Genesis 7:1, 5 “I have found you righteous in this generation.”
And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.
Here, in the first use of the word “righteousness” (in the English Bible, at least) we obviously have what could be called a “works-based” righteousness. Noah was righteous because he was obedient. In our modern focus on salvation by grace through faith, (Ephesians 2:8-9) we sometimes gloss over the need to be obedient. As the saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and John the Apostle were all very clear that the condition of the heart is expressed by how we live; if there is no change in the outer, there’s been no meaningful change in the inner. Trying to work entirely the other direction, changing the inner man through changing behavior, works to some degree, but it has real limits. In psychology it’s called Behavior Modification, and there are some reports of “success,” but they are questionable at best. We are fundamentally spiritual beings, with a soul inhabiting a body. Much human “science” has tried to treat those as separate things, but ultimately frustration is guaranteed by that approach. That’s why Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor, because genuine love is going to express itself in action.
This is an understanding I am more and more confirmed in the longer I live. Actions by themselves are largely meaningless. Jesus was hardest on the hypocritical Pharisees, who did mostly the right things but for all the wrong reasons. However He was explicitly clear that “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) That’s why I so appreciate the SOAP system of personal devotions. Articulated by Wayne Cordeiro, it is the system I have followed for quite a few years now, and is an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. It is the Application section that has made the biggest impact for me, because it forces me to think how any passage I read is supposed to affect the way I live. As someone with Teacher gifting (Romans 12) it’s easy for me to make an intellectual exercise of anything, divorcing it from the way I live. That’s no way to read the Bible! I’ve got to be active in my obedience, no less than Noah was, because God is totally worthy of my obedient love.
Father, thank You for the righteousness You have imparted to me in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:30) Help me live that out in obedient love all the time, in every area of my life, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!