Someone some years ago said, “Grace is God giving everything for nothing to those who deserve nothing.”
There is truth in this statement, although it could be stated more strongly by saying, “Grace is God givingeverything for nothing to those who are good for nothing.” Still better it would be to say that grace is God giving everything good to those who deserve only the bad. Grace is God paying the wages of righteousness to those who deserve the wages of sin. Grace is not simply God giving everything for nothing to those that deserve nothing. It is God giving every good thing for nothing to those who deserve the very opposite. That element is so often overlooked, and when it is, men do violence to the truth of God’s grace.
The Arminian with his offer of salvation to all who hear the preaching, with his lie that God loves everybody and has a wonderful plan for everybody, goes out from the position that man has a right to have salvation offered to him. He closes his eyes to the fact that no man in himself has a right even to hear the preaching of the gospel. All deserve to be cast away from God’s presence and only to hear words of condemnation and curse. It is not simply that we deserve nothing. The fact is that we deserve to be destroyed, and in God’s grace receive the very opposite of what we deserve.
Another definition of grace, which uses the letters in the word in the order in which they appear, and then forms new words beginning with those letters is “Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
This is better in that it explains how that grace of God can come upon those who deserve the very opposite, how He can give life to those who deserve death, can bring into the glory of heaven those who deserve the torment of hell, deserve to be robbed of everything good and still receive the riches of God. Christ bought that riches by His blood. He took on Himself what they deserved. Their wages were not simply forgotten and unjustly overlooked. God paid them upon His Son; and because of this they may now receive everything good. However, this definition also overlooks the fact that the one enjoying this riches of God at Christ’s expense deserves the very opposite.
This truth we must bear in mind and not overlook when we read Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” We cannot appreciate that statement unless we confess that Noah deserved the same destruction that came upon the whole old world. Genesis 6:5 must not be changed to read, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was very great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart had become only evil continually.” Instead we must read it as it is and understand that this is a statement concerning the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of every man from the moment he comes into this world. And it includes Noah and his family as well as those who perished in the flood. All are conceived and born in sin. All come into this earthly life spiritually dead. And God did not find something good in Noah.Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah, as one of these who deserve nothing, as one of these good for nothings, as one of these who in himself deserved the very opposite of the riches of God, at Christ’s expense received the opposite of what he deserved.
This does not mean that man cannot and does not develop in sin. He certainly does. He becomes bolder and bolder in manifesting openly the formation of the thoughts of his evil heart. He seeks and finds greater opportunities to put into practice the evil imagination of the thoughts of his heart. He becomes more clever in his deeds of rebellion against the living God. He finds it possible to seize more and more of the creatures of God’s earth (and even of the moon) to seek for himself and wherewith to fight to obtain God’s glory.
Before the flood there was abundant opportunity for man to develop in sin with these totally depraved hearts. They lived to be nine hundred and more years old, and they were able not only to become more cunning in their wickedness but also to teach it to generations that followed them. The old pros had many amateurs to coach, and the amateurs had many idols of wickedness to worship and to imitate. Let it be a warning to us today when we have the same situation, not due to the lengthening of man’s life but due to the preservation of the imagination of his thoughts in books and magazines, and to the means of communication which are ours today, as well as means of swift transportation to go and see and learn how the other part of the world sins. But in that day death did not put an end to their development in sin after threescore and ten years, even as today the sinfulness of men is preserved for coming generations after the death of the sinner, so that the present generations can develop in it at a more rapid pace than in former years.
There were also the inventions of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain wherewith the highway of sin was paved. Added to this was the unholy marriage of the sons of God with the daughters of men, resulting in a race that, preferring the ways of sin of their mothers, and of going the way of least resistance, brought a new dimension to sin, and a new threat to the faithful children of God.
How wonderful then, upon that background, to read, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” And, as we said, to appreciate this we must put Noah in the class of those whose every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually. We miss the whole point here, if we do not do that. We lift the statement out of its whole context, if we try to find something in Noah that made him deserving of the riches of God and everything good.
