Recreation, Baptism and the One Greater than Noah
October 22, 2017
If you were to make a list of moments in history that changed the entire world - important and significant events that changed everything - what would you put on it? What would you say? Perhaps you would put World War I and World War II on that list. Or perhaps you would talk about the discovery of electricity. If you were an avid historian, you might put the Renaissance and the Reformation on that list. If you were a firefighter in New York City, you might say that 9-11 changed everything. If you were a writer for a business magazine, you would probably write about how Steve Jobs revolutionized the way that we live, work and play in the world. And if you were a certain sports fan, you would probably put the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series on that list. Moments in history that changed the entire world. Important and significant events that changed everything.
Here is the thing. We are Christians. And as believers in Christ, we have a slightly different looking list. There are a few more moments in history that come to our mind. There are a few more important and significant events that we know - events that changed everything.
This morning, we look at one such moment: the flood of Genesis 7.
The flood is very important and very significant. It is one of the most important and significant events in the Bible. In Scripture, as you will soon see throughout this sermon, it is brought up many times in the Bible. But in the history of the world, it has only happened once. It is true that floods big and small happen all the time. Our church cafeteria flooded a little bit last week (and by the way, thanks to everyone who helped to push the water out and worked together to clean up the floor). Sadly, floods happen all the time throughout the world. But the flood of Genesis 7 was special. It was a worldwide flood. It happened once. It has never happened again. And it never will happen again. The flood was very important and very signficant. It was so important and significant that Peter described the time before the flood and the time after the flood as two different worlds (2 Peter 3:6).
Why is the flood so important and significant? It is important and significant because it is an amazing picture of God’s judgment and God’s salvation. There are many pictures of God’s judgment and God’s salvation in the Bible that point to Jesus Christ. But if you were making a list, the flood is perhaps the greatest one of all.
Brothers and sisters, let us think deeply now about the flood. And let us have a reverent fear of the Lord as we contemplate the judgment of God.
First, God’s judgment is death. People sinned against God. God is holy and righteous. People were put to death by God. God is holy and righteous. Judgment does not mean that God is not good. Judgment means that man is not good. And the wages of sin is death. God’s judgment is death.
Second, God’s judgment is powerful and complete. In terms of percentage, more people died in the flood than in all the other wars and disasters and terrible events in history combined. Save for Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark, the flood was a complete annihilation. The waters prevailed and prevailed and prevailed mightily. Forty days and forty nights and fifteen cubits of water above the highest mountains meant totality and completeness. Nobody outside of the ark escaped the flood. God’s judgment is powerful and complete.
Third, God’s judgment is decreative. In the beginning, God separated the waters and gathered the waters so that dry land would appear (Genesis 1:6-10). But in the flood, God made all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and he opened the windows of the heavens so that there would no longer be any dry land. There was a reversal of creation, a decreation of all things. You even see a poetic reverse order when you compare the list of animals in the ark and the list of animals outside of the ark. In the ark (verses 13-14): humans, land animals, birds. Outside the ark (verse 21): birds, land animals, humans. God’s judgment is decreative. The flood is a profound act of decreation. One might say that it is God going back to the start - though by the end of this sermon, we will see that this is not really the case.
Brothers and sisters, this really happened. This historic event of great importance and significance really happened. This powerful and complete judgment of death and decreation really happened. And one can imagine Israel of old listening to this story and being very quiet.
But remember, the flood is not just an amazing picture of God’s judgment. It is also an amazing picture of God’s salvation. For history would not end with decreation. God’s amazing judgment was accompanied with God’s amazing grace. So now, brothers and sisters, let us think more deeply now about the flood. And let us have a more reverent fear of the Lord as we contemplate the salvation of God.
First, Noah was a preview of Jesus Christ. Last week I spoke about how Noah was a sinner saved by grace through faith in our Lord. And that is absolutely true. But today I speak about how Noah was also at the same time a preview of our Lord. You see, God made a covenant with Noah. And Noah became a representative. And because Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him, his family as well as many animals under him were saved from the flood. Noah’s beneficiaries escaped the waters of judgment because of Noah. And Jesus’s beneficiaries escape the final judgment because of Jesus. What a wonderful picture of Christ!
Second, judgment is realized in Christ. Judgment is no more for us because of him and him alone. Jesus represented us and died on the cross for the punishment of our sins. That’s judgment. Jesus died under the ultimate flood of the wrath of the perfect justice and righteousness and holiness of the Father. That’s judgment. Death by a cross that is designed to kill you by asphyxiation, which is the deprivation of oxygen, which seems to me the way that one dies from drowing in water. That’s judgment. Decreative darkness fell on the earth at Calvary. That’s judgment.
