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What Saved Noah?

People are generally interested in survival stories, and there is no greater story of survival than that of Noah. Noah lived at a time when "the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and…every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). The wickedness of man was so excessive that it grieved God that He had ever made man, so He determined to destroy every living thing that breathed air (Gen. 6:6-7). God executed His plan to perfection, sending a flood of water on the earth from the skies above and the fountains of the deep below so that even the mountains were covered (Gen. 7:11-12, 17-24). "Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:23). What an amazing story of survival!

How did Noah survive the flood? The answer to this question is profoundly important to us, for we are also seeking to survive the effects of sin. In Noah's time, the world was destroyed by water, but "the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2Pet. 3:7). What can we learn from Noah, the great survivor, that will help us survive the coming destruction of the world by fire?

The survival of Noah begins with this statement in Genesis 6:8 – "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” The favor, or grace, of God was the source of Noah's survival, for it was God's grace that exempted Noah from the destruction of the world. Why did Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? Calvinists would have us to believe that God's grace is always purely arbitrary and unconditional, but the Scripture tells us that Noah was exceptional. "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Noah's righteousness was a stark contrast to the corruption of the world in his time, and thus he garnered grace with God. By no means does this indicate that Noah earned his salvation, but his righteous conduct caused God to favor him over men who conducted themselves in sin.

Without diminishing the grace of God in the least, the Bible also states that Noah was saved by his own faith. In the great chapter of faith from the Book of Hebrews, Noah is a prime example of salvation by faith. The Scripture says, "By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). The vessel of Noah's salvation was the ark, which was the product of Noah's own work. However, it was Noah's faith in God that caused him to build the ark, for God told him by grace what he needed to do to be saved. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Noah hoped to be saved from the coming destruction, an event unlike anything he had ever seen. Therefore, he obeyed God's word by faith, and this saved him and his household.

Peter gives a different perspective on Noah's salvation, for he identifies the water as the substance of Noah's salvation. In 1Peter 3:20, he says that "a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” At first, it may appear that Peter is saying that Noah and his family were saved from the water, but he actually says that they were saved through or by the water. This seems to be a strange statement, for water was the cause of destruction in the flood. How could Noah be saved by the water? This is where Peter is giving us a different perspective, for the water saved Noah by washing away the corruption of the world around him. From this example of Noah, Peter tells us how we may survive the coming destruction in 1Peter 3:21 – "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ provides forgiveness and washes away our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

To conclude, let us summarize the story of Noah's survival and what we have learned concerning our own survival. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and so have we and all who hear His word today. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:11-13). If we will follow the instructions of God's grace through the gospel of Christ, then we will act on faith for our salvation in the likeness of Noah. Thus, Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Furthermore, just as God chose to use the water of the flood in Noah's time, so also He has chosen to use the water of baptism in our time as part of our salvation. Therefore, let us accept the entirety of this lesson by learning that Noah's salvation came by God's grace and cleansing with water combined with Noah's faith and obedience. Our salvation comes in much the same way according to the gospel of Christ.

Stacey E. Durham




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