The First Martyr In Scripture

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The First Martyr In Scripture

Want more on the story of Cain and Abel? Check out this sermon I preached on Genesis 4

He's the first martyr in Scripture, and his death is recorded only four chapters in.

Perhaps a more gruesomely accurate description is that Abel becomes the first victim of sibling homicide in the history of the world. It's the kind of story that starts trending on social media, capturing your interest as it turns your stomach at the very same time.

I almost titled this story "There Will Be Blood" because the soaked ground underneath Cain's feet foreshadows what life will become in a fallen world; Abel's murder is the beginning of a flow of blood that results when the human community turns to violence. At the same time, this sickening story also foreshadows the coming of Christ. In the shedding of his own blood, the Messiah promises that someday the blood-letting will stop. In the murder of Jesus, murder itself is given its final death sentence.

Why Abel?

When the author of Hebrews 11, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thinks about what true biblical faith looks like, his mind immediately runs to Abel. Too many of us look at Abel like that minor character in a Netflix mini-series who's killed off early and soon forgotten. But Hebrews 11 doesn't allow us to do that, so I wanted to dedicate my first character post to Abel. My goal is not to paint for you a hero that you can celebrate, but instead paint a window through which you look onto the glory of God and seek the grace that ignites vertical faith in your heart.

Let's get to the story. Here's what Hebrews 11 says: "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks."

I can't tell you how much I love the final words of Hebrews 11:4 - "And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks." You can physically murder one of God's children of faith, but you can't silence them.

For martyrs of the Gospel, their legacies of faith, hope and love live on for centuries after they've gone home. Their stories carry on through the lives of those they influenced, through the good deeds they did, and through the things they built. For Abel, his legacy lives in the words of this little verse that have encouraged people of faith for thousands of years.

Abel still speaks. In fact, he's speaking to us today with words we need to hear.

The Cornerstone Of Faith

What else does the shortened life of Abel remind us of? The answer is simple, yet profound: the foundation and cornerstone of biblical faith is worship.

The foundation of biblical faith is not theological knowledge or biblical literacy; it's not Christian action, social justice, commitment to ministry or sacrificial giving; it's not a godly marriage, selfless parenting or sacrifical friendship. These are all wonderful things, but they're all built on top of the cornerstore of biblical faith. To change the word picture, they're all the fruit of biblical faith.

The epicenter of biblical faith is the worship of God. This is the thing that separates people of biblical faith from everyone else. Sinners don't come into the world worshipping God. No, we're all born as committed worshippers of the creation, and the thing we worship most in the creation is ourselves.

We don't naturally want to worship God; in fact, we all want to be God! So when a person has a heart that desires to offer sacrifices of worship that are pleasing to the Creator, like Abel did, you know that person - whoever they are, wherever they live, and whatever they do - has been met and rescued by God's amazing grace.

Abel's Voice

Abel was commended by God for one thing - his worship - and his voice still speaks, calling us to examine the true worship of our hearts. Are we listening, offering God our sacrifices of money, time, and effort? Are these sacrifices pleasing to him, given from a heart that's ruled by the glory of God and no longer ruled by the glory of self?

Or, have we closed our ears like Cain? Do we pride ourselves in our own righteousness, giving God the dregs that are the left-overs of our quest for self-glory?

The story of Abel tells us one more thing: in the hands of God, there's no end to what our legacy can be, no matter how ignominious your death was and how short our lives turn out to be. With God as the author of our story, none of us know who our faith may touch and how long-lasting the effect will be.

I love the fact that Abel still speaks long after he died. We should pray too that, by grace, our legacies will continue long after we have gone home.

For Further Study

Want more on the story of Cain and Abel? Check out this sermon I preached on Genesis 4

Posted by Benjamin Fallon at 7:00 AM
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