Third, God did not really go back to the start. Just a moment ago I spoke about how God’s judgment was an act of decreation. And that is absolutely true. But I tell you the truth, this is not a rewind. This is a redo. God did not throw away the terms and conditions of life everlasting. God provided someone who could fulfill them. And it wasn’t Noah. It was Jesus Christ. The idea of going back to the start sounds nice. But if we were to go back to the start, if we were to wind the clock all the way back to Eden, then that would be terrible for us. If we go back to the start, back to paradise in Eden, back to before the fall, then we’re doomed. Because that means that we would also have to go back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That means that we would go back to the covenant of works. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a sinner. And on my own, on my own record and with my own “righteousness,” I have no chance of going to heaven. You see, you don’t want to go back to the start. You want to go back to the future. You want to go back to what should have happened had Adam obeyed God: sabbath rest, consummate fellowship with God, a time and a place after testing, a time and a place of confirmed and earned righteousness and eternal life. And the Lord provided a true Noah, so to speak - a savior who would fulfill the terms and conditions of life everlasting.
It is so important and significant to understand that Jesus didn’t just die for you. He also lived for you. He didn’t just take away a judgment from you. He credited a righteousness to you. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ obeyed in your place. He obeyed for you. He earned a place in heaven for you. And then he gives you the credit for his work so that you can have eternal life in his kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.
Fourth, the flood reminds us about our baptism into Christ. Many people think that baptism is primarily symbolic of cleansing. And that is fine. But there is more to baptism than that!
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:18-22 about how the flood and the ark and the story of Noah corresponds to baptism. Very interesting!
Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-8 these words: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Paul also wrote that we who “were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And in Colossians 2:12, Paul wrote that we have been “buried with [Christ] in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
But most importantly, Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. And in Luke 12:50 he said these words: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” Why did Jesus have to be baptized if he never had any sin? The answer is because baptism involves the idea of death - of judgment and of suffering. And baptism for us is a sign and a seal of God’s covenant of grace that points to the reality of Christ’s death for us. It is a picture of how Jesus bears the judgment of God for our sins. But Jesus’ true baptism was not done in the water in the Jordan River. Jesus’ true baptism was done on the cross at Calvary. “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”
This is amazing and mind-blowing. We are united with Christ. We were baptized into Christ. We were baptized into his death. We died with Jesus. But we also rise again with Jesus. We also have newness of life. This means that we are not a decreation. We are a recreation. Or, to be more precise, we are a new creation. And the only way to be saved is to repent of your sins and have faith in Jesus and hide yourself in the safety of Christ and be found in him.
Praise the Lord! The world likes the idea of starting over. There are so many instagram pictures of quotes about starting over. But we who are in Christ don’t worry about starting over. We revel in the gospel of having everything finished in Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important and significant event for us to date. We are a new creation. The old passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ and we who are in him have prevailed and prevailed and prevailed mightily over sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, let us remember that all the glory of salvation belongs to God. There is a fascinating thing that happened in today’s Scripture text that I want you to see. It’s at the end of verse 16. It says that after Noah entered the ark through the door of the ark, the LORD shut him in. It is very interesting that Noah did not close the door. The LORD closed the door. This did not happen because there were no handles on the inside for Noah to pull. This happened because salvation belongs to the LORD. God seals his people into Christ and keeps them safe. As one pastor put it simply: “God does not entrust the salvation of people to people.” Salvation belongs to the LORD. Noah is not the hero of the story. God is. And all the glory belongs to God and God alone. Praise be to our God!
Brothers and sisters, let us receive comfort from God because of his salvation. Do not fear death. Our salvation in Christ has been designed and blueprinted by God’s “foolishness,” not by man’s “wisdom.” And since we are united with Christ and in him, we have safe passage through death. If Jesus does not come back before you die, then you will die. But when you close your eyes, rest assured that you will open them once again, just as Noah rested assured that the door of the ark that the LORD shut over him would one day open up to something new.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of Noah and his faith. It is clear in today’s Scripture text that Noah obeyed God. He did all that God commanded him. He did not obey in order to enter into the ark. He obeyed because he was going to enter into the ark. Faith without works is dead. If you really believe in the gospel and everything that comes with Jesus Christ, then your live should reflect that. You ought to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us be aware of the time that we live in. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot — they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all — so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
Brothers and sisters, let us evangelize. Right now, the door to Christ is open. But one day that door will be shut. Imagine all the people who probably scoffed at Noah while he built the ark. Imagine all the people swimming to the ark once they realized what was going on. It would be too late for them. The day of the Lord is coming. Soon and very soon Jesus will return. And when he returns, the time to repent and believe in him will run out. The Lord will shut his people in. And those who trust in Christ will be saved to the end. Do you want to see the door shut on your family members or friends who have not yet turned to Jesus? If not, then let us get to work.
I would like to close now with the question from the beinning of this sermon. If you were to make a list of moments in history that changed the entire world - important and significant events that changed everything - what would you put on it? What would you say?
Brothers and sisters, it is true that the flood is high up there on our list. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is certainly higher on our list. But I tell you the truth, we are now looking forward to the most amazing moment in the history of the world. Jesus is going to come back. We are going to enter into a perfect and unchangeable resurrection life. You are going to be without sin. And we will be with God in the kingdom of the new heavens and the new earth. Save the number one slot on your list for the Day of the Lord. It is going to be the best day ever.