The Expository Files


 The Faith That Saved Noah

Hebrews 11:7

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Hebrews 11:7).

The building of the ark that saved Noah was an accomplishment made possible “by faith”. The above reference is recorded not for those who lived in Noah's day, but for us. Why did the Holy Spirit, in the New Testament Scriptures, call our attention way back to Noah and the other faithful men and women of long ago?

Because the characteristics of the faith that saved Noah are the same as what our faith needs to have today. It was not "faith alone" but an obedient faith. None of the many examples of faith listed in Hebrews 11 were examples of faith alone. None of them! But let us focus on Noah, and his faith. We will indeed see the parallels we are meant to see, and be granted a better understanding of what our faith needs to be.

Faith and the Future
To Noah, what God said was going to happen was real, though as yet unseen. A thing is not necessarily “unreal” just because it is “unseen” - in fact, the most important parts of reality are unseen. Love and hate are both powerful motivators, and while the effects of both can be seen, no one can see love or hate itself. In fact, everything we see is only temporary. To be eternal, something must be “unseen” or not physical in nature, such as the inner self; the soul (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18).

“Blind faith” is accepting that something as true without having seen it or evidence of it at all. On the other hand, “faith” is our acceptance and response to something we have not seen, but we have seen evidence that causes us to accept it as true. Our faith in God is based on evidence, but it is still faith because we have not seen God Himself. (Hebrews 11:1).

Noah had the faith to accept as real a future happening that had never happened before! Why did he believe something was going to happen that had never happened before? Did he have evidence that it would? Yes! He served the true and living God and the creator of all things. When God told Noah of His decision, Noah believed it based upon who he knew God to be.

It is a dangerous thing to think that something will not happen because it has never happened before. That mentality worked against the people of Noah's day who dismissed the idea of the flood to come. Today, people are making the same mistake in not preparing themselves for the Lord's return and the final day of this physical realm (see 2 Peter 3:1-9). Much better to accept that if God says a thing will happen, then it will, even if it has never happened before. Faith does this (Genesis 7:11-12; 23-24).

Faith Actively Responds to the Future
It is a mistake to believe in God but to postpone responding to His promises and warnings. This especially true considering that the most important things are unseen and eternal, and we put everything in serious jeopardy by such neglect. When disaster strikes, the severity of the effect is increased because we have a tendency to respond too late. America could have been more ready for Pearl Harbor, or hurricane Katrina, or the World Trade Center terrorist actions. This kind of late reaction seems far too typical of us.

But saving faith calls for decisive action in the present - (James 2:14-26). If we delay our response to the Lord and His promises and warnings until His coming is upon us, then it will become simply impossible to “catch up”. We will be lost.

Faith is not something we merely think about - it is a thing we do something about! Noah built an ark, obeying God in everything (Genesis 6:22). God has given other commands and instructions to us as well. Our response to these ought to be like Noah's was. We shall prepare by obeying God in everything.

Faith Grows Endurance
Righteous men and women often are on the receiving end of taunts and reproaches. But listen! Reproach for having obeyed God ought to be the least of our worries. In fact, it ought to even be a source of rejoicing! (Cf. Matthew 10:24-33; 5:10-12).

Like Noah, and like the Lord Himself, we need to patiently endure such scoffing. Noah urged the people of his day to repent as he preached God's righteousness but they refused (2 Peter 2:5). Up until the time of the flood, they just continued on as if they had nothing about which to be concerned (Matthew 24:37-39). Were those who scoffed prepared for the flood? Noah was! Will those who mock today be prepared for the Lord's return and judgment? We will be!

Faith and Obedience
Noah did not modify what God told him to do (Genesis 6:22; 15). It is very important for us to do all things “according to the pattern” as well (Hebrews 8:5).

Would Noah and his family have been saved from the flood if he had built the ark 310 cubits long? God commanded 300 cubits, but that is such a slight difference. Would it matter? Did God have to tell Noah "Do not build the ark 310 cubits long?". Noah was not concerned about such questions. He simply obeyed. God's specificity, as well as His silence, is significant and must be respected - (Hebrews 7:11-14).

Faith Saves!

The quality of faith exhibited by Noah is the only kind that saves. These examples from before Christ were written down in the Old Testament, and then the Hebrew writer refers to them in the New Testament, to show us what saving faith is all about. Concerning Noah's obedience of faith, and the destruction of the ancient world by flood, notice what Peter wrote: “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:20-22).

We need a faith like Noah had as much as Noah needed it. Noah's faith was an obedient trust in God. Does our own faith have the characteristics of the faith that saved Noah?

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.1; January 2010