At this forbidding juncture, God reveals a spiritual doctrine that is supremely vital to our daily lives and ultimately to our salvation. If we do not grasp this doctrine and set its seriousness firmly in mind, it will throw off our understanding of who God's elect are, and we will greatly undervalue the degree of accountability and appreciation we owe to God for His mercy.
It is appropriate to dig into this doctrine at any time, but it is especially appropriate now because of the nature of the period we are living through. The Bible itself, combined with the daily news reports, indicates the time of Jesus' return is drawing near. Many believe that we are in the beginning stages of what has been called “the crisis at the close.” Consider how similar those pre-Flood times are to our own. As God tells the story in His Word, we are only into the sixth chapter of the first book, and the end of mankind, except for the few who would be spared, was near at hand!
This similarity brings up a critical question for all of us to consider soberly: Who was saved from the devastation of the Flood? Every person did not die in the Flood. We need to think this through because the Flood most definitely came, just as the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, as prophesied by the same unchanging God for our time, will also surely come.
The answer to the critical question is that only those God specifically spared were saved. He specifically names them. God's “grace” is the overall general reason, but the specific aspect of His grace that preserved their lives is that they were sanctified—set apart—for salvation from the Flood.
In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the root words underlying “salvation” mean the same thing. Both terms mean “given deliverance,” implying prosperity despite impending disaster. In this specific instance, the impending disaster is the prophesied Flood. God's first step in delivering some was to sanctify those He chose, Noah and his family.
Sanctification is of major importance to those of us called into God's church, as I Thessalonians 4:3-5 points out: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like Gentiles who do not know God.” Sanctification (Greek hagiasmos) is the noun form of the verb sanctify, which means “to set apart for God's use, to make distinct from what is common.” Thus, those called into the church are set apart by God, as were Noah and his family, for His glory, for salvation from prophesied disasters, and for becoming like Him.
II Peter 2:5 carries the Flood record further: “[For God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Noah and his family faithfully responded, doing what God sanctified them to do. Noah not only built the ark, which became the physical means of their salvation, but its construction gave them the time and opportunity to explain to the world why it needed to be built. Noah preached to mankind of God, of their sins, and of the prophesied certainty of the Flood if the people chose not to repent.
From this example, we must grasp God's intention in His sanctification of us. Noah and his family did not save themselves. Like Noah and his family, we are required to respond faithfully to what God has ordained us to do. We must understand that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and the responsibilities He assigns are part of His creation of us in His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)
What Noah did that is truly noteworthy is that he believed God and yielded. Thus, he walked with God and was blameless and righteous—but only because God gifted him first. This is why Genesis 6:8 tells us that “Noah found grace.” The powers to accomplish what he did were not in him by nature. He found grace, and it changed his life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)
In verse 9 is the first use of the term “grace” in the Old Testament. Others like Adam and Eve certainly received a measure of grace from God because He could have killed them on the spot for their disloyalty in submitting to Satan since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Abel, Seth, Enoch, and others undoubtedly also received grace. These men appear to have been converted (see Hebrews 11), and their sins forgiven.
Notice it says, “Noah found grace.” It is stated this way so we understand that he did not earn it by his conduct; it was given as a gift, which happens to every converted person. This is not all it says about Noah. Regarding his conduct, Genesis 6:9 states: “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” The word “perfect” does not refer to his ancestry but to his habitual, daily conduct.
The terms “just,” “perfect,” and “walked with God” all signify his conduct among those in his family and community. Noah was a righteous man who could be trusted because people knew he kept the laws of God. “Walking with God” denotes one so close to God in his manner of life that He would keep company with him because he was obedient despite all the corruption surrounding him on every side. That he was perfect (“blameless,” KJV) among his contemporaries suggests he had no major flaws in his character. In addition, II Peter 2:5 calls him “a preacher of righteousness.”
We need to make sure we are correct regarding Noah and grace because we want to be consistent and accurate about receiving grace. Scripture always shows grace as something given by God; it is never earned. Genesis 6:8, then, does not say Noah received grace because his life already reflected all those good attributes, but that he was conducting his life righteously because God had given him grace. His conduct was proof that he found favor with God. God gave grace, and Noah then began living his life in a godly manner. The favor—grace—empowered him to behave as is recorded here.
