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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:To be saved, get in the Ark!
Text:Genesis 7:11-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-07-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 78

Psalm 102:1,2 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 107:1,9,10

Psalm 107:11-12

Hymn 81

Scripture readings: Matthew 25:1-13, 1 Peter 3:8-22

Text: Genesis 7:11-16

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

The coastal areas of the United States are regularly hit with hurricanes.  All of these storms are dangerous, but some are a lot more dangerous than others.  A few years back there was a news story about a really powerful hurricane that hit Texas.  Before the hurricane hit, the authorities warned everyone in its path to get out of the way.  Many people listened, but some didn’t.  One person who didn’t listen was interviewed after the hurricane.  He was asked if he had any advice for anyone facing a hurricane in the future.  He just said one word: “Run.”

Any hurricane, cyclone or typhoon that’s ever happened pales in comparison to what happened on the seventeenth day of the second month of the 600th year of Noah’s life.  On that day all the waters below and above broke loose.  Time was up and judgment arrived.  No one survived except the eight souls on the ark. Prior to that day, the inhabitants of the earth had been warned, just as the people in Texas were warned about that hurricane.  Second Peter 2 says that Noah was “a herald of righteousness.”  As he was building that giant ark, you can be sure his neighbours were asking about it.  You can be sure he told them what he was doing and why.  God told him to build it because judgment was coming on the earth for human rebellion.  But no one believed, no one turned away from their sin.  The people who were on the ark on that day the storm hit were the ones who wanted to be on the ark.  The others may have had their regrets as the waters were rising, but by then it was too late.

From our reading in 1 Peter 3, we learn that the flood is a picture of God’s dealings with his people.  The same waters that judged the sinful world carried the ark containing the believer Noah and his family.  Noah and his family could only be saved through the waters because they were in the ark.  This is a picture of God’s dealings with us.  The message of Noah’s story in Genesis 7 is simply this:  To be saved, get in the Ark!

So we’ll consider:

  1. God’s kind command
  2. The believer’s right response
  3. God’s secure sealing

Our passage tells us that Noah, his family, and all these animals were in the ark.  Why did they go in?  Verse 16 tells us that it was because God had commanded Noah.  You can find the command itself at the beginning of chapter 7.  In verse 1, God says to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household…”  And then he’s to take with him seven pairs of all clean animals, a pair of all unclean animals, and seven pairs of every kind of bird. 

Now I just want to pause here briefly for a moment and talk about these animals.  Sometimes unbelievers will latch on to what the Bible says here and claim that it’s obviously impossible.  For example, how could Noah have elephants on the ark?  And they’ll not only bring up the large animals, but also the number of animals.  Are we really to believe that Noah took all 70 species of rabbits and all 43 species of deer or the 250 plus breeds of cattle?  Even though the ark was huge, it wouldn’t be big enough for all those animals.  So they say the story of Noah is obviously a myth, it didn’t really happen.  But unbelievers make a couple of false assumptions.  First, they assume that God put fully grown adult animals on the ark.  Scripture doesn’t say that.  Young elephants would easily fit.  Second, they assume God put all the species from every family on the ark.  No, God would only have to take a representative species from each family.  From that kind, through natural selection, we would eventually get all the species we see today.  So these objections aren’t really a problem.  We can trust God’s Word.

In his kindness and mercy, God determined to save all these animals, as well as Noah and his family.  He was going to save these eight people because he wouldn’t let his covenant promises come to nothing.  He made a promise in Genesis 3:15 that rescue would come for fallen humanity.  He is going to keep that promise, so he commands Noah and his family to come into the ark.  Here we see God’s faithfulness to his promises and his mercy to our fallen race.  His command serves not only for Noah’s good, but also for ours.

