By Faith, Noah Built

noahsarkrecreation
An internet meme of unknown-to-me origin, if it came from a Christian, puts its foot in its mouth with this “clever” zinger of a sound byte: “Grace didn’t save Noah, …obedience did.”

At best, this is a half-truth (and a half-truth is usually dangerous.) Hebrews 10:38 tells “Now the just shall live by faith;” and HE 11:7 continues, “By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark for the saving of his household.”

And Genesis 6:8 (KJV) says “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Thanks to Alice Spencer for supplying me that verse.)

Walking in faith does mean obeying God, but in the context of being first saved by grace through faith. Grace saved Noah by God warning him of the flood, telling him how to build the ark, and providing what he needed. That is as important as the faithful response.

True, Noah had to cut down an entire forest and build the thing, but God made sure he had all the tools, literally brought all the animals to him and had them load themselves on the ark even. Noah wouldn’t have achieved anything apart from grace. What God did must come first or we are preaching man must save ourselves, exalting man over God.

I like to think that wasn’t the original author’s intent at all. Probably the person was fed up with lazy Christians expecting God’s grace to hand-deliver us everything we want instantly without ever asking anything of us. We are saved by grace through faith, and read the Hall of Faith (Heb 11) if you think all faith ever does is sit around and wait. There is a season for waiting by faith, yes, but there is also a season for acting by faith.

Trouble is, the slogan generation boils truths down into such short sound bites they’re no longer exactly true. Sometimes, in trying to be clever, we miss glaring logic errors or where we’ve denied the power of God’s grace. Ro:1:22 “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”

As Cindy Koepp and Elysse Baumbach pointed out, when I was discussing this with my Facebook friends, we were never saved by works. We could never keep the law, we always needed grace. In fact, Christ died to save the Old Testament saints, too, and the coming messiah was foretold to God’s people well in advance.

Obedience means nothing unless it is done by faith through grace.

I like to optimistically hope the original meme’s author understood that and that a ton simply got lost in translating an entire sermon/devotional into a 5-second spiffy saying/meme. However, what the author hopefully meant needs at least 30 seconds to a full minute to be conveyed at all in a Biblical manner.

James said it best in his “Faith without works is dead.” speech in James 2:14-26 (suggest reading the whole thing.)

Quite a few Christians need reminded of that and encouraged to listen to the Lord and act in obedience to God by faith. However, let’s remember “Saved by grace” is as much a teaching of scripture as “faith without works is dead.” The mystery of the gospel is we’re called both to salvation by grace, Christ’s finished work on the cross, and an active faith that obeys God out of gratitude. God likes to involve us in miracles, like a father including his kids in a family project, but without Him we can do nothing.