FAITH COUNTED AS RIGHTEOUSNESS
God’s willingness to share with Noah his intent of destroying mankind was the reason why, of all people on earth, Noah anticipated the flood and began building the ark. Mankind was saved through Noah’s faith in God because he believed what God foretold would take place.
Noah believed God’s Word. Adam and Eve did not and that is why they were condemned to die. Words are vitally important to understanding the world we live in. No one wants to be told lies. No child wants his or her parents to tell lies, to mislead and cheat them instead of telling the truth. We speak of the bible as God’s Word because God is our Creator and reveals his will to us in words. A king who rules a country communicates with his subjects through words; a prime minister, a priest, a doctor, all relate to those who depend on them through words; so words are the language of relationships by which we understand each other and trust each other. Lies break down trust and ruin relationships, whether they are political, social, familial, or personal. Language is the web that connects everybody together. To be deaf or dumb is a great disability in a language world. To be a liar is a far greater disability for a liar refuses to believe or respect the truth and lives by lies.
GOD’S JUDGMENTS ON SIN
Noah and his sons and his son’s wives were the only ones God saved alive from the flood that destroyed mankind. The earth had become so violent that God saw no future alternative but to end violence and wars and the suffering they caused. But the fact that one person was righteous and trusted God’s word was enough to prevent mankind’s total destruction.
God would never take the lives of the innocent along with the lives of the guilty.
Abraham also later saw how unjust it would be to destroy the righteous along with the sinful. He tentatively inquired of God, ‘Suppose fifty righteous are found there in Sodom? Will you not spare the city for the sake of the righteous?’ God replied to Abraham, ‘If there are fifty righteous persons in the city, I will forgive it for the sake of the righteous.’ Abraham, now satisfied with God’s answer, venture's to asked further questions. ‘What if there are but five lacking. Would you still not destroy the city?’ God answered Abraham, ‘Even if there are five lacking I will not destroy it.’ Abraham then asked God if there were still five more lacking and so on until he reached only ten righteous in the city. God’s replied, ‘For the sake of the ten I will not destroy it.’ (Genesis 18:32)
This was the intellectual and moral struggle that Augustine, the Christian bishop of Hippo, wrestled with in the fifth century AD, (City of God) when Rome fell to the barbarians, and the Christians were killed along with those who made Rome so sinful. But Augustine recognised that the Christians had not been free from association with the sinful practices of Rome and that is why they were carried away with the rest. Augustine did not believe that a just God would punish the righteous along with the sinful.
God’s protection and salvation of mankind is clearly illustrated in the story of Noah and that of Abraham. God wills all men, women and children to be saved, and for the sake of just one or two, he will have mercy on the rest of mankind. That is God’s word and love for mankind despite mankind’s sinfulness.
THE MEANING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
By Noah’s righteousness God saved mankind from being lost but by Noah’s righteousness is not meant that he was without sin. Noah was righteous in God’s sight because of his faith in God’s word. Just as Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God’s promise that his descendants would be as many as the stars of heaven, (Genesis 15:5-6) so Noah was counted righteous because he believed in God’s word that God would save him and his family from the flood. Believing God is the root of all righteousness just as disbelieving God is the root of all sin. (Genesis 3:6) Faith and trust, fidelity and love are the fruits of righteousness and these are recognised by God even though all men have sinned and fallen short of God’s commands. Here we see the mercy of God, in accepting that evil exists in the world, yet counting faith as righteousness.
We can never be put right with God by setting up a self righteousness of our own by doing good, whether by being a good Jew or a good Christian, for as Isaiah the prophet says, ‘We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.’ (Isaiah 64:6) Our faith in God has to be a relationship of trust in his word and righteousness, not in our own hit and miss way of life.