Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 16 (“Noah: The Covenant of Preservation”)
In the Covenant with Adam, the first reference to the two lines of development among humanity appears. One line belongs to the seed of Satan and the other line belongs to the seed of the woman.
The next covenant was a covenant made by God with Noah. Just a reminder: Man, never made a covenant with God – it was always a covenant made by God with man.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
There are four passages where we read about the situation on earth before the covenant was established with Noah and then the covenant itself:
· We find the first in Gen.6:17-22. Then we get the same message in Gen.8:20-22 ~ “17 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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 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.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
· The third reference is Gen.9:1-7 (ESV) ~ “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. 7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
· Fourth, Gen.9:8-17 (ESV) ~ “8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
3. THE SPREADING OF WICKEDNESS:
We see in chapters 4 and 5 of Genesis, that sin has spread from one family to general society. After the Fall (Adam and Eve), we see how Cain killed Seth. Cain never acknowledged his guilt and yet, under God’s common grace Cain’s life was spared and God even protected him by making a promise to him in Gen.4:15 ~ “If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” After Cain left “the land of blessing” (Gen.4:16), he prospered. He and his descendants took the lead in producing cities, music, weapons, agricultural implements – in short, civilisation.
Seth was Adam and Eve’s third child after the death of Abel and under him, the people began worshipping the Lord. As great as all the inventions of civilisation were, this step was greater by far.
Apart from the advances in civilisation, rebellion against God also multiplied and advanced. There was bigamy (Afrikaans: “veelwywery” = meer as een vrou) and there was disdain for life. But, in contrast to Cain’s family, there were godly people on earth, people like Seth, Enosh, Jared, Enoch, to mention a few. We read in Gen.4:26 of the first instance of public worship ~ “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
It is clear that God’s purpose in this period of history was to allow sin to run its course with a minimum of restraint, so that its true character and tendency might be fully manifested for all time. This predominantly negative and sinful character of the period is evident even in the godly line, the descendants of Seth. Even among them, there was no remarkable progress in religion beyond the beginning if public worship of Jehovah at the time of the birth of Enosh.
After this period, we find a brief repetition of the account of the creation of mankind (Gen.5:1-2) and the purpose of this repetition is to remind the reader that man was created by God and that man was created in the likeness of God. After this repetition we have the record of the patriarchs – that is, the godly men who lived before the flood (The average length of life at that stage was 912 years – excluding Enoch).
The characteristic feature of this period (from Adam to the patriarch’s) was the fact that sin became more and more severe. The godly branch of humanity was enabled to resist evil to some degree, but it was a severe battle and there was no evidence what so ever of any positive influence of the godly upon the ungodly. God was letting sin run its course and allowing the wicked the sink deeper and deeper into iniquity.
Then we read the following words in Gen.6:1-2 ~ “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” We have here recorded a further stage in sinful corruption of the human race, namely, the prevalence of intermarriage between the godly and the wicked (“the sons of God” can’t be Angels as many believe – Matt.22:30 says ~ “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” – the correct interpretation is that intermarriage took place between the two branches of the human race: the godly branch descended from Seth and the wicked branch descended from Cain – therefore we have the warning and prohibition in the New Testament of believers who are not allowed to marry unbelievers – e.g. 2 Cor.6:14). This development (intermarriage between godly and wicked) displeased God, because the godly branch had become like the ungodly branch. There was however, one family that remained godly and that was Noah and his family. Because of this sinful situation, God said~ “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years” (Gen.6:3). Do you notice? – Grace again! God gives a period of 120 years for sinners to confess their sins and turn around!
In Gen.6:5-7 God gave His summary of this period of history, especially of the closing part of this period ~ “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. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Man and creation was about to be destroyed by God as a result of man’s sinfulness.
There was however one man who found grace in the eyes of the Lord and his name was Noah (Gen6:8). Thus, the destruction of the human race is not to be total. The statement that Noah was a just and perfect man, of course, does not mean that he was sinless. It means that he was a godly man who lived a consistent life. The word translated “just” is the common Hebrew word for “righteous.” It implies that, by grace, Noah was regarded as righteous by God. The word translated “perfect” means well-balanced or rounded, complete in all aspects of life with no phase of his character omitted. We might paraphrase the statement by saying that Noah was a saved man who had a balanced and mature character.