When it comes to God’s commands in the Bible, they’re not all the same.  Some of God’s commands are more directly related to morality.  The Ten Commandments are the obvious example.  It’s the law of God.  God wants us to live a certain way.  In Scripture, the law stands in contrast to the gospel when it comes to how we’re saved.  Obedience to the law is commanded, but it’s impossible for sinners.  What the law can’t do for us, the gospel does.  The gospel promises that Jesus Christ has done everything for us.  In other words, the law says ‘do,’ and the gospel says ‘done.’   The commands of God’s law have a legal, ethical, or moral character.

Nevertheless, the gospel also comes with commands.  In order to be saved, there are certain things that God says need to be done.  We see that illustrated in Genesis 7.  God commanded, “Go into the ark, you and all your household…”  If Noah was to be saved, he had to get into the ark.  It was God’s command, but it was given out of God’s concern for Noah’s welfare.  You could call it an “evangelical command” or a “gospel command.”  This kind command was related to God’s promise that he’d given earlier that he would save Noah and his family.  So God’s command can be put this way:  “I promised that I would save you, but now for that promise to be fulfilled, you need to listen to me and get in the ark.” 

In this New Testament era in which we live, God has also given us a gospel command:  turn from your sin and believe in Jesus Christ.  There’s a comparison to be made with the Flood.  The waters of the Flood brought judgment upon sin.  The only way to be saved was by getting in the ark. Today God continues to hate sin.  He tells us in Scripture that he will judge it.  The only way to escape is by getting in the ark – by getting into Jesus Christ.  We get into Jesus Christ by turning away from our sin and trusting in him that he took the judgment we deserve.  God’s kind command to you is:  repent and believe in Christ.  He’s your ark.  And behind that evangelical or gospel command is God’s promise, the same promise signed and sealed in your baptism:  “I will be your God and you will be my people.  I will rescue you from what you deserve and make you my own.”  But for that promise to be reality, we need to listen to God and get in the ark – we have to get in Jesus Christ by faith.  We receive what God has promised through faith.  Noah wasn’t going to be saved outside the ark, and no one will be saved outside of Jesus Christ. 

Loved ones, God’s kind gospel command comes to all of us here this morning:  get in the Ark, get in Christ by faith.  He desires that you be saved and this is the way. R.C. Sproul once said that you can disobey this gospel command, but you’re not allowed to.  People can and do say “no” to God’s kind command.  But when they do, there are consequences.  Through that preacher of righteousness, Noah, God called people to forsake their sins and turn to him.  They refused and as a result, they drowned in the waters of his judgment.  A worse fate awaits those who refuse God’s kind command today.  Just like hurricanes today don’t compare to the Flood in Noah’s day, so the Flood doesn’t compare to what will be experienced in hell. 

There’s a better way and that’s seen with Noah’s right response in our passage.  Verse 13 tells us that Noah and his family had all come into the ark.  From verses 4 and 7 we learn that they actually went into the ark seven days ahead of the Flood.  But when the Flood came, they were safely on board this giant ship.  They were in the safe place when the waters began rising from the earth and falling from the sky.                  

They were in the ark because Noah believed God’s Word.  When God told him the Flood was coming, he believed what God said.  When God told him there was a way of salvation, he believed what God said.  He trusted God in his heart, just like every believer should. 

And Noah’s faith also led to the fruit of obedient action.  He did what God told him to do – to build the ark and to get into it.  Noah didn’t question God or doubt him.  Because he believed God, he acted on what God told him. 

Now it’s important to realize that this required sacrifice on the part of Noah.  We don’t know what he did before he started building the ark, but whatever it was, he had to leave it behind to focus on the ark – because that’s what God had told him to do.  And when he and his family boarded the ark, they were leaving everything behind.  If they had a house, it was gone.  If they had flocks of sheep and cattle, they were gone.  If Noah had a position of influence in his community, that was gone.  There was sacrifice and suffering attached to believing God’s Word and acting on it.  It was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t an easy thing. 