An additional result of finding grace was to separate or sanctify him from all others on earth whom God had not sanctified for the purpose the Bible goes on to show. The grace, the favor, the gifts of God, always precede anything produced within His purpose and calling.
Noah stood out because he responded correctly to the grace, the gifts, the favor, God gave him, and so God called him righteous. Likewise, we have found favor, grace, and gifts in God's calling of us, so we need to evaluate whether we are responding as Noah did to the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
We must not just rush by this first mention of grace in the Bible, which God purposely and deliberately inserted here. He also intentionally used the term “found” so we will understand that Noah's conduct was a fruit of God's grace, not something inherent that made God call and use him. It was as if Noah was walking a path and came upon a great treasure that changed his entire life from then on. The Creator God put the treasure there for him to find.
Grace is a gift of God to enable us to reach our goals within His purposes. Like Adam and Eve and like Noah, we play essential roles in what is going on—but not until after God gives His gifts. Adam and Eve failed. Noah succeeded. We can see from Noah's record that grace leads to righteous conduct, walking with God, blamelessness, and making the right witness. In addition, grace provides salvation from the destruction to come. Without grace, there is no new creation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)
It was the Creator God who initiated a work through Noah. He and his family did not volunteer. Within this is an awesome truth: Those who received grace in this context were also the only ones who were set apart from the violent, churning mass of humanity on earth, becoming the only ones to survive the Flood. Take note of when they received this grace.
Did the grace they received place them in a favorable, in fact, an enviable position? Absolutely! Grace, then, including its direct connection to God's gift of sanctification, becomes the starting point for encouraging, stimulating thoughts since this particular grace appeared in the midst of a life-threatening situation.
As the Flood story unfolds and the devastating Flood actually comes as God said it would, it becomes clear that our Creator specifically sanctified Noah and his family for deliverance before the Flood occurred. They were specially set apart to be saved from certain death in the Flood.
Do not misunderstand, though. The apostle Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:12-13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
The grace God gave them was not a get-out-of-jail-free, do-nothing ticket to life. Paul's warning is not presented in the sense that we must work for salvation but that we must continue what we have begun as a result of God's calling. We must be witnesses before others of what we have received (verses 14-16). Noah and his family had to faithfully carry out responsibilities that God's grace enabled them to accomplish. They built the ark, testifying by it to those around them. They carried out their responsibilities because they lived by faith.
In like manner, we, too, have received grace and are, like Noah and his family, specifically sanctified by God for our calling into the church and for deliverance from what lies ahead. We, too, have not received a free ticket to everlasting life but bear responsibilities within our calling. We, too, must faithfully live God's way of life, glorifying Him by our conduct. God knows how to deliver us out of temptations (II Peter 2:9), but He will not necessarily draw us away from them. We are already facing such temptations, which are gradually intensifying in the pressures they apply as time moves toward Christ's return.
What does this mean to us practically? Recall the reassuring encouragement of Genesis 8:1, when God remembered Noah in the midst of the devastating Flood, even as it was killing everybody not in the ark. This is written to reassure us, not Noah, as his trial was over when this was written.
The marvel in this is not that God remembered but that Noah remembered. Through the 120 years of building the ark, then after entering the ark when the rains came, and the fountains of the great deep erupted with gigantic earthquakes, spouting huge and powerful gushes of water, still Noah did not forget God. A boiling sea pitched him and his family about like a cork. For a year and ten days, their every view was only of incessantly lurching water. How quickly would that get old?
It is truly one of the amazing realities that, in the midst of this churning maelstrom of wind and water, Noah remembered. How easy it would have been for him to be focused entirely on his own safety! In addition, the first thing he did upon leaving the ark was to sacrifice in thanks to God (Genesis 8:20). Like God, he had not forgotten.
The lesson for us is that God was right there with them as they bore the events He was accomplishing through them. Because of His presence, they were saved. It thus becomes clear that grace given in the process of sanctification is the first step toward salvation because God is with us the entire way.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 6:8: