************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 15, 2017
"We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves us is never alone." This is one of the infamous statements of the great Reformer, Martin Luther. Let me repeat the first half of the statement: "We are saved by faith alone." We all know this to be true. We have heard it hundreds of times. It has been drilled into our heads as Reformed people. "We are saved by faith alone."
"But the faith that saves us is never alone." When he said this, Luther was thinking of what was written by James: "Faith without works is dead." Faith, true faith, shows itself in works. All those with faith show that their faith is true and genuine and real by the things they do.
No man reaches God by good works because nobody is good enough. But works will always be the result for those who come to God.
In my first sermon on Hebrews 11, I mentioned that faith is expressed in action. Look at every hero of faith mentioned by Hebrews. They all do something. Abel offered a better sacrifice. Enoch walked with God. Noah built an ark. Abraham went to a distant land and offered up Isaac. Isaac blessed his sons. Joseph spoke about the Exodus. Moses's parents hid him for three months. And on and on it goes. Faith without works is dead.
"We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves us is never alone." So we look at Noah and we see three things about his faith: first, he built an ark; second, he condemned the world; third, he became an heir of righteousness.
I Noah Built an Ark
A We need to start with Genesis. We hear the words of God to Noah:
(Gen 6:13-14) I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (14) So make yourself an ark ...God announced He was going to send a flood.
Now, listen to what our text in Hebrews says about Noah's faith:
(Heb 11:7) By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.Let me highlight the phrase "things not yet seen." This should sound familiar. It takes us back to the description of faith in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Noah had faith in what he did not see.
Why did Noah build the ark? Did he see big storm clouds on the horizon? Is that when he began to build the ark? Last weekend I kept getting Emergency Alerts on my phone warning me of flash flooding in Tulare County. Did Noah build the ark because he received some kind of weather alert? Did Noah turn his TV to the weather channel and realize bad storms were coming? Did he have a climate specialist on staff who warned him about global warming or global cooling or climate change? No. No. No to any of this. Noah had faith in what he did not see.
So why did Noah build the ark? He took God at His Word. He recognized the authority of God's Word. God told Noah He was going to destroy the earth and all life on the earth with a flood. God told Noah to build an ark to save himself and his family and two of all living creatures. So Noah obeyed. Hebrews says, "in holy fear [Noah] built an ark to save his family." Holy fear. Hebrews is talking about pious care, reverence. Reverence for God and reverence for God's Word. Noah took God at His Word. Noah had faith in what he did not see.
B In building the ark, Noah's faith is nothing less than remarkable. It wasn't a case of Noah going to a lumber yard and ordering the planks and beams and nails and pitch he needed. One of the greatest acts of faith in the history of the world began when Noah picked up an axe and chopped down the first tree. What faith! And, Noah spent over a 100 years building the boat. Normal people would stop working on that boat after a couple of years of no storm clouds on the horizon. But Noah kept on working for 20, 70, 100, 120 years. What faith! Miles from any ocean he built the ark. In his backyard. What faith! Noah had never seen a storm like the one that was coming. What faith! What did Noah know about boat-building? Nothing. What faith! Noah had never seen a boat as big as the one he was told to build: 450' long, 73' wide, 44' high. What faith! Noah coated the ark with pitch inside and out to keep the waters of judgment out. What faith! That's Noah's faith. Faith responds to God's Word.
And when it was finished, this thing, this ship, this ark had no rudder, no power, no sail, no nothing to control it. Noah had to trust God when the flood came. What faith!
What about the animals? How were they going to be collected? How were they going to be fed? Who was going to clean the stalls? Don't forget, they were in the ark for almost a year. What faith!
Can you imagine what Noah endured while he was building the ark? He was probably thought of as Crazy Noah. Everybody that went by laughed at him. The would come and look at his monster boat and wonder if it would even float. They would smile about building a boat miles from any water. What faith!
C Our ark is Christ. The pitch which secures us from judgment is the blood of Christ. There were no leaks in the ark because of the pitch. Likewise, the judgment of God can never touch the believer because the blood of Christ has sealed him from the flood of judgment.
Do you believe this? Like Noah, do you take God at His Word? Like Noah, do you have faith in what you do not see? Like Noah, when God comes calling, do you obey? I hope so. I pray so. Or else your faith is not true faith.
II Noah was a Preacher of Righteousness
A Out text tells us Noah "condemned the world." That's our second point. "By his faith he condemned the world." In 2 Peter Noah is called "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet 2:5). Noah was a preacher. Noah condemned the world. He rebuked the world. You won't hear most preachers doing that today. Either because they are too scared to do this. Or, because it goes against their politically correct agenda of hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil.
So what did he preach? What was his sermon outline? His sermon was his life. His sermon was his 120 years of building a boat. Every time the people heard him chop down a tree, every time they saw him cut a plank, every time they saw him pound a nail, every time they saw him smear on pitch, every time they saw him store away food for himself and the animals, every time they saw him work on the ark he was rebuking the world, he was preaching a sermon.