4. NOAH: THE COVENANT OF PRESERVATION:
In Gen.6:13, God revealed Himself to Noah by saying… ~ “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.” Then God told Noah how to make the Ark. God’s reaction on mankind’s sin and His plan of action was revealed to Noah. Then in Gen.6:18 we read about the second covenant in Genesis – the Covenant with Noah, when God said to Noah, after He gave Noah the instruction to build an Ark… ~ “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.”
What did this Covenant with Noah entails?
· The covenant with Noah emphasises a close interrelation of the Creative- and Redemptive Covenants. We see several of the elements in the Covenant of Creation, repeated in the Covenant with Noah. The reference to the birds and the cattle and the creeping things of Gen.6:20 and 8:17 compares with the similar description in Gen.1:24-25, 30.
God’s charge to Noah and his family to be “fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen.9:1,7) reflects the identical command given at creation (Gen.1:28). We find the same with the cultural mandate to subdue the earth in Gen.1:28, and the fact that the fear and terror of man was to fall on the animals.
The reason for this being that the covenant with Noah binds together God’s purposes in creation with His purposes in redemption. Noah, his seed, and all creation benefit from this covenant.
· A second distinctive of the covenant relates to the particularity of God’s redemptive grace. Prior to the flood, the wickedness of man provoked God’s decision to destroy him from the face of the earth (Gen.6:5-7). But, as always, God expressed a gracious attitude toward Noah – Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen.6:8).
It is important that we shall understand what the meaning of “grace” in this case is. When using the term “grace”, it usually refers to something other than a response of mercy to a sinful situation, e.g. Gen.39:3-4 (KJV) ~ “And his master saw that the Lord was with him (that was Joseph), and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house.” In this case however, “grace” describes God’s response to fallen man, “grace” depicts a merciful attitude to an undeserving sinner.
Noah was not destroyed together with the rest of creation, because he received undeserved grace from God and God had a plan in mind, a plan to eventually restore His original creation – “a program of redemption” and this program of redemption becomes the theme which continues throughout the Covenant of Redemption – throughout the rest of the Old Testament.
· A third principle inherent to the establishment of the covenant with Noah relates to God’s intention to deal with families in His covenant relationships. God will destroy all of the earth. But to Noah God says ~ “Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you…” (Gen.6:17b-18a). We see an important principle of the covenant here, namely the continuity of the covenant from parent to child in the generations of believers.
We must however not make the same mistake that many Evangelicals in our day make and that is to believe that as a result of this “continuity principle” all children of believing parents will be saved – but later a bit more about this.
· Fourthly, the covenant with Noah primarily may be characterised as the “Covenant of Preservation.” This dimension of the Noahic Covenant becomes evident in God’s response to Noah’s thank-offering after the flood-waters had subsided ~ “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’” (Gen.8:20-22).
By this decree God binds Himself to preserve the earth in its present world-order until the time of consummation (Afrikaans: “die Voleinding van Tyd”). We must however keep in mind, that God knew precisely the state of man’s heart before and after the flood. Man is totally depraved, inclined toward self-destruction and worthy of judgment. But God in grace and in mercy determines to preserve the life of man and promotes the multiplication of his descendants.
God’s commitment to preserve man subsequent to the flood also becomes evident in the provisions of Gen.9:3-6, i.e. food (green plants and meat) as well as the prohibition of taking another’s life, because God’s own image is stamped in man, therefore a murderer must die.
· Fifthly, not only Noah and his seed, but “every living creature” lives under the sign of the rainbow. That means that not only man, but the entire universe will experience ultimate deliverance from the curse.
· Sixthly, the seal of the Covenant with Noah (the rainbow) emphasises the gracious character of this covenant. No wonder John wrote in Rev.4:3-4, when he saw the righteous God sitting on the throne of righteousness ~ “And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.”
5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
I’ve referred to believers that say that Christian parents’ children are included in the covenant and will be saved. They base their conviction on Gen.6:18 and Gen.7:1. Gen.6:18 ~ “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.” Gen.7:1 ~ “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.’” They then say that the righteousness of the single head of the family (in this case, Noah) serves as the basis for including the whole of his descendants in the Ark. Because Noah is righteous, his entire family experiences deliverance from the flood.
I ask the following question of you: “How do we know whether Noah’s children were righteous – saved because of their own faith?” That is a distorted covenant theology – saved on the basis of your ancestors’ faith? If that was the case – Noah believed and therefore the children were saved – then we as credo Baptists must be very cautious not to criticise paedo Baptists, because they believe that their children are part of the covenant and therefore saved. When we say that believer’s children will be saved, we also negate (Afrikaans: “ignoreer”) another very important Biblical principle and Reformed doctrine out of the window, namely “election.” My question to such a conviction is, “were all the children of David saved,” etc.?
