Grace is always accessed by faith because God accepts no meritorious works on our part for the atonement of our sins. And since no one can keep law perfectly in order to demand salvation, salvation must always be based on grace. However, when we say that we access grace through faith we are referring to an obedience of faith whereby we respond to that which God offers through His grace. We would say that obedient faith is the means by which people have always come into the “graces” of God. When the faith of the faithful is mentioned throughout the entire Bible, we must always understand that reference is made to an obedient faith. Simply believing that God exists has never brought anyone into the favor of God. Only when one acts on his or her faith in obedient response to God, do they receive the blessings and promises of God that are offered by grace.
In our efforts to define the nature of obedient faith by which we access God’s grace, the text of Genesis 6:5-8 is a good commentary of a time when the grace of God needed to be offered. We are reminded in the New Testament that Noah acted on his faith. “By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house” (Hb 11:7). His faith moved him to prepare for an impending judgment that God would bring upon the earth.
In the historical context of Noah’s day, God “saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Gn 6:5). Because the population of the whole world was given over to sin, God said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Gn 6:7). But of all humanity, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gn 6:8). “Noah was a just man and blameless in his time. And Noah walked with God” (Gn 6:9). Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord because he obediently walked in the will of the Lord. God’s favor was based on his obedience.
Noah and his family were blessed in that they did not have to suffer the impending destruction that God would bring upon the earth and all humanity. The promise of Noah’s deliverance from the imminent destruction was an offer of grace. The destruction was coming, but Noah could not have delivered himself without walking in the instructions of God. Because he feared God, through his obedience of faith he prepared the ark. He accessed grace through an obedient walk.
The historical event of the flood of Noah’s day is the first commentary in the Bible that explains how God works through grace and faith. We can apply this example of Noah and the flood with the situation of all those who are in sin. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rm 3:23). Sin separates everyone from God (Is 59:2). Therefore, in order for God to remain just (righteous) in view of the fact that all have sinned, and are in danger of being eternally separated from Him, there must be a promise of escape from destruction that is based on the grace of God.
Because all people exist in a state of condemnation because of sin, there must be an escape from sin through pardon. Sin demands justice and judgment. In order for God to remain just (righteous) in view of the fact that all sin, He offers mercy and grace. However, the condition for accepting God’s pardon through grace is contingent on the fact that one believes in God to the point of responding to the offer of grace. In this way, Noah responded by building an ark. This is what Paul meant in Romans 3:25,26. God set forth Christ . . .
“. . . to be an atoning sacrifice by His blood through faith in order to declare His righteousness [justice] for the remission of sins in the past because of the forbearance of God, to declare at this time, I say, His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of him who believes in Jesul”.
God is declared just (righteous) because through His mercy He offers by grace the opportunity for deliverance from sin to those who are willing “to build an ark” for their salvation. He created us with the ability to make choices, and thus, in order for God to be declared righteous in view of the fact that we all sin, grace had to be offered.
God remained just in destroying the world of sinful humanity in the flood because He offered Noah a way of escape through the command to build an ark. On the other hand, the wicked world persisted in sin, though Noah continued to preach repentance throughout the time he was preparing the ark (1 Pt 3:20; 2 Pt 2:5). Noah’s generation that was destroyed in the flood, therefore, had no excuse for their lack of repentance (See Rm 1:18-23). In contrast to such a disobedient generation, by faith Noah responded to God’s warning by building the ark (Hb 11:7). God’s offer was salvation through the ark that was built as a result of Noah’s faith.
Grace made the means of salvation from the flood possible for Noah and his family. Faith moved him to build. In order for Noah to believe and build, there first had to be the revelation of how Noah could be delivered. The means of how he could be delivered from destruction came through grace. In order for God to remain just, Noah had to be told how he and his family could access the grace (salvation) of God. Saving grace, therefore, must be based on the following conditions:
- An announcement must be made. The impending action on the part of God must be announced to those to whom it will affect. In the case of Noah, God announced, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them. And behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gn 6:13).
- Instructions for deliverance must be given. Instructions must be given as to how one can access the grace of God. God said to Noah, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood” (Gn 6:14).
- Obedient faith must move the faithful to accept the offer of God’s deliverance. Obedient faith moved Noah to access God’s offer. “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gn 6:8). However, Noah had to respond with faith to God’s graceful offer in order to be delivered from the flood. “By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is according to faith” (Hb 11:7).
Noah’s family would never have been saved from the flood if Noah had never acted on his faith. Faith alone would have left him without a prepared ark for the salvation of his family. The offer of salvation from the flood was through grace, but the acceptance of the offer demanded that Noah obediently prepare the ark.
- Action must be taken on the part of the faithful. In order to access the grace of God, our faith must respond as Noah’s faith responded to the warning of God that destruction was coming upon the wicked. “Thus Noah did according to all that God commanded him” (Gn 6:22). This was Paul’s “obedience of faith” of which he reminded the Roman Christians (Rm 1:5; 16:26). It is a faith that follows the instructions of God as to how one can access God’s grace.
Acceptable faith is not meritorious. That is, faith must be in God, not in our ability to meritoriously perform in reference to law and works to earn God’s grace. If Noah were working meritoriously in order to save his family, then he would have had to know that there was a flood coming. He would have had to scheme his own method of deliverance, and thus, build the ark according to his own knowledge and skills in order to deliver himself from the flood waters.
God told Noah how He would bring destruction upon the wicked because of their rejection of His will (Gn 6:17). In God’s instructions, all the information Noah needed to know concerning the building of an ark was given in order that he deliver his family from the coming judgment. This was knowledge that could come only through revelation. And with the revelation of the coming flood about which Noah knew nothing in reference to its magnitude, Noah was also given knowledge as to how the ark was to be built. Through grace God not only reveals judgment that is coming, He also reveals how we can escape the judgment.
If Noah had not obeyed through faith the instructions given by God concerning the construction of the ark, then he could never have saved himself and his family. When God gives instructions concerning how one must access His grace, then we have no choice concerning the instructions that we must follow. We cannot subtract, substitute or ignore God’s instructions as to how we can access God’s grace.
Religion results from the desire of religiously oriented people to construction their own means by which they will access the grace of God. Through the meritorious performance of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies it is assume that the adherents of a particular religious group can earn the grace of God. The faith of the people, therefore, is in their legal performance of their religion rites, rituals and ceremonies, not in the grace of God who has explained how we are to respond to Him. For example, Jesus explained, “But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him” (Jn 4:23). The Father seeks “true worshipers” who worship Him according to how He seeks to be worshiped. In other words, we cannot “build a religion” by which we can assume our religion will save us. Our faith must be in God, not in our religion. Our worship must be according to what God seeks.
[Next in series: Oct. 24]