What was Noah's message? You know! You know! A flood is coming. The flood of God's judgment. So you had better repent. So you had better change your ways. So you had better love God and neighbor. So you had better live in righteousness before the Lord.
B We all know the reason for Noah's sermon. Noah condemned the world because, according to God, Noah's world needed condemning. Genesis 6 tells us what God saw, what God felt, and what God intended to do.
First, we are told what God saw. What did God see?
(Gen 6:5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.God sees that man's wickedness is over all the earth. In other words, every man is wicked. No exception. No one is excluded from this statement. There is wickedness and evil in every single heart. God also sees that man's wickedness involves man's "thoughts." The mind has been perverted and filled with evil. How extensive is this? "Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart ..." Every. Not just some. Not just a few. Not just many. But "every." And, God sees that man's thoughts are wicked "all the time." Not just some of the time. Not just part of the time. Not just most of the time. But "all the time."
Second, how does God feel about this? Listen to what Genesis says:
(Gen 6:6) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.Previously, Eve was told she would have pain in childbearing (Gen 3:16). Then Adam was told he would eat through painful toil (Gen 3:17). Now it is God's turn to experience pain. But what a difference. Adam and Eve experienced pain because of their own sin; it is part of their punishment. But God is grieved that the mankind He has made in His image has fallen. God is filled with pain that He must now judge His fallen image-bearers.
Third, you already know what is God going to do about man's sin. God announces His intention to send a flood.
We see that God does not use half measures when He deals with sin and evil and wickedness. Which is why He sent the flood. Which is why He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Which is why Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. Which is why His people wandered around the wilderness for forty years. Which is why the heathen occupants of the Promised Land were destroyed. Which is why His people were sent into exile for seventy years. Which is why, finally, His one and only Son died on the cross for our sins.
C "By his faith [Noah] condemned the world." For 120 years Noah rebuked the world. For 120 years Noah preached. For 120 years people were given a chance to repent. You might think God gave people way too much time to repent and reform. However, according to 1 Peter, "God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (1 Pet 3:20). What was God waiting for?
One of my commentaries says God's patience is connected to Methuselah. The name Methuselah, according to this commentary, means "When he dies, it shall be sent." What will be sent? What is the reference? "When he dies, it shall be sent." The reference is to the flood. So what was God waiting for? God was waiting for Methuselah to die. The name Methuselah was God's promise that the flood won't be sent until Methuselah dies. Now we know why Methuselah lived longer than any other man. God was waiting patiently for 969 years.
Why would God do this? Why would He wait so long? Why would He wait so patiently? Because He is giving all the godless at the time of Noah an opportunity to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). In the same way, God is patient and long-suffering toward all the godless today. The Lord's patience means salvation. I want you to recognize, my brothers and sisters, that God is so merciful, so patient. He waited almost 1000 years.
D "By his faith [Noah] condemned the world." For 120 years Noah rebuked the world. For 120 years Noah preached. For 120 years people were given a chance to repent. For 120 years people experienced the patience of God. So, how many repented? Who got in the ark with Noah and his family? No one. After 120 years not a single person repented. Wow. Talk about preaching until you are blue in the face.
Noah did this anyway. Noah did this by faith. What faith!
III Noah was an Heir of Righteousness
A Our third point is that Noah was an heir of righteousness. This certainly fits the description of Noah in Genesis:
(Gen 6:9) Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.What was the basis for saying this? We need to go back one verse in Genesis: "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8). The Hebrew word for "favor" is also translated as grace, kindness, acceptance. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Noah didn't have any grace in himself. Grace is strictly God's to give to whom He will. Nothing in the sinner makes him or her worthy of grace. Noah was no different than any other son of Adam. Noah was just as bad as the rest. In fact, remember what he did after he got off the ark? He became drunk and acted shamefully. Grace is not given to those who deserve it but to undeserving sinners. And so God, out of grace, spared Noah and made a covenant with him. It pleased the Lord to be gracious to Noah.
B There is only one way to get the righteousness of God. By faith. Noah "became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." By faith. You can't do it on your own. You can never do it on your own. Do you know what you end up with when you do it on your own? As Isaiah puts it, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). But when we, like Noah, come to God in faith, then we receive the righteousness of God.
(Rom 3:21-22) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. (22) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Are you righteous? You are, if you have faith in Jesus! In fact, if you have faith you are as righteous as Christ Himself. You are as holy as Christ Himself. When our holy God looks at you, He sees the holiness of Christ. Q & A 60 is one of my favorite questions and answers of the Catechism and speaks to this so eloquently:
How are you right with God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do
is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Jesus wants us to learn from Noah. Speaking to the people of His day, He said,
(Lk 17:26-30) "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. (27) People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. (28) "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. (29) But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. (30) "It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed."My brothers and sisters, judgment is coming. Are you listening? Are you ready? Do you believe? For the only ones who are saved are those, like Noah, who have faith.
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