Genesis 4:4–5 [Berean Study Bible]
(4) The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering
(5) but He had no regard for Cain and his offering

I'm in the middle of conversation with a Calvinist in a Christian Forum (in our language).

First I ask that how come while both of them were totally depraved, but one of them (who is Abel) favored by God. After some back and forth respondings, to my surprise finally he said that it's because Abel is the elected one.

And he gave me Hebrew 11:4

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. (NRSV)

He give the chronology like this :
1. God elect Abel before the foundation of the world.
2. He regenerate Abel in time and give him faith, don't know when but before the offering event
3. Those 2 points above causing Abel do a correct offering.
4. Now God has a reason to look with favor on Abel + his offering
5. and now God can give him approval as righteous through his offering.

When I asked him if he has any reference from any Reformed Church's father, he said he would ask his Church about it. But so far he hasn't followed up.

My question here is the same :
Is there any reference from any Reformed Church's father indicating that Abel was regenerated before the offering ?


1 Answer 1


Calvin addresses this in his commentary on Genesis 4, arguing that Abel was already accepted by God when he made this offering:

We must, however, notice the order here observed by Moses; for he does not simply state that the worship which Abel had paid was pleasing to God, but he begins with the person of the offerer; by which he signifies, that God will regard no works with favor except those the doer of which is already previously accepted and approved by him.

A bit later, Calvin states the general principle, that everything done "before faith" is offensive to God:

All works done before faith, whatever splendor of righteousness may appear in them, were nothing but mere sins, being defiled from their roots, and were offensive to the Lord, whom nothing can please without inward purity of heart

In Calvin's thought, faith and regeneration go hand in hand – in this section, he writes "faith is a gratuitous gift of God, and a special illumination of the Spirit" – so thus we see that Calvin believed that Abel was already regenerated and saved at the time of this offering.

  • What is the biblical basis for works done before regeneration being not only "impossible to please God" but SINS? Jul 18, 2018 at 16:32
  • @SolaGratia This is a key aspect of "total depravity," so this answer is a good place to start: What is the Biblical basis for Total Depravity? It explains the viewpoint in more detail, and in the last section provides some biblical basis ("The necessity of faith in God to do good works"). Jul 18, 2018 at 17:15
  • I've read the answer, yes, and yet the unsubstantiated claim is made again "because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith ... they are therefore sinful and cannot please God." (bold mine) Not pleasing (as with those who have faith and work in Christ) is not the same as sinful and evil, is it? An atheist who cures a dying child is surely not sinning by curing them. Even Hebrews says that Abel's was 'more' acceptable—sufficiently. Not that Cain sinned by not being ult. accepted. God treats him as son who needs to learn, he doesn't upraid him as having sinned.. Jul 18, 2018 at 19:35
  • @SolaGratia Reformed theology's definition of sin is broader than yours, then – it is "any want of conformity or transgression of the law of God." (Westminster Shorter Catechism). Thus "good deeds" not prompted by a love for God or desire to obey His law are sinful (though not as sinful as doing many other things). Berkhof's brief discussion on "total inability" may be helpful... part 2d of that page, about a third of the way down. Jul 18, 2018 at 21:12
  • Doesn't this definition of sin technically mean that an atheist doing literally nothing but breathing is actually sinning just by breathing, or eating, or sleeping—all of which are in conformity with the law of God, as is curing a sick and dying child? Jul 18, 2018 at 21:27

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