Monday, May 30, 2016

Covenant and faith (Genesis 6)

When God created, he created something that was very good. In Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

Things went awry when the man and the woman disobeyed God disobeyed God when they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. We saw God's grace in that event when he found a way to spare Adam and Eve's lives; but they still suffered consequences by being expelled from the garden. Very early in the Bible we should realize that God's salvation is expressed in covenant and is realized in faith.

God used to walk around in the garden and visit with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). God visited personally with the first four humans even after they were driven out of the Garden. God spoke directly to Cain when he was feeling moody about his brother Abel’s sacrifice. God said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:5).

Enoch walked with God and somehow he was able to move to a new existence without having to go through death (Genesis 5:22).
When Enoch walks with God and when God walks with people, they are taking a walk. They are not walking on their way to something. They are just walking around together. That is what a walk with God is. We are walking and I am with God and God is with me.

What God created did not continue to be “very good.” Things did not go well at all. God was very disheartened by how things went.
[Genesis 6:1-7 but especially:] Gen 6:5-7
The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
We should notice a few important features of this text. First off, God did not expect the creation to turn out this way. In fact, God is ready to wipe out something about which he had earlier said was "very good." God is reacting to human actions (Isaiah 9:11-12; Malachi 3:6;Jeremiah 18). God changed his mind. God has always reserved the right to change his mind (Exodus 32:14; Psalm 106:23; 1 Samuel 2:30; Jeremiah 15:6)

God experiences emotion. God is sorry/regrets/repents(KJV) (1 Samuel 15:11). God's experience at the beginning of verse 6 (sorrow) connotes a definite change. When God experienced this sorrow, he was not experiencing it before he "saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth." After God saw what he saw, he changed. He was sorry. Thus, very appropriately, the KJV gives the word "repented."
God grieves. "It grieved him to his heart." Grief is emotional suffering in proportion to intimacy. The Bible is replete with examples of God's grief.
Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10; Luke 19:41-42; John 11:33-35; Ephesians 4:30. In Hosea 11:8-9, God is torn in heart.
Genesis 6:8
But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.
That is interesting! How did Noah find favor with God? Was it an arbitrary thing? Recall that God had a soft spot in his heart for King Jeroboam's child.
1Ki 14:12-13
Therefore set out, [said the prophet to Jeroboam's wife,] go to your house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him; for he alone of Jeroboam’s family shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.
Because God saw something pleasing in the child, he was the only person in Jeroboam's family to have a marked grave. The Bible does not tell us what the pleasing thing was that God saw in the boy.

However, the Bible does say something revealing about Noah.
Genesis 7:1
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.
Whatever was in Noah in Genesis 6:8 continued all the way to Genesis 7:1. Thus, if Noah's character at Genesis 6:8 had not continued, he would have not been found righteous by the time Genesis 7:1 rolled around! Thus, God's favor in God's sight was not arbitrary. It was a result of something in Noah's character that became even more evident by his subsequent behavior. Noah's obedience is mentioned in Genesis 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16 and 18:17-18.

So, did Noah save himself? Not at all. He entered into covenant with God. God gave Noah a blueprint of the ark he was to build and God stated the terms of a covenant he is making with Noah and his family.
Gen 6:17-18
For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; 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.
The covenant, obviously, is to save Noah and his family from the flood waters. But what would have happened if Noah had said something like, "Yes, LORD. I believe! I have faith coming out my ears! I accept your salvation from the coming flood!" and then, Noah never built the ark? He would have perished with everyone else.
Noah, for his part, needed to build that ark as a means of accepting God's salvation. Noah was not his own co-savior. God was his savior; but Noah still needed to build that ark! If he had not, he would not have realized God's salvation.
First Peter says Noah's realization of God's salvation prefigures the Christian's realization of salvation.
1Pe 3:20-21
... when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, 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....
Noah's faith resulted in his salvation through water (says Peter). When someone today believes in Jesus, he is also saved through water. Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience. Noah did not really save himself by building the ark. Noah was saved by God when Noah obeyed God. A believer today does not literally save himself by being baptized. He is saved by God when he obeys. God's salvation is expressed in covenant and is realized in faith.


  1. It might be compatible with my view on baptism but also not in another sense... I disagree with the church of Christ's teaching on baptism.

    1. I am aware, Tom, of your disagreement on the necessity of baptism; and I am aware that your view is rooted in your perception of what Ephesians 2:8-9 means.
      Check out my article on baptism here.