Tuesday, August 27, 2013
August 25, 2013 Second Reformed Church
Let us remember: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).
Faith, like the gutters and leaders on our homes and apartments, receives the Word of God – everything God has told us and promised us – we receive all those things that we hope for – eternal life in the presence of Jesus, the restoration of the Creation, and so forth – and we receive as true all those accounts in the Bible of things we were not alive to see – like the Creation, and the Great Flood, and so forth – and we believe in the angels, and demons, and all the other spiritual creatures that are invisible to the eye – we receive everything God has said as true by faith.
The author of Hebrews – as we are seeing – in the eleventh chapter, gives us examples by showing us figures we read about in the Scripture who have received God’s Word by faith. Today, we consider something of the life of Abraham. We see in this text at least seven doctrines.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place”
The first two doctrines are in this phrase, and we will look at them in logical order:
First, God calls His people to be His.
God called Abraham to be His. We read in Genesis: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12:1-3, ESV).
Abraham lived in Ur, a pagan city in the land of the Chaldeans – to the West of Israel – which was Canaan at that point. Abraham was not a believer in God when God came to him – even though we have seen that it is obvious that God is God: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, ESV). (This is not our main point here, but it is good that we understand that Abraham was a pagan – he worshipped idols, not the true God – despite the fact that God has made it perfectly obvious to everyone who ever lives that God is God, and He is the Sovereign Creator.)
One day, God spoke to Abraham – God called Abraham – and told him to get up, leave him home and his family and his country behind and to go to a place that God would show him.
We see that Abraham was called by God in two ways: Abraham was called out of his paganism to belief in the One True God, and he was called to do certain works that God had set before him.
And that is the story of every Christian, is it not? We are called out of spiritual death to spiritual life – even to belief in the One God, our Savior, Jesus Christ, through faith alone, and we are made God’s sons and daughters, brothers and sister of Jesus Christ, and we have work to do – set for us by God Himself. We read: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).
Thus, God calls His people to be His. We may not be required to leave our family and the home we grew up in, but God calls His people to be His, and when He does so, the work we were created for is before us. And that is not just “ministry.” God has called all those who believe and set work before us – some to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and administrators and inventors and clerks and shopkeepers and pastors – all those who have been called to faith have been called to good works – to a life that glorifies God. How shall we respond to this?
Second, God requires us to obey in faith.
God did not give Abraham a choice: God called Abraham to be His, and told him to leave Ur of the Chaldean’s behind, as well as his friends, and his father’s house. And we are not given a choice: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
And we see that Abraham obeyed. God told Abraham to believe – to get up, to leave behind everything he had known, to follow God – somewhere – and Abraham obeyed.
Abraham had the “conviction of things not seen.” Abraham believed God and, though he had no idea what God was doing or where He was leading him, Abraham received what he knew about God – what everyone can see in nature, and what little God had said to him to get him to leave behind what he knew – his comfort – his safety – and travel – somewhere – he didn’t know where.
Here we see faith causing obedience. Abraham received God’s Word by faith and he was immediately obedient to God – He knew it was true, even though he didn’t know the details and couldn’t see what it would look like at the end. Faith also caused him to have perseverance – he had no idea when he would achieve what God had in mind or even where they were going.
What if you became convinced that God was calling you to do something different? To leave everything behind and go off somewhere where you had no job, no support system, no family, would you obey? Would you subject your will to God and do what God wills?
Every Sunday, we pray “Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Do we really want that – for us? Do we really want to be as willing to obey as the heavenly creatures who absolutely and always obey at the drop of a syllable from the mouth of God?
What if God called us to do something for His Glory that we would find unpleasant – and before you say God wouldn’t do that – do you remember Job? How about Jesus?
Can we be anything less than obedient to the God Who saves us through Jesus?
“that he was to receive as an inheritance.”
Third, God promises His people an inheritance.
God promised Abraham that if He would go somewhere that God showed him, he would receive wherever it was as an inheritance. God did not immediately tell Abraham where he was going – only that if he followed Him by faith, the place that God told him to go to would be his inheritance.
Paul told the Ephesian elders, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, ESV).
He continues, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-14, ESV).
And Peter tells us where this inheritance is kept for believers: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV).
Now, our inheritance is the fullness of salvation and all that comes with it – eternal life in the presence of Jesus – in our glorified, resurrected, physical bodies – on the restored earth. Land is involved with the inheritance of all Christians, just as it was with Abraham.
As Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, ESV). The Beatitudes is a collection of statements that Jesus made about what a Christian should be. And I told our Sunday school class that I grew up thinking this was the stupidest verse in the Bible – because – whether it was directly taught, or if I just came to the conclusion myself – I had come to believe that – in the end – we would be spirit-beings in a spirit-world – and the physical world would be destroyed. (Which is not what the Bible says.) But with that view point in mind, the idea of an inheritance of the earth, which would exist, seemed ridiculous to me.
In the church I grew up in and in this church, we sing the Gloria Patri, which also confused me as a young person, holding this view, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.”
Christians shall inherit the restored earth. Abraham – and his descendants – inherited Canaan – as he would come to find out.
So, God promises His people an inheritance.
And if Abraham was like me, I would ask God what the plan was, what the steps were, how we get from now to the end of the age. I don’t like surprises; I don’t like not knowing the steps we need to get through. Are any of you like that?
But, we’re told, “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
Fourth, God doesn’t have to give us all or any information about what or how, etc.
God called Abraham to follow Him, telling Abraham that God wanted him to leave everything behind and go somewhere God would lead him to, and when they got there, Abraham would inherit the land.
Wait a minute: where are we going? Why do I have to leave everything behind? Can’t I go and then come back? What will I need? Why me? God doesn’t answer any of these questions – or any others Abraham might have had on his mind.
Because God is God – because God is the Almighty Sovereign, the Creator of all things – He does not have to explain Himself to us. God reveals what he wants as He wants and if He wants.
Remember after Job had suffered horrifically for some time, losing everything and having suffered in his body, he demanded that God explain why this happened. In part, God said, “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again! Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him. No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:1-11, ESV).
In other words, God doesn’t have to give us all or any information about what or how, etc. What God has given us is knowledge of His Character – we know that God is holy and good and just, and by faith we receive the promises written down in Scripture – something Abraham did not have the luxury of having to read.
“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents”
Fifth, God calls us to be sojourners.
Abraham went to the land of Canaan -- the Promised Land – the inheritance promised to him by God – and lived in a tent. Abraham never lived in a house, he always lived in a tent – he lived in a temporary dwelling, which signified, among other things, that Canaan was not his hope and security – he was not attached to the stuff God promised him, but to God and the salvation that God gave him.
It wasn’t until the end of Abraham’s life that he owned any of the Promised Land – and that was only a field with a cave in Machpelah which he bought to bury his wife Sarah in. Other than that, Abraham, himself, never owned any of the Promised Land that God said he would inherit.
We are likewise told to live in tents – to not be too attached to the world and the things in it – as it is.
Peter explains that the fallen Creation – this world as it is – is not our home – we are but exiles in this world of sin and evil: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:17-19, ESV).
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12, ESV).
And Paul explains that it is not in the world as it is, but in the unseen world that we have hope: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV).
Jesus, Himself, Creator of the world, did not find Himself attached to this world, but said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20, ESV).
Now, that does not mean we are not to enjoy this world and see God in the Creation – for we are, but this world is going to be changed – all the sin and evil in it will be removed on the last day, and we will be received into eternal life which is “beyond all comparison.”
Likewise, it does not mean that we can use and abuse this world however we want because it is passing away. Nor does it mean that we are not to care for this world and keep it and care for it to the best of our ability, because we are. Humanity was given the change of “dominion” over all of earth and its creatures – and the word “dominion” means that we are to care for the Creation as God cares for it.
God has called us to be sojourners – we are to understand that this is not the end for us – there is something far greater awaiting all those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation – yet, we are to care for the earth and the creatures and each other to the greatest extent that we are able. For this is one of the ways we accomplish Jesus’ command, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV).
“with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.”
Sixth, God’s promises may not come to pass in our lifetime.
As we already noted, with the exception of one field and a burial cave, Abraham owned none of the Promise Land when he died. Abraham saw his son Isaac live in tents, and he saw his grandson, Jacob, into his teens, live in tents – they did not receive the inheritance of the Promised Land. The first significant “inheriting” of the Promised Land would come some seven hundred years later at the end of the ministry of Moses and the beginning of Joshua’s leadership.
As we have seen, God calls us to obedience, often without all the details, and, as we see in the Scripture, God often calls on his people to wait in faith. As Peter notes: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:4-13 ESV).
People in the first century were mocking Christians, asking when Jesus would return, and Peter warns his readers to be patient, because God’s time schedule is not ours. God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve, and it was some four thousand years later that He came. God promised a world-wide flood to Noah, and one hundred and twenty years later it came. Jesus promised to return for His people, and two thousand years have passed – but Peter gives us a reason – Jesus will not return until all those God has chosen to be His believe in Jesus the Savior. God is not slow, God is merciful and gracious.
And so, God’s ways teach us patient – to have faith, believing all that God has said, being obedient, and waiting, trusting that everything He has said will come to pass exactly as He has promised. Ours is to do the work that God has set before us; God’s is to bring about its completion – and the completion of His Plan.
Remember when I preached on the five foci of church growth – one of the things we saw is that we are called to be faithful and obedient; it is God’s Work to bring people into the church and to lead them into faithfulness. We are to proclaim the Gospel; it is God's Work to change peoples’ hearts that they believe and repent.
So, through faith, we believe with conviction that God’s promises will come to pass, even though God’s promises may not come to pass in our lifetime.
“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
Seventh, God strengthens our faith with the hope of a city that God builds.
Abraham was able to follow God – to leave behind his old life and become the father of Israel, not merely with the promise of the land of Canaan as his inheritance, but with the greater promise of the city which God designs and builds and is coming.
This is the same promise we have today – it has not yet come to pass, but the promise has been repeated and reinforced, and, as we keep it before us, God strengthens our faith that we can continue to believe and obey by faith.
Jesus told His disciples to be sojourners – as He tells us to be sojourners – and He said not to worry, but to keep our eyes on that coming city – on the coming Kingdom – where we will no longer live in tents:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV).
John records this promise and vision of the new city:
“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12, ESV).
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2, ESV).
We are called by God to believe in faith that the Kingdom is coming and the city of God is coming – we can do all that God has set before us here because we know the Kingdom is coming and the city of God is coming.
When Jesus was preparing to leave to be crucified, He told the disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4, ESV).
That is the promise that we hold onto by faith – a place is being prepared for all those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation – a house – not a tent – is being prepared for us – the city of God is coming. The Kingdom of God is upon us.
In this brief look at Abraham, we noted:
God calls His people to be His.
God requires us to obey in faith.
God promises His people an inheritance.
God does not have to give us all or any information about His Plan.
God calls us to be sojourners.
God’s promises may not come to pass in our lifetime.
And God strengthens our faith with the hope of a city that God builds.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the example of the faith of Abraham as he heard the call of God on his life, believed, and left behind his life, considering the work of God and the promises of God of more value than his comfort and familiarity. We thank You that You still call people to be Your own, and You strengthen our faith, as You did Abraham’s, with the promise of the eternal city that You, Yourself, are building. Keep us seeking first Your Kingdom, following after You in obedience, and finding joy as You give us all we need to be Your people. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sunday, August 04, 2013
There will not be a Sunday morning Bible Study on August 11th or 18th. D. V., we will resume Sunday morning Bible Study on August 25th.
Evening studies are on hiatus for the month of August. D.V., we will resume evening studies in September.
Evening studies are on hiatus for the month of August. D.V., we will resume evening studies in September.
August 4, 2013 Second Reformed Church
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, ESV).