Many Christians refer to Scripture passages like, Acts 10 and 11 (Cornelius and his household), and Acts 16 (the Philippian jailer). In Acts 10 and 11 Cornelius is promised that his household would be saved. First of all, as with any passage of Scripture, we must consider the genre or type of book in which it occurs. In this case it is found in Acts, an historical narrative of actual events. A principle concerning Biblical history is that no one event can be automatically assumed to apply in every situation. For example, Samson tore the city gates off of Gaza and carried them up a hill (Judges 16:3), but this doesn’t mean that, if we grow our hair long, we will be able to perform similar feats of strength. In Acts 11, the fact that God promised Cornelius that his whole household would be saved does not mean the same promise applies universally to all households across all time. In other words, Acts 11:14 was a specific promise to a specific person at a specific point in time. We must be careful about interpreting such promises as universal; they should not be separated from their historical settings.
We must always remember that salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ. In John 14:6 Jesus says ~ “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Therefore, salvation can only come to an individual who personally believes in Christ. Believing in Christ is not something that a father can do for a son or daughter. The fact that one member of a family or household believes does not guarantee that the rest will also believe. Jesus Himself indicates that the Gospel often divides families. In Matt.10:34-36 Jesus says ~ “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” These words completely undermine the concept of household salvation.
A third verse in the New Testament that some use to teach household salvation is 1 Cor.7:1 ~ “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” This verse seems to teach that an unbelieving spouse can be saved on the basis of his or her spouse’s faith in Christ. It also seems to say that their children will be holy before the Lord because one of their parents is saved. But that conclusion would be inconsistent with the overall teaching of Scripture. In this context the word sanctified is not referring to salvation or being made holy before God. Instead, it refers to the sanctity of the marriage relationship itself. Paul taught that Christians should not be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor.6:14). The fear of some in the church was that, since they were married to unbelievers, they were living in sin – their marriage was “unholy” and their children from that union were illegitimate. Paul allays (Afrikaans: “weerlê”) their fears: believers who are already married to an unbeliever should remain married as long as the unbeliever consents to stay married. They should not seek a divorce; their marriage relationship is sanctified (holy or set apart in God’s eyes) based upon the faith of the believing spouse. Likewise, the children of their marriage are not necessarily saved, but legitimate in the sight of God.
The fact that 1 Cor.7:14 is not speaking of household salvation is clearly seen in the question Paul asks in 1 Cor.7:16 ~ “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” If household salvation were true, then the wife would already be saved (on the basis of the husband’s salvation); Paul would not need to refer to a future time of salvation for her.
The Bible does not promise household salvation. But that does not mean that a godly father or mother does not have a profound spiritual influence on the children in that family. The leader of a household sets the course for the family in many ways, including spiritually. We should earnestly hope, pray, and work for the salvation of our families. There are many times when the God of Abraham also becomes the God of Sarah, and then of Isaac, and then of Jacob. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net” – think of the Old Testament’s “holy line.”
In conclusion, many people say that God is a God of love and is too kind and loving to punish sin. They forget the holiness of God; they forget that, according to Rom.1:18 ~ “…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
Scripture solemnly reminds us that just as the world was destroyed by water on account of man’s sin, so the world that we live in today will someday be destroyed by fire, and as Peter says in 2 Pet.3:5-10, the elements will melt with fervent heat. The flood of Noah’s day was a type – a small-scale beforehand – of the Judgement Day.
We see in God’s dealings with Noah and the Covenant with Noah, the righteousness of God in its fullest sense. God has come in judgement and destroyed this wicked world with a flood; but He also has provided a context of preservation in which the grace of redemption may operate. From the Covenant with Noah it becomes quite obvious that God’s being “with us” involves not only an outpouring of His grace on His people; it involves also an outpouring of His wrath on the seed of Satan.
According to Rom.3:23, we are all infected with sin. We are born with sin (Ps.51:5), and we all personally choose to sin (Ecc.7:20; 1 Joh.1:8). Sin is what makes us unsaved. Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is what has us on the path to eternal destruction. There is no more important issue than our eternal destiny. Thankfully, the Bible is abundantly clear on how a person can be saved. The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Believe in the crucified and risen Christ, and you will be saved!