This is the way it is for believers in every age.  God calls us to listen to him, to get into the ark, to get into Jesus Christ.  When we listen and do what he says, we’re saved, but there are sacrifices and suffering that come along with it.  We have to leave behind our old nature.  We have to leave behind our old ways of sin.  We may have to give up relationships to follow Christ. 

I once heard the story of a Canadian pastor.  He was telling of how he was an alcoholic in the early 1980s, before God saved him.  Part of his life as an alcoholic was that he was surrounded by other people who encouraged him in his alcoholism.  When he became a Christian, he had to give up those friendships.  Those friends gave up on him.  They didn’t want to be around him if he didn’t drink with them.  He was no fun anymore, they said.  He lost those drinking friends.  But to follow Christ requires sacrifice. 

Don’t get me wrong:  being a Christian doesn’t mean only having Christian friends.  But we’re talking about unbelieving friends who are dangerous to you spiritually.  Rather than you bringing them closer to God, they’re dragging you further away from God.  You see, following Christ sometimes means giving up friends who aren’t really friends, friends who are dragging you down and encouraging you in your sin, trying to get you involved in their sin, trying to keep you away from God.  I know giving them up is hard to do and you can be sure that it was hard for Noah and his family too.  They had to leave the old world behind in order to be saved from the coming waters of judgment.  Faith in God means abandoning the world and the things of the world.  The one leads to the other.  It has to.  If it doesn’t, it isn’t genuine faith.  When we trust in God, we’ll get into the ark, get into Christ – and in so doing, we’ll also be turning our backs on everything opposed to Christ.  But it will be worth it.  It will always be worth it.  Christ is always better than the world.  Christ is always better than sin.  The ark is always better a place to be than in the waters of judgment.  That’s what Noah experienced and that’s what we’ll experience too.     

Noah didn’t do anything of that in his own strength, and neither do we.  The believer’s right response of faith and subsequent obedience isn’t because the believer is so strong in himself or herself.  No, Noah was a weak sinner and we’ll see that in chapter 9.  You and I are weak sinners too.  Loved ones, the only way we can produce a right response is if God works that right response in us.  He does that through the Holy Spirit.  Don’t you see how much you need him?  As you recognize your need for him, you also have to pray for his presence and work in your life.  You pray and you can pray this with me right now in your heart, “Holy Spirit, please work in my heart so that I trust the gospel promises.  Help me to turn my back on this old world and my old nature, help me to get in the ark by faith, by trusting in Christ alone.  Holy Spirit, please help me to abide in Christ and to turn away from everything and everyone that would turn me away from him.”  That’s a prayer God loves to hear, a prayer he will answer. 

Let’s see how God does even more for the believer.  Have you ever been in a leaky boat out on the water?  It can be a bit alarming, especially if the water is rough and you have a hard time keeping up with bailing or pumping the water out.  Now imagine Noah and his family in the ark on the rising waters of the Flood.  Verse 11 says “the fountains of the great deep burst forth” – it’s a picture of all the water in the water table violently gushing up from the earth.  And it says, “…the windows of the heavens were opened.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”  That wasn’t a light gentle rain.  That was like those big monsoon rains you see in the tropics.  Giant gobs of rain.  Now imagine if that ark wasn’t completely seaworthy.  Imagine if there was a leak.  They didn’t have pumps like we have today and they certainly wouldn’t have been able to bail out any significant quantity of water from the ark.  Noah and his family would get into the ark only to have the ark sink and they’d all drown anyway.

This is why the last words of verse 16 demand our attention:  “And the LORD shut him in.”  The ark had a door, but for the ark to be watertight, that door would have to be sealed shut.  God did that last bit of work on the ark to make sure that Noah and his family would survive the waters of judgment.  God was going to be faithful to his promise for their salvation and for ours.  God shutting Noah in to the ark was an act of grace and covenant faithfulness.  God was going to ensure that Noah and his family would be preserved to the end.

