STUDY Hebrews 11:1-4 (click here for notes)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (NIV)


Hope and Understanding by Faith

The author of Hebrews has used many Old Testament passages to support and illustrate his points. He now begins to exhort his readers with conclusions based on those passages.

1. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for" states v. 1. For what do we surely hope? (see Heb. 3:6; 6:11-12, 18-19; 7:19; Romans 5:1,2; 2 Peter 1:10-11)


2. What do we not see of which we are certain? (see 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; 5:6-10; Romans 8:23-25)


3. Based on our unseen but certain hope, the "ancients" were commended for having faith in what? (see also Job 19:25-27)


4. What biblical evidence is there that God created the universe by His word? (Genesis 1; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2; 2 Peter 3:5-7)


5. Of what significance is it for us that we are created by God as opposed to being the result of an evolutionary process?


Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel were born after Adam and Eve sinned. (see Genesis 3 and 4.)

6. Whom did Eve acknowledge when she delivered Cain? (Gen. 4:1)


7. How were the two boys (Cain and Abel) different? (see Gen. 4:2)


The Offerings

8. What was the difference between the offerings Cain and Abel gave to God? (Gen. 4:3-4)


9. What was the significance of God's later commands to Israel to offer the firstfruits at the Feast of Harvest, and does that requirement shed any light onto Cain's sacrifice? (see Exodus 23:16-19)


10. Abel offered the firstborn (the "firstfruits") of his flocks. What is ultimately the significance of the firstborn ? (see Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5)


11. Do you think the fact that Cain offered fruit and Abel offered a lamb made a difference in God's acceptance or rejection of the offerings? Why or why not?


12. What light does Hebrews 11:4 shed on the reason for God's acceptance of Abel's offering and not of Cain's?


Of Anger and Sin

When God did not accept his offering, Cain became angry. God said, "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." (Gen. 4:6-7)

13. In what other instance did God question a man's right to be angry? (Jonah 4:1-4)


14. Why do you think God questioned Cain's anger?


15. The Hebrews word for "crouching" in Gen. 4:7 is the same as a Babylonian word which referred to a demon crouching outside the door of a building to threaten those inside. What did God's warning to Cain suggest about his relationship to sin: "If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door"? (see Genesis 44:16; Numbers 32:23; Isaiah 59:12)


16. The phrase for "it desires to have you" in v. 4 is the same as the phrase in Gen. 3:16, "Your desire will be for [your husband]" and in "his desire is for me" in Song of Solomon 7:10. What does this phrase suggest about sin?


17. How was Cain supposed to "master" sin? (see Job 11:13-15; 22:27; Psalm 27:1-3; 46:1-3)


Prophet Abel

Cain's killing Abel did not remove the reality of Abel's faith or its conviction upon Cain.

18. In what sense is Abel a prophet? (see v. 10; 12: 50-51)


19. For what does Abel's blood call from beyond his death? (see Gen. 9:5; 37:26-27; Exodus 21:12; Numbers 35:33; Job 16:18-19; Psalm 9:12; 106:38; Hebrews 12:24; Rev. 6:9-10)


20. What is the "better word" (Hebrews 12:24) Jesus' blood speaks than Abel's?


21. Why did God commend Abel as a righteous man? (see also 1 John 3:12)



22. In light of Jesus' words in Matthew 5:21-24, how does the story of Cain and Abel apply to your life?


23. Are your gifts to God acts of faith and worship, or are they things you decide to give for personal reasons?


24. Are there things in your life for which you feel angry at God or resentful of his sovereignty?


25. How does Jesus' blood speak a better word in your own life than has Abel's?



26. What sin seems most often to crouch at your door, desiring you?


27. What that you find hard to release is Jesus asking you to offer to him?


28. What gets in your way of "mastering" sin?


29. Ask Jesus to show you over what he wants to make you victorious. Be willing to acknowledge the truth as the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, and allow him to replace those idols or sins with his Spirit of love and peace. Ask God to give you an honest heart and to make you a person of faith.


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