What is more, we change the word of God here to read, “But Noah found righteousness, a righteous judgment in God’s eyes.” Yea, we so twist the text that it is God finding something in Noah rather than Noah finding something in God.
And these words do not simply look forward to what will happen some one hundred twenty years later when Noah is saved in the ark and through the waters of the flood. It does not look forward simply to the day when his soul entered the glory of God’s kingdom, nor to the day when he will with body and soul experience the riches of God at Christ’s expense. Noah found it in the day when all that wickedness was being practiced left and right, openly and boldly, and when it became quite evident that there is no “common grace” of God that gives to those deserving the torment of hell a little restraint of sin to make life possible for man. There were no such restraints in the heart. Every formation of thought in the heart of man was only evil continually.
Wherein, then, did Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord?
The question is not, “What did that grace of God do for Noah? What blessings came upon him because of that grace?” The question at the moment is, “How did Noah become aware of the fact that he was the object of God’s favor?” When you find something, you have it to enjoy. What truth did Noah enjoy in the midst of all this world that so openly manifested the evil imaginations of thoughts of evil hearts?
The answer is that he found himself to be spiritually different. He found something in his own life that made it plain to him that he was the object of God’s favor. He found in himself the life of Christ, a heart that had imaginations of its thoughts that were pleasing in God’s sight. He found that in his heart he hated all this wickedness, that he was a pilgrim and stranger in the midst of this world, that although he did not deserve this and deserved the opposite, he was a saint among sinners, a seed of the woman amidst a world full of the seed of the serpent.
Of course, as the object of God’s grace Noah will not enter into that destruction which God predicts in the verse preceding the statement that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God’s grace is God givingeverything good to those that deserve the very opposite. He will be saved from the waters of the flood. He will be saved from the holy wrath of God that sent those waters. And we will be saved from death and the grave, from hell and from the condemnation we deserve before God’s judgment seat. But in this life, while we have all of our aches and pains, and while we walk through this valley where the shadow of death is cast, we taste that grace of God, know that we are the objects of His favor when we find that we are spiritually different from the world.
All men suffer and die, the righteous with the unrighteous. And the possession of good health (for a time), the abundance of this earth’s goods, and a good position in the world are not assurances that we are the objects of God’s grace. The unbelievers usually have more of these than we do. What we arespiritually assures us that we are the objects of God’s love, His mercy and His grace. In this we find that we live under His grace.
God’s grace distinguishes us, makes a distinction between us and the world. God’s grace sets us apart from the world. When we see the world in its sin, when we see the neighbor in his ways of unbelief and transgression of God’s law, when we see him in his idolatry and immorality, we surely can and must say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” God’s grace made the difference, and even made us see the difference.
It is not that we or Noah do something and therefore become the objects of His grace. He does not find good in us—and Genesis 6:8 does not mean that because Noah did something on his own and of himself, he obtained God’s favor—but we find Him to be good. We find out that His grace is upon us when we see what spiritual miracles He performs in us to change us and give us a heart that has imaginations of its thoughts that every time are only righteous continually. Look at that beautiful verse in I John 3:9, where John speaks of the new man in Christ, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
The grace of God does that. On the one side of the “But” is all that evil in which the world was developing because it was devoid of the grace of God, and on the other side is Noah who was spiritually different, because he was the object of that grace. Grace made the difference, not Noah.
We do not distinguish ourselves in this world by becoming believers. God’s grace causes us to become believers, and so He distinguishes us from the rest of the world. We find grace in His eyes when we find that He has made us to be believers.
As believers hang not your head in shame before the world of unbelievers, cower not before them in their bold wickedness and speech of ridicule. You are the most distinguished people in the world. You are the sons of God among the children of the devil. Lift the head high and shout it out that you are more than conquerors in Him that loved us.
Be careful not to boast as though this were your work. God’s grace makes the difference. And that grace also gives us the humility to sing,
All that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom Lord hath fashioned me;
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.