Today our lesson is a biography of Righteous Abel. To get inside God's thinking on this matter, back up to Genesis 3:21. In this verse we learn a great deal about what God considers important for us His creations. Note four truths about how fallen, sinful humans must approach God:
- We as sinners must be COVERED to come to God.
- We as sinners can not use SELF-MADE COVERINGS to come to God.
- We as sinners must accept the fact that ONLY GOD PROVIDES PROPER COVERINGS for us.
- We as sinners must believe that ONLY SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH COVERS sin.
The word for atonement is kaphar and it means "to cover". We run into this word in the Flood account as God tells Noah to "cover" the Ark with pitch. The idea is to shield Noah from the fury of the Flood he had to find a covering for the wood of the Ark. So God says to us His creations who sin, we must find a covering to shield us from God's wrath. And God says the only shield or covering or atonement HE ACCEPTS is in the form of a substitute.
He still speaks. He says three things:
- Man comes to God by faith, not works
- Man must accept and obey God's revelation above his own reason and self-will
- And sin is severely punished.
This is Abel's timeless three-point sermon to the world, which he has been preaching for thousands of years to those who will hear. It could be titled, "The Righteous Shall Live by Faith."
Now, let watch an Old Testament saint bringing their sacrifice to God. Remember that for Cain and Abel, offering an animal was equal to confessing to be a sinner. If Cain would have done that, God would have accepted the rest of his offerings as offerings of love. But when the blood of a substitute was not offered, God would not look on the rest of the offering nor the offeror. Because it is only on the basis of Christ's offering that God may be approached.
In each of the seven steps Righteous Abel followed, and all who like him come to God, we see the marvelous, gracious plan of salvation.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is acknowledging that they have sinned.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is identifying with the substitute they bring.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is declaring God is offended by their sin.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is providing a substitute to take their place of punishment for sin.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is demonstrating that death is the penalty for sin.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is meeting God's demands for sin.
- A person who brings a sacrifice to God is receiving God's forgiveness for sin.
So that is just what Abel did at the altar that day, step by step.