The Days of Noah (2)
We continue here our answer to a number of questions about Noah and the ark. Since the questions we are answering are not only three in number but rather lengthy, instead of quoting them again, we will summarize the two matters that still need to be addressed:
1. The Spirit’s “striving” in Genesis 6:3: “Was the Spirit’s ‘striving’ an attempt of God to save all?”
2. The size of the ark: “Although the ark wasn’t big enough to accommodate the entire world, nevertheless, the very fact that it could have held many more people than just Noah’s family testifies that the well-meant offer of salvation is real—that there is room for more to be saved than just the elect; that Christ and His atonement, which are pictured by the ark, are sufficient enough to save anyone—whosoever—if only they desire to go in.”
We begin with the first question. The striving of the Spirit was through the preaching of Enoch (Jude 14-15), Noah (II Pet. 2:5) and others. Sadly, some present this as if it were a gracious, though non-saving, work of the Spirit of God, even an inward work of the Spirit in the heart that restrains man’s wickedness and makes him partly good.
Certainly that was not the Spirit’s striving in Genesis 6:3. The word translated “striving” does not mean “restraining” or “trying to save.” It has the meaning the English word “striving” has. It means “fighting with” (II Sam. 19:9; Ecc. 6:10) or, more often, “judging” (Gen. 15:14; Ps. 7:8; Jer. 21:12). Nor does the striving in any way restrain or improve wicked man, for Jehovah still finds man totally depraved: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Thus, the question needs to be asked, “According to this view, does the Spirit of God strive in vain?” If this striving was gracious and by way of waiting for the repentance of the unbelieving world, then it was in vain, and that is no credit to the Holy Spirit but a denial of God’s sovereignty in salvation.
Those who believe the 120 years Noah spent building the ark were a period of grace and lovingkindness, and who insist that the striving is evidence of God’s grace to all, ignore the fact that Genesis 6:3 says the opposite. God’s striving, whatever it may be, gives man only another 120 years before God destroys the world for its wickedness.
That this striving was through the preaching of Enoch and Noah is also to the point, for, as we have seen, Noah was not preaching God’s love for all men without exception or His supposed desire to save everyone, but “righteousness” (II Pet. 2:5) in the case of the unbelieving world, the righteousness of God as Judge. Enoch is also described as prophesying judgment: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15). That is God’s striving, the striving of One who is the sovereign judge of mankind, and not someone who wants to, but cannot, save everyone and who is helpless in the face of man’s rebellion and unbelief, who waits for a while, but finally, in frustration, gives up and destroys mankind.
The second question, that of the matter of the ark’s size, is simply answered. The ark was so large, not to show “that there is room for more to be saved than just the elect; that Christ and His atonement, which are pictured by the ark, are sufficient enough to save anyone.” Rather the ark was built so large because it had to accommodate the thousands of creatures that went with Noah in the ark and their food. How anyone could turn that into a picture of a supposed desire of God to save all men, is beyond me.
I find it rather humorous, in fact, that whoever is being quoted by our reader, admits that the ark was not large enough to save the whole world. Is the ark, then, a picture of a desire on God’s part to save more than the elect but not everybody, and of His inability to save these extra people? Such fanciful interpretations of the Word of God only involve one in contradictions and nonsense.
Worse, such aberrant theology makes God dependent on the will of man: “that there is room for more to be saved than just the elect; that Christ and His atonement, which are pictured by the ark, are sufficient enough to save anyone—whosoever—if only they desire to go in.” That denies the divine sovereignty, for “our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3), especially His sovereignty in His gracious salvation, for it “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
Nevertheless, the size of the ark does suggest an important biblical truth about God’s saving purpose and the wideness of His mercy. His saving purpose is universal, not in the sense that it somehow or other embraces all men without exception, but in that it embraces the rest of the creation (even then not every single creature), which God gathered into the ark with Noah. It shows that “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
Magnifying Christ and His work, Colossians 1:19-21 declares that, “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you ... hath he reconciled ...” The blessings of Christ’s finished work extend not to all men without exception, but to all things in heaven and earth, as well as to us.
The size of the ark shows the greatness of God’s saving work and of the work of Christ, the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God, not to all men without exception but to all things He has created, to the world in that sense. He shows us that to humble us. Though God, in His unspeakable love and wonderful mercy, has chosen to save us, we are not everything in the purpose of God. He will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1:10-12). Rev. Ron Hanko