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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How Was Noah Saved Through Water

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  Peter, in 1 Peter 3:20-21, says they were but just how is a little hard to understand without some study and thought.  The passage reads as follows:  “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.  There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  What was he saved from?  What is an antitype?  Was he saved by grace or by works (he did build the ark)?  There are a lot of questions.  Let us start from the beginning. 

We are all aware of the story of how the flood came about.  After God made man in due time mankind came to be great sinners before God.  “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5 NKJV)  God determined to destroy man for his evil, an evil so great it grieved God in his heart and made him sorry he had created man. (Gen. 6:6-7)

However, the text then says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen. 6:8 NKJV)  One cannot emphasize too much the teaching of this text.  However, the story of Noah and his salvation goes against almost everything that men today have to say about grace.  Grace today, as men see it, means you need to do nothing at all toward your own salvation other than believe in Jesus.  If more was required of you that would be, so they reason, salvation by works. 

How did God show Noah grace?  Was it not by telling him what was going to happen (judgment was to befall the inhabitants of the earth and life on the earth be destroyed) and what he (Noah) needed to do to save himself?  That was it exactly.

But, in today’s world of so-called Christendom, this is not grace.  Why?  Because Noah had to work, some say, based on Gen. 6:3, one hundred and twenty years on the ark.  Peter spoke of the longsuffering of God waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared (1 Peter 3:20) so it was no short-term project.  Noah received grace but had something to do, an obligation to fulfill if he was to be saved.  Being saved by God’s grace does not mean man has no part in his salvation, that man has nothing to do.  Ask Noah.    

There is also one other very important New Testament verse on Noah’s salvation.  “By faith Noah, being divinely warned (God’s grace-DS) of things not yet seen, moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7 NKJV)  Noah was saved by grace (God’s giving him warning and instruction) and by faith (he believed what God had told him without which he would have been doomed) and he was saved by works for he built the ark which afforded him safety. 

We can easily see in Noah’s case how grace, faith, and works all combined to bring about his salvation, and yet we somehow or another seem to be blinded to the fact all three work together today in the Christian era to bring about man’s spiritual salvation.  James himself declares “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) but no one seems to take him seriously.  We say if a man is baptized to be saved it is being saved by works and thus ridicule the idea.  Why do we not ridicule Noah who built an ark (worked) to be saved?

Is it ignorance, is it prejudice, or is it something else?  I have no answer.  This much I do know—Noah was saved by grace through faith the same as we are today (Gen. 6:8, Heb. 11:7).  He was moved so much by faith that it instilled within him “godly fear” (Heb. 11:7) and put a diligent work (or obedience) ethic into his life.  “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) which is exactly where Noah would have been without works. 

There is a difference between a work of obedience to God’s command and a work that merits salvation.  The Bible condemns the latter.  You cannot merit your way to heaven by works.  Don’t you think Noah was well aware that the God who caused the flood was just as capable of capsizing the ark Noah had built if he chose to do so?  Do you really believe that people who believe the Bible teaches that baptism is necessary to be saved think that they are saving themselves apart from God when they are baptized?  If the ark of salvation floats, whether it be Noah’s or our own, it is only because the grace of God allows it. 

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  By water, they were saved from a sinful world, separated from it, separated to God.  They became creatures in a new world, one without sin.  The water that brought death to others brought life to them as it lifted the ark up placing them in a place of safety above the waters of destruction. 

Do you think it strange that the water that brought salvation to the 8 brought death to the multitudes?  One cannot help but think of the waters of baptism of our own era.  The water that brings salvation to some (Mark 16:16) will bring death to others who are willingly disobedient to the command.

This brings us to Peter’s use of a word somewhat strange to many--the word “antitype” used in verse 21 in the New King James Version and also the word that is found in the Greek text.   Let me quote that to you again.  “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism.” (NKJV)  Some of the more modern versions phrase it like the ESV or nearly so, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.”  The New American Standard is very close to this when it says, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you.”  Many of the things in the Old Testament symbolized or we might say were types of things that would come to be under Christ in the new dispensation.  The waters of the flood in the days of Noah were the type while baptism today is that which corresponds to it, baptism is the antitype.

The text does not say baptism is a symbol of salvation already achieved; it says it “saves us.”  If we wish to deny that baptism saves us today we do two things.  (1) We deny the very words of the text of Peter.  (2) We put Peter in the position of having misspoken about all of this.  If our baptism is not an antitype, does not save, then Peter misspoke.  If our baptism is an antitype then baptism saves (no one says it saves alone without grace and faith).

What did the water do for Noah and how does it correspond to baptism today?  (1) Both place those who are obedient by faith (believers) into a new spiritual world.  The world Noah entered through water was cleansed of sin.  The world we enter when baptized is a spiritual world that has been cleansed of sin, our personal sin.  [see Acts 22:16, Acts 5:25-26, Titus 3:5]  (2) Both salvations were by grace for Noah was warned and given an opportunity for salvation and so are you and I.  God was under no obligation to warn Noah and give him a way to be saved and the same can be said of you and I today thus both were acts of grace.

I would not begin to know how many verses there are in the New Testament telling us about baptism and our need for it but let me give it a shot--Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5, Eph. 5:26, Col. 2:11-12, Titus 3:5, Mark 16:16, Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 6:3-6, Gal. 3:26-27, 1 Cor. 12:13, Heb. 10:22.  These were just those that came to mind without using a concordance.  I barely touched the Book of Acts.

Like Noah, we have been given a warning.  We will like him be obedient with “godly fear” or else we will take God on by being disobedient.  Who do you think is really saved by grace?  Is it the man who hears and believes and obeys or is it the man who hears and disbelieves and does not obey?  Who truly has “the answer of a good conscience toward God”? (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV)  I am sure Noah’s conscience was clear as he obeyed God and did all he was told out of faith.  How does a man have “a good conscience toward God” all the while being disobedient?  Will he say I didn’t know?  Will he say I heard the passages, I read them, I just did not believe them?  Will he tell God it was God’s fault for being unable to communicate effectively?

What saved Noah?  The answer is God’s grace, Noah’s faith, and Noah’s obedience.  If you and I are saved today it will be because of God’s grace, our faith, and our obedience.  When we speak of obedience we are talking about works of obedience, that is faith obeying.  Yes, everything depended on God’s grace for without it Noah was helpless, a doomed man.  The same can be said of you and I but just like Noah we must act if God’s grace is to benefit us.  We must believe and respect God enough to obey him.   

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