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Faith That Inspires: Abel

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 4 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. —Hebrews 11:1–4 (NASB95)

Through a study of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we are examining the lives of 16 heroes of faith. As you will remember, we learned last week that the book was written to Jewish Christians who were under fire and highly discouraged. They felt powerless and defeated as they tried to live their Christian lives. Maybe you can relate to that.

Today we are examining Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve. His story is always told along with that of his elder brother Cain, and it is a sad, familiar one. The story of Cain and Abel is a study of contrasts and consequences. Two parallel lives, but significantly different in one life-changing way.

Discussion Questions: 

Icebreaker – If you have siblings, tell the group your most memorable example of sibling rivalry.

  1. Read Hebrews 11:1–4. The book of Hebrews was partly written to encourage first-century Jewish Christians facing persecution from the government, their social circles, and their former fellow Jews.
  2. In what ways was their situation different and similar to our circumstances?
  3. Who are your spiritual heroes, firm believers who have faced difficult things faithfully? What about them is so encouraging to you?
  4. Read Hebrews 11:1-22. How are faith and hope linked, as described in Hebrews 11:1?
  5. Eighteen sentences in Hebrews 11 begin, “By faith.” By placing these words at the beginning of so many sentences, the Author meant to intensify the cumulative effect for the reader. We please God when we walk by faith. What does it mean to live a walk by faith? How does that affect your daily decisions? Do you rely more on yourself or God?
  6. How do we get faith if faith is not self-confidence but rather God-confidence?
  7. Read Hebrews 10:38, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Habakkuk 2:4. Faith is always a response to God and his word. Read Romans 10:17. How do we hear God?
  8. Read Genesis 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:8. How are we exposed if we do not obey God? Have you ever exposed yourself to attack by disobeying God? Tell the group about it. What were the consequences?

Digging Deeper

In our text today, we find the Greek word Μαρτυρέω (Martyréō) written twice. It means “to be approvingly testified of.” We see it in verse 11:2 about all of the heroes of faith and again in verse 11:4, specifically about Abel. It means God Himself is stamping approval on a person’s life.

We’re told here that they had reality itself, the God who’s the Author of all authority, permanently changed their self-understanding by giving them a testimony that he was utterly and absolutely pleased with them. He accepted them. He approved them. He endorsed them.

How does being in God’s approval affect your daily view of circumstances?
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