By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
From Adam to Noah the wickedness of humanity increased, the original transgression spiralling out of control. Human nature had been corrupted so that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart” (Genesis 6:5b-6). As a crucial starting point, we must recognize that this assessment of all humanity applies to Noah as much as to any other person. Noah inherited a sinful nature like everyone else. And yet, the Bible tells us that “Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).
In fact, the Bible says: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Let us linger over these three biographical descriptions. Noah was righteous. Noah was blameless. Noah walked with God. Based on what we know about Adam’s Fall and the consequences that flow from it, how is this even possible?
Noah was righteous. But didn’t Paul, citing Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, say to the Romans that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10)? When writing this, had the Psalmists forgotten about Noah? Had Paul forgetten about Noah?
Noah was blameless. But again, didn’t Paul assert to the Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Could he have meant “all but Noah”? Is it possible that, as a spectacular exception, Noah had not fallen short of God’s perfect expectations?
Noah walked with God. This sounds nice, but wouldn’t we be remiss if we didn’t go, once again, to Paul’s words to the Romans: “No one seeks for God. All have turned aside” (Romans 3:11-12)? By definition it is not possible to walk with God without seeking after Him. When we turn aside, we veer from the path on which God is walking. Does this, therefore, not apply to Noah?
Noah presents us with a profound riddle, often explained by pitting the two Testaments against each other. A false sense of merit is sometimes credited to him, as if he was somehow able to throw-off the original sin of Adam. But this is woefully inadequate as an explanation. God is not inconsistent in this way.
Hebrews 11:7 gives us the plain and simple resolution: God warned Noah about coming judgment. Noah listened, believed, and was afraid. God asked Noah to build a boat. Noah built a boat. Therefore, Noah was righteous, blameless, and permitted to walk with God.
Notice three things. First, God is the initiator. Unless God had warned Noah, Noah would have been washed away in the flood. Second, faith prompted action. Noah’s belief would have been meaningless without obedience (James 2:14-26). It is by building the ark that Noah demonstrated true faith. Third, it is this faith-manifested-in-action that established Noah as righteous and blameless, though he never became sinless.
Just as in the days of Noah, there is a judgment on the horizon (2 Peter 3:1-13). God has warned us through His prophets and apostles. And now, it is up to us, like Noah, to respond. Except, God is not asking us to build a boat. He has built an ark for us, and the Ark is Christ. If we believe that Jesus has taken our sins, borne the wrath of God for us on the Cross unto death, and been raised back bodily unto eternal life, then we are “in Christ” just as Noah was “in the ark.” And the Ark will carry us safely through the coming flood of fire until He settles on the Mountain and we enter into a new world to live with God forever.
Therefore, let us who have been made righteous and blameless continue to call for others to join us “in Christ” so that we all together might one day walk with God in the new heavens and the new earth. May our heralding cry go forth with love to all who have ears to hear: “Come, yes come all! Come all of you, come into the Ark! Come out from the under the wrath of God! Come, join us before we set sail, come before it is too late.”