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Saintly Perseverence

25/12/2017

Noah Lesson 3.

Saintly Perseverance.

Text:  Genesis 6, and 2 Peter 3;9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

There is one more aspect to Noah’s character that we must consider – and it is a huge part of who he was. Let us call it ‘saintly perseverance.’  So see:-

The Duration of Noah’s Ministry.

Let’s go back to that controversial verse in chapter 6. 3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.  Now you should know by now that this is not about you, despite the fact that many evangelicals, who have a ‘semi-pelagian’ view of salvation think it is.

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Pelagius was a British monk who lived from 360 to 418 AD.  Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin, and believed that the fall had not deprived mankind of the will to choose good, and so fulfil the law of God.   He believed in man’s free will to choose, and argued strongly that a sinner could bring himself to God by an act of his own free will.  His beliefs earned him the condemnation of Augustine of Hippo, and at the Council of Carthage in 418 Pelagius was condemned as a heretic.  Pelagius’ doctrine of the Free Will of Man became known as Pelagianism.

‘Semi-Pelagianism’ is rampant in modern evangelicalism.  Also sometimes known as ‘syncretism’ it is the belief that God has gone to great extents to save us, and we must do the rest. Sometimes semi-Pelagian preachers will tell sinners that God has gone 99% of the way to save us, – now WE must do the additional 1%.

The problem?  Once we add anything to Christ’s finished work on the cross to save us, we add our own works, and thus negate what Christ has done for us.  The Reformed position is the opposite to Pelagianism, and is known as ‘Monergism’ – God in Christ has done everything needed for the salvation of man, who is passive in salvation.  Christ saves us, we do not choose him, or contribute anything to our salvation.

The semi-Pelagian position is both theologically and contextually incorrect.  We know that God is not capricious, or acting on a whim. God does not elect his people to salvation and then decide to unelect them!  It is about all mankind. It is telling us that his probation on this earth is limited, in that he has 120 years in which to repent before the final day of judgement comes.   So

  • Man is ‘life limited’ – our sinful condition on this earth is terminal and one day we will die and the opportunity to repent is over.
  • There will be a sudden and unexpected day when Christ shall come, and those who are outside his kingdom will be lost forever. Like in the days of Noah, they shall be marrying and giving in marriage, working and taking their leisure, and eating and drinking and laughing and singing and crying – life will be going on as usual, when without warning suddenly God will pour out his terrible wrath upon sin.  For mankind, history on this earth has ended.  No more Gospel preaching, no more believers to bring on the radio and make a mockery of, no more ‘pride’ marches…  No more time to repent. 2 Peter 3:10
  • In the context of the flood, there’s a 120 year probation. Now many commentators will say that this is the length of Noah’s ministry. Noah preached for 120 years!  Think what that must have been like, given the dreadful immorality and godlessness of those times.

Why did God allow Noah to preach for so long?  2 Peter 3:9  

Why would God commission a preacher to proclaim the Gospel to people who won’t listen? TO DEMONSTRATE HIS PATIENCE!  But we must not abuse this divine longsuffering or take it for granted. God’s patience is very great, but it does come to an end. Judgement will come. 1 Peter 3:3 

The Theme of Noah’s Ministry.

I wonder why Noah’s ministry was so unpopular during this long period of witness and preaching?  Surely his message should have been one of love and toleration?  Surely he should have modified his message to take account of the culture of his day?  After all, don’t many Christians today water down their message to make it more palatable to the people who live in this day and age?   Seemingly, Noah hadn’t attended any church growth seminars, or Willow Creek meetings or read any Rick Warren books, or listened to Joel Osteen – if he had, think how successful his ministry would have been!  But Noah preached about…

  • God never overlooks sin.  He FORGIVES sin, through Christ, who atones for our sin, pays our fine, for us.
  • Noah was a ‘preacher of righteousness.’  That was the theme of his ministry.  He preached about the righteousness of men, that pathetic self-righteousness that is the equivalent of filthy soiled rags in the sight of God, and he would have contrasted that righteousness with the perfect righteousness of God, showing how our righteousness falls far short of God’s standards.
  • And because we fall short of God’s standards, we cannot come into His presence while still in our sins.  We need to be forgiven.  If we reject God’s forgiveness, then we shall stand before God in judgment. 1 Peter 2:4  

Now, unless I’m mistaken, Noah’s message hasn’t changed to this day.  In fact, Jesus told us that when he left this world at the ascension, the Holy Spirit would remain on this earth, to continue His work, to convict of sin, righteousness and judgement…   John 16:7 The Response to Noah’s Ministry.

Have you ever mentioned the name of your church to someone, and the very next thing they will say is ‘How many people go to that church?’  Isn’t it interesting how the measure of success in the modern church is ‘how many people attend?’    Noah preached for 120 years, and only 8 people (including himself) were saved!  So, was Noah a failure?

Now, while we want to see people flocking again into God’s House, to hear the Word of God, how will we react when few attend?  Shall we follow the modern trend and water down the message to make it acceptable to modern mankind? Or shall we be faithful to God’s Word, even if that means that the message is unpalatable to modern society?  Noah ought to be an encouragement for those who attend smaller churches!

Samuel Rutherford was the minister of Anwoth, (near Gatehouse of Fleet) in Dumfries and Galloway, during the covenanting times of the 17th century.  He was one of the ministers who were expelled during the “Great Ejactment’ of 1662. 

Some visitors to the ivy-clad ruins of Rutherford’s church in Anwoth are surprised by two things: the smallness of the building and the isolation of the beautiful spot. They wonder at the greatest preacher in Scotland in his day labouring for nine years in an obscure part of the country, among a people sparsely scattered over a wide area. But a bond had been forged between the soul of Samuel Rutherford and his Anwoth flock that remained intact to the end of his days – a fact that is beautifully brought out by Mrs Cousin’s verse, based on Rutherford’s own words:

Fair Anwoth by the Solway, To me thou still art dear Ev’n from the verge of heaven I drop for thee a tear.  O, if one soul from Anwoth Meet me at God’s right hand, My heaven will be two heavens In Immanuel’s land.

Such was the ministry of Noah.  120 years of faithful gospel preaching, and seven others believed in God, repented and joined him in the ark.  Noah was not successful!  Noah was FAITHFUL.

From → Bible Study, Genesis

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