Faith or works? Faith!
If God were to judge man solely by his works, most of us would have a problem. But there is hope. The Bible is full of shining examples who were saved because of their faith and perseverance and not because they were the better human beings.
How can sinful man obtain salvation? That is a central question for believers. However, anyone who responds to it with justification through faith is often in for longer discussion. The problem is that most people misunderstand the term “justification”. Today people understand it as “justifying themselves, as apologising, or finding excuses”. Even the various confessions still argue about this to this day. The idea that divine grace is greater than human inadequacies does not enjoy popularity everywhere. Often humans are too petty and self-righteous. They are trapped in laws and regulations and old traditions which no one can properly explain, let alone understand.
On the other hand, there is the prevailing opinion that good works will fade if man relies on God’s grace too much. Man can do whatever He wants—God will straighten it out. However, to justify oneself means to declare oneself as innocent or righteous. Someone who is aware of his sins, longs for the grace of God. He does not do what he wants, but wants to be saved in spite of having done what he did.
What does the Bible say?
There is some evidence that God justifies poor sinners for the simple reason that they believe in Him. In Hebrews 11: 7 it says: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” From this follows: faith creates righteousness before God. It is not man’s good works that make him free, but his faith. Conversely, this means that even with his faults and shortcomings man has a chance with God. As long as he believes.
Witnesses of faith as role models
In the epistle to the Romans, Paul uses Abraham, the friend of God, as an example. Man is justified, that is, acquitted from his sins solely because of his faith, not because of his own works: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3: 28). Other witnesses who testify of God’s works of grace from early biblical times are Abel, who was strong in faith and sure that a sincere offering would please God. Then there is Enoch, who lived in a godless environment and worshipped and trusted in God. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Hebrews 11: 6). Enoch will always be an example for Christians who believe in their rapture.
Doing what God says
Noah too, proved himself before God: through his faith, not through his works. Completely contrary to the spirit of the time, Noah remained true to God. He was a just man and stood out because he walked with God. If man concentrates on God and makes God’s love for man the focus of his actions, the opinions and views of his surroundings no longer weigh as heavily. Noah honours God through his faith. And because he does that he is saved. This makes Noah an ancient model for the modern Christian: doing what God says. Obeying when it matters. Moving forward even if it means work. Working even if success is not immediately visible or one’s understanding is still blurred.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham—witnesses of God’s faithfulness, from whom the modern Christian can learn a great deal. From Abel we can learn that a better sacrifice is possible; from Enoch, that our rapture to God is an extremely worthwhile goal; from Noah, that the church will survive no matter how high the waves are; and from Abraham, that we may be called friends of God (James 2: 23).