Summary: God’s covenant with Noah and the imputation of righteousness.
Genesis chapter seven shows us a lot of things pertaining to grace and God’s promise to us: a few that stood out to me this week are the imputation of righteousness, God’s deliberate classification of clean and unclean, and His faithfulness to fulfill His word not only to the righteous but also the wicked. What we’re going to see here is a story which has both terrifying consequences and also the comfort that comes only from resting in Christ.
God has told Noah to build an ark because He plans to destroy every living thing on the earth that walks, crawls, or flies. Noah did as he was told, and now it’s time to enter in:
And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark;
Notice this is a command to “come” and not an invitation. Also, I think it’s just as important to notice that it’s not issued to all men. This is a command from God to Noah, and it shows a basic principle of the gospel. God wasn’t standing outside the door of the ark with a bell warning everyone about the flood. Actually it was just the opposite of that—they were busy with their daily lives (Mt. 24:37) when that day came like a thief in the night (II Pt. 3:10) and caught them all off guard.
We’ll talk more about distinctions in the next verse, but I’ll point it out here that the gospel has always had that kind of distinction. God has a definite plan to save some and to punish others and that plan will be executed with absolute faithfulness and perfection. He won’t lose one sheep, and He won’t forget about one enemy; they will all be laid low, and every friend will be exalted.
And here we have a friend—Noah. And so God commands him to come into the ark. And it’s interesting to me that God doesn’t tell Noah to “go” into the ark, but rather to “come.” Where is God in all this? Obviously He’s everywhere at once, but when He reveals Himself to Noah on this occasion He’s already inside the ark. In the last lesson we talked about how the ark is a type of Christ, and I just can’t help but think of the tabernacle. It was also a type of Christ. It was the place where men were saved from wrath. And it was the place where God dwelt and met with His people.
And so God tells Noah to come into the ark: “thou and all thy house.” This made me think about Hebrews 3:6—“Christ [is a faithful] son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” The whole household belonged inside the ark, and we belong to Christ: He is our brother and God is our Father, Christ is our Husband, and so we belong in the place of salvation.
for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
The basis for entry was righteousness. “For thee have I seen” is all one word in Hebrew, and it’s in the perfect tense. This is something that expresses a completed action. So, either Noah perfected his own righteousness at some point before the flood warning or somewhere beforehand he was declared righteous by God apart from his own merit. And by the way, if Noah’s righteousness was self-obtained, I think we have a real predicament when he drinks to excess in chapter nine. That would mean that he somehow perfected himself before the flood, but then lost that perfection shortly after.
And so, the answer, then, is simple, isn’t it? What we see here is what we call the doctrine of imputation. Look at in in the New Testament: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:7-9).
Paul wasn’t talking about silver and gold being worthless dung; he was talking about his own spiritual merits. He understood that our righteousness is something we receive from God. And notice that it is through the faith of Christ. It wasn’t like Noah just really believed God until God finally said, “OK. You’ve reached the point of belief so that I can now save you.” Every good and perfect gift comes from above (Jas. 1:17), and Noah’s faith and our faith is the faith of Christ. It’s part of the inheritance that we receive simply because we’re in His family and heirs of the same promise.