Loved ones, this too pictures for us God’s ways with all believers.  Imagine a situation where someone becomes a Christian.  They get in the ark, so to speak.  They get into Christ by faith.  Now imagine that God would nevertheless allow such a person to be lost.  Imagine that God wouldn’t see to it that this person is kept safe in the ark, in Christ.  You really do have to imagine it, because it’s impossible.  It’s not ever going to happen.  It’s just as impossible as the sinking of the ark containing Noah and his family.  It was the truly unsinkable ship and it was unsinkable because God made it so. 

Similarly, a Christian who is truly in Christ by faith is unsinkable.  If you are truly in Christ, you’ll never be lost to the waters of judgment.  God promises that the salvation of every one of his children is secure.  In Matthew 18 when Christ spoke about the man who goes searching for the one lost sheep, he said that it was the will of his Father that not one of his little ones should perish.  Ephesians 4:30 says that we have been sealed for the day of redemption with the Holy Spirit.  Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:18 that he was confident that God would bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom.  And there are many more such passages which teach the believer’s eternal security. 

What a comfort it is to know that God keeps a firmer grip on us than we could ever keep on him!  What a comfort to know that once we have been united to Christ, once we’re in the ark, we’re not ever going to sink!  What a comfort it is to know that God has shut us in Christ, just like he shut Noah in the ark, and once we’re there, we’re safe forever.  Loved ones, the gospel promises this comfort to all who take hold of Christ.  If we turn from our sins and believe in him, we can be sure that the ark will bring us to our heavenly destination – Christ will bring us home to our heavenly Father. 

In practical terms, this means we have to learn to distrust our own feelings.  We can have dark moments.  I’ve had them and I know some of you have too.  During those dark moments, it feels like we’ve let go of God.  It feels like we’ve lost the plot spiritually speaking.  It feels like we’ve lost our moorings.  We might even wonder whether we’re even Christians in such moments. 

One figure in church history who had such doubts and struggles was J. Gresham Machen.  He was one of the founding fathers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the United States.  Machen wrote of how he experienced dark hours “when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul.”  He wrote about this to his mother and she reminded him, “Christ keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him.”  Machen wrote that his mother’s words meant “that salvation by faith does not mean that we are saved because we keep ourselves at every moment in an ideally perfect attitude of confidence in Christ.  No, we are saved because, having once been united to Christ by faith, we are his forever.”

We are his forever.  You see, once we’re securely sealed in Christ by God, we’re never going to sink.  In his grace, God will bring us through the storms and troubles.  He who is faithful will do it, friends.  Trust him.                

Think back to that man being interviewed about the hurricane and how his advice was to run.  Now think too about the parable Jesus told in our reading from Matthew 25 about the ten virgins.  The five foolish virgins were not prepared for the coming of the bridegroom and so they found the door shut.  What advice do you think they would give?  Be ready for the Bridegroom, they would say, prepare yourself to meet him when he comes.  In the days of the Flood, everybody but Noah and his family were locked out.  You don’t want the door shut to you when the last judgment comes with Christ’s return.  So it’s not only Scripture’s advice, but even its command:  to be saved, run and get in the Ark while you still can!   AMEN.

PRAYER

Our great and loving God,

Thank you for your kindness in giving us the gospel command to repent and believe.  Thank you for your grace in giving us your Holy Spirit so we are able to respond to that command.  We praise you for your wonderful grace in preserving us so that we persevere.  Thank you for your secure sealing of all those who are in Christ.  Please help us all to be found in him, whether we’re young or old, whether we’re members here or visitors.  We pray that when the final judgment comes, all of us will be safely in the ark, safely in Christ.  As we live in this world, help us with your Holy Spirit to give up anything and everything that would turn us away from you.  Please give us your help to share this message of the gospel with those around us.  So many are in danger of perishing on the day of judgment.  Help us to love them and to speak with them about the rescue available through what Jesus has done in our place.     




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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