By the time Noah and his family came along, his was the only family of believers on the earth. Biblical scholars guesstimate there were between three million and one thousand million people on the earth at the time Noah lived – but there was only one family of believers.
“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 6:9-10, ESV).
And the author of Hebrews tells us: “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.”
We find four doctrines in this morning’s text:
First, faith involves receiving as true and believing what God has said concerning unseen things.
Second, obedience to God flows from faith.
Third, obedience to God condemns the world.
Fourth, our righteousness is received through faith alone.
First, faith involves receiving as true and believing what God has said concerning unseen things.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen,”
Let us again remember the two prongs of faith mentioned in the first verse of this chapter: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).
We saw this verse talks about faith being “the assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen,” and we understood that to mean:
First, faith receives the Word of God, the history and promises and witnesses statements therein, and believes with absolute certainty that everything that God has promised and said will come about, will come to pass, exactly as it has been given to us and received by us in faith.
Second, faith receives the Word of God, the history and promises and witnesses statements therein, and believes with absolute conviction based on the evidence we have received that things that are spoken of which are not seen by us, either by difference of time, or because such are invisible to our eyes have happened, will happen, and do exist, exactly as they have been given to us and received by us in faith.
It is the second prong, in particular, that we are looking at here.
We read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:9-22, ESV).
God told Noah that He was enraged at the world’s sin, and He was going to kill all the humans and animals in the world except for Noah, his family, and the animals God told him to collect. God said He was going to cause a world-wide flood to drown everyone, so Noah was to build an ark big enough for his family and the animals God told him to collect, and God would save them through the flood.
Some of us are familiar with Bill Cosby’s routine about this discussion God and Noah had – in Cosby’s version, Noah is absolutely shocked and confused and disbelieving – it’s a very funny bit – but the real Noah, received the very Word of God from the mouth of God that He was going to kill all of the humans and animals, except for those God told Noah to save, that God commanded Noah to build an ark – a big ship – in which God would keep them safe, and the real Noah heard the evidence of the very Word of God from the mouth of God, and he believed with absolute conviction that these things would come to pass exactly as God had spoken, even though he didn’t see them and didn’t know when they would come to pass.
Can we imagine being Noah? Can we imagine setting about this work – trusting God – working for one hundred and twenty years on the ark until it was finished? How strong was his faith to receive this word from God and work for one hundred and twenty years with no sign that anything was going to happen?
Noah worked and saw his neighbors continuing to sin, continuing to flaunt their rebellion against God, not caring what Noah said, the warnings he would give, disbelieving his story that God came to him and spoke to him of a world-wide flood. Noah worked, surely being made fun of – people scoffing at the crazy old man building a ship for the day when God would flood the world. And God didn’t give Noah a date for the beginning of the flood, so he had to be alert at all times.
But remember, Noah’s faith was not irrational – it was not a “leap of faith,” as some call it – it was based on the evidence – it was based on the Word of God spoken to him and Noah’s knowledge of the character of God – the Holy God, the Just God, the God Who cannot tolerate sin in His presence, the God Who loves His people.
Do you understand that we have far more evidence of the coming judgment than Noah did? We have the whole Word of God – written down for us to read and hear read and preached. And if we read it, we can know God and the salvation He brings and the way that God is bringing all sin and evil to an end to His Glory in the Kingdom – in the restored Creation.
What does Jesus tell us? “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39, ESV).
Jesus tells us the judgment is coming for us, just like it was for the people in the days of Noah. He tells us that the world will be ignorant of the coming judgment of God, despite the preaching of the Word of God, just like it was in the days of Noah. And we are called to believe by faith and to be alert, just as Noah was.
Second, obedience to God flows from faith.
“in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”
The Almighty God came to Noah, told him that He was going to kill all of the humans and all of the animals, except for Noah’s family and the animals God told him to save. And God told Noah to build and ark – in which God would save Noah’s family and the animals. And we read, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
Noah received the Word of God by faith and that faithful reception of the Word resulted in obedient action. Noah did not just receive the Word of God and think about it – no, he got to work on building an ark.
Have you ever considered what was involved in this obedience? We are told that Noah’s sons joined him in building the ark. His sons honored their father and believed that he had received the Word of God, which they had not heard, and they did what he asked of them.
Noah and his sons spent one hundred and twenty years building the ark – that’s a lot of time to spend on a project. I doubt many of us here have spent that kind of time on completing anything – not even for God. How were Noah and his sons supporting their families? It’s unlikely they have saved up one hundred and twenty years of vacation time at work, and they still would have needed money to care and provide for their families.
This was one hundred and twenty years of physical labor – cutting, shaping, sawing, lifting, carrying, hammering, and so forth. What if they got sick or injured? It was a small crew working on the ship. It was intense work for, what it to us, an unimaginable amount of time.
Not only that – they would have needed extra money to pay for tools and the repair of tools, to pay for wood and pitch, to pay for trees that were cut down and milled for the ark. All the supplies to build the ark and all the food they had to store up to feed themselves and the animals while they were in the ark cost money.
And then there was the psychological toll of being ridiculed, laughed at, mocked – losing whatever station and respect they had with their neighbors as they went about this “crazy project.” The attacks of the ungodly, even if it was only words, must have worn on them.
But they believed by faith in the Word of God and that compelled them to action. God promised to save His people through the water, and they believed by faith.
And this is for us a type of God’s salvation of the elect: just as God chose Noah and his family to save through the waters of the flood, so God chose a people for Himself to save through Jesus, and symbolized that through the sign and seal of baptism:
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:18-22, ESV).
We have been saved by Christ’s Work, which we receive through faith, as a gift. Knowing that we are now reconciled to God – made right with God – is our faith spurring us on to action? How hard are you willing to work to obey the God Who came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, was put to death for the sins of all those who would ever believe, physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne. Is there anything we can say is too much for God to ask? Is there any sin we can find an excuse for?
Third, obedience to God condemns the world.
“By this he condemned the world”
How can this be so? How did obeying God condemn the world?
It may be helpful to note that Noah was a minister – a pastor. In Peter’s second letter, he writes concerning those whom God has punished as examples of the final judgment – as proof that if God brought judgment against these others in times past, it is only logical, given the character of God, that the final judgment would really occur – and here he calls Noah “a herald of righteousness” – in other words – a preacher: “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;” (2 Peter 2:5-6, ESV).
It is inconceivable that the “herald of righteousness” would not proclaim the salvation of God through faith and, “immediately,” through the ark that he was building. Noah was known as the person who preached God’s Word – surely he would have continued to do so during the building of the ark. Such preaching would have condemned the sin of the world and called them to repentance and faith in God’s salvation.
But even if Noah was silent for the one hundred and twenty years they built the ark, people would have asked why they ark was being built, and the answer – that God was outraged at the sin of humanity and was bringing a world-wide flood upon all those who did not repent and believe – would condemn all those who did not repent and believe. It was the Word of God, delivered by Noah, that revealed that the world was condemned already.
As Jesus said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18, ESV).
So, the very building of the ark and the collection of the animals according to the Word of God would have condemned the world in their unbelief.
It would have also humiliated them in their sins – bringing them to light – exposing their sin and darkness and not allowing them to hide in the shadows any longer.
The Word of God that Noah and his family received would have made them vigilant in the work – believing that all that God said would come to pass. Seeing the Hand of God ready to kill the rest of humanity would reinforce Noah’s family’s desire to do all that God had put before them. It would also strengthen them against their carnal fear – their fear that they might be wrong and the world be right – no, seeing the world squirm in the light of the Gospel would strengthen Noah’s family, and it would help them to check their own sins all the more and all the more fully. Knowing what was coming for the world, they would seek after holiness all the more, not wanting to be found committing cosmic treason again their Savior.
Consider your favorite sin – don’t blurt it out. If someone suddenly found out what it was, you and I would squirm and make excuses – would we not? We would feel the condemnation for our sins – even though we are forgiven in Christ Jesus – we would feel the shame and wish we had not been found out – though God already knew. As Mark Heard sang, “Don’t worry, nobody’s watching you but God.”
It is at least a sign of hope if we squirm at being found out about our sin – there is a chance we will repent and believe and strive to sin no more until that day when we are brought into glory. But woe to those who do not squirm – to those who laughed at Noah and challenged God to drown them.
Have you ever been with someone who said, “If there is a God, let Him do such-and-so to me”? Fear for a person who says – or thinks – like that.
We are to be witnesses to the Gospel through obedience, and God uses our obedience to show the world that it is condemned by God. Yet, we are to be ever vigilant to call people to faith and repentance that they would not be condemned. And we ought to watch ourselves as believers, not that our salvation can be lost – it is a gift from God – but we ought to mourn when we sin.
Fourth, our righteousness is received through faith alone.
“and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
“Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.’ And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.
“Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
“In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in” (Genesis 7:1-16, ESV).
The time was complete, and God told Noah to bring the animals and his family into the ark. And once they had all gotten into the ark, God closed the door to the ark and sealed it to their salvation – as we know – after the rain ended and the waters subsided, Noah and his family and all the animals came out of the ark to repopulate the world, and God set the rainbow in the sky to remind Him and humanity of the covenant that God had made never again to destroy the world by water.
Notice: God shut the door to the ark and sealed it for the journey. Their salvation was a gift and the act of God. They didn’t earn salvation by being obedient or being sinless – they were sinners.
So, how do we understand God saying that Noah inherited righteousness through faith? What is righteousness? It is the perfect keeping of God’s Law. What mere human being has ever merited or earned righteousness? No one. All merely human born people are sinners.
Notice: Noah inherited righteousness through faith. Noah received righteousness through faith – remember, we said that faith is like the gutters and leaders on your house or apartment – faith is not a good work – it receives what it is given and brings it to where it belongs – like rain in a gutter. And the righteousness that Noah received was definitely not his own, because we are told that he inherited it. Someone left it to him and he received it and it was credited to him as if it were his own.
Paul wrote, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11, ESV). So, here is New Testament confirmation that it is not possible for a fallen human being to be justified before God – to earn a perfect keeping of the Law before God – instead, righteousness is received through faith.
As we have seen, in Christ’s Work on the cross, our sins were imputed to Him – they were credited to Him, and His Righteousness was imputed to all those who will ever believe – His Righteousness – His perfect keeping of the Law – was credited to believers, so we are now right with God – our debt is paid, and we have inherited righteousness.
So, the only Person Noah could have inherited righteousness from is Jesus. As we continue to see, the ultimate end of faith is Christ and the reception of His Gospel. Thus, the history of Noah is for us today.
We are to receive as true and believe by faith what God has said concerning unseen things. In this morning’s text, we are specifically reminded of the last judgment, which we have not seen, but every man and women who has ever lived will go through. Let us live believing that we will be judged, and our only salvation is through Jesus Alone.
Let us purpose that obedience to God will flow from our faith. Let us not be satisfied with attending worship. Let us do something about it. Let us know what God has said and follow Him in all obedience out of love for what He has done for us.
Let us understand that when we are obedient to God, the world is condemned. Let us live as believers that others would see us and know something is wrong, if they have not received salvation through Jesus. And let us convict others – and even ourselves – of sin. Let us have a passion for the salvation of the lost and act on it.
Let us remember and understand that our righteousness is received through faith alone. We have merited God’s Wrath. We have nothing to bring, no excuse to give, no way to be right, except through the wondrous gift of salvation through Jesus Christ Alone. All honor and glory and praise are His.
So, let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the history of Noah. We ask that You would help us to receive the unseen things that You have promised in faith, believing that hope that is seen is not hope, and that You are ever-faithful. Help us to be obedient to all You have commanded us, that we would have joy in giving You glory, and help us to love the world – that we would proclaim Your Gospel so that all your people would repent and believe. We thank You for choosing us to be Your sons and daughters and for making us righteous through Jesus for Your Sake. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.