to earn salvation by his obedience is in fact condemning himself with every failure to obey. Faith is necessary to be saved because salvation is not attainable by the effort or goodness of any individual. Salvation is a gift that must be received, but can never be earned.

Faith is the deciding factor in salvation because salvation is only possible by the grace of God. He who refuses to receive God’s gift, whether it be by the unbelief that denies the truths of salvation or the unbelief that thinks a person can be saved by his own ability, cannot be saved because he has rejected the only means of eternal life. Faith in Jesus for salvation is necessary because it confesses the individual’s inability to save himself. Faith asks God to give a person the salvation he cannot gain in any other way. Christianity does not teach the necessity of faith so it may condemn all those who do not believe as Christians believe. Christianity teaches faith as necessary for salvation because God declares the necessity of faith. Faith is necessary for salvation because only God saves, and God only saves those who rely fully on Him, and Him alone, for forgiveness of sin and eternal life with Him.

Will those who worship Allah go to heaven?

Recent statistics show there are over 1.5 billion Muslims and approximately 1 billion Hindus in the world. Besides the two and a half billion people of the world’s second and third largest religions, there are hundreds of millions of other people who worship deities other than the God of the Bible. Many of these worshipers are devoted and serious about their religion. Many are good people who treat others with respect, contribute to their society and sincerely worship the god of their culture and heritage. Do Christians really believe these good, sincere people will be sent to hell because they don’t worship God the same as western Christians? Does the Bible teach sincere worshipers of other gods will go to hell?

These kinds of questions strike a chord deep in hearts. For good people to go to hell for not worshiping the right way or for not calling God by the right name seems patently unfair. The assumption of divine unfairness towards sincere worshipers of other religions reveals wrong ideas about salvation, heaven and hell. The question reveals a belief that one gets to heaven by worship, devotion, good behavior and sincerity.

The Biblical explanation of who goes to heaven has nothing to do with sincerity, goodness or practicing the proper religious rituals. The Bible gives specific examples of sincere, religious men who worshiped and did good but who were nonetheless condemned. Nicodemus was a good man who had great respect for Jesus and who sincerely worshiped God. Jesus told Nicodemus he was lacking something very important and could not enter heaven without it. In the book of Titus, we are told that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” (Titus 3:5)

What Nicodemus lacked is what every man needs. Jesus said, “”Except a man be born again can, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Only those who are born again by believing Jesus is God the Son and their personal Savior will enter into heaven. Going to heaven is not a matter of sincere worship. Going to heaven is a matter of turning to Jesus for forgiveness and trusting only in Him to remove one’s guilt and its consequences. The issue is not an issue of devotion or sincerity. The issue is a matter of reliance.

Those who sincerely worship Allah have no more chance of entering heaven by their devotion than those who sincerely worship Jesus have by their faithful church attendance. Those who worship Allah cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is God and Savior and ask Him to forgive their sin. Those who worship Vishnu cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is the only God and Savior and trust Him alone to forgive their sin. Those who worship their ancestors cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus alone is God and is the only one able to wash away the stain of sin. Those who worship Jesus cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge He is God and Savior and rely only on Him for forgiveness of sin. Worship (in the sense of religious ritual and devotion) is never a means to salvation, no matter who is being worshiped.