Yes, Noah and his family were saved by water.
We usually think of them being saved from the waters of the flood and by the ark.
Now this is certainly true. While all the other inhabitants of the earth were swept out of the land of the living by those waters of the flood, Noah and his family were saved from such a calamity. And the means which God used to save them while He was destroying the rest of the human race was the ark. We have no argument with those who would state the facts that way.
However, the Almighty Himself tells us also in I Peter 3:30that “eight souls were saved by water.” And then the idea is that they were saved in the ark and by means of the water. From the wicked world, from the hordes of unbelievers, from the multitude of’ their enemies Noah and his family were saved by those waters of the floods. The lives of these children of darkness were snuffed out by the flood, and life for the church of that day was made safe again. The Cains and the Lamechs, the murderers of brothers and of fellowmen, the unregenerated who wanted to put an end to Enoch’s testimony by taking his life — while God crowned it by bringing him to a higher life in heaven — were rendered powerless; and the church received a breathing spell.
The first prayer in our Baptism Form refers to this truth when we read therein, ‘O Almighty and eternal God, Thou, Who hast according to Thy severe judgment punished the unbelieving and unrepentant world with the flood, and hast according to Thy great mercy saved and protected believing Noah and his family . . .” Here reference is made to the fact that with the flood God punished the unbelieving and unrepentant world. The flood was His tool, or instrument, to bring down His just judgment upon them. And it is stated that according to His great mercy He saved believing Noah and his family. Put the two together, and we find that this flood was an act of God’s mercy according to which He brought a severe judgment upon the enemies of His church and saved them from those who, because of their unbelief and unrepentant hearts, could only want to destroy the man of God whom they had so often and evilly ridiculed for his faith, and hated for his preaching of righteousness.
But, be that as it may, when we look more deeply for the reason why God saved the one by that flood and destroyed the other by those same waters, we find that God had told Noah why He was doing this. For God had said to Noah in Genesis 6:18, “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy son’s wives with thee.”
There are several elements here worth noting, and this is a good time to pay closer attention to this statement of God, which was given before Noah began to build the ark. It has special force while he safely rides high and dry on the waters and is completely delivered by them from all his fleshly enemies. Let it be remembered, then, that the essence of God’s covenant is friendship and fellowship. In the ark Noah was God’s guest in His house. Recall that in Genesis 7:1 God had called from out of that ark to Noah with the words, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” As such a friend of God Noah at once begot the enmity of the world. Because God’s covenant was established with him so that God in His grace makes Noah spiritually different from the fallen human race, the unbelieving and unrepentant world can only hate him.
What now was the unbelief of that first world? Was it merely that they did not believe that God was going to send the flood? Is that all that we can say of the unbelief of the present world, namely, that it does not believe that Christ is coming in judgment soon, and that there is salvation only in Him and His cross? Of course not! This article of unbelief — for though we have articles of our Christian faith, the unbeliever has his articles of unbelief — is due to a more profound one. He does not believe in God the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth. He believes Satan’s lie that he can do as he pleases with God’s earth, and can decide for himself what is good and what is evil. He is atheistic and an idolater before he is antichristian. And his unbelief is not simply a lack of trust in God — which is certainly true, even as in Adam’s temptation there was that element of getting him to cease trusting God as the one Who was seeking his good — but it is also a wholehearted hatred of God. As Paul writes to the Roman church, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Romans 8:7. And of this hatred it never repents, and cannot repent. For Paul, having said that the mind wherewith each man is born into this world is enmity against God, adds not only that “it is not subject to the law of God,” but adds even to this very significantly, “neither indeed can be.”
On that background, as we see Noah and His family safe within the ark, we must see also that covenant which God established with him and because of which He now saves him as His friend. The world is one camp of enemies of the living God, a generation of the seed of the serpent that hates God and all the seed of the woman which that covenant of God brings forth through Christ and His cross and Spirit. But here is one who is different. Here is one who loves God, rejoices in being God’s friend, enjoys His friendship in His ark, safe and sound with Him amid all the howling storm of His fierce, destructive wrath, amid thunders and lightnings, the windows of heaven being opened, the fountains of the deep being unstopped, volcanoes erupting, earthquakes of indescribable violence shaking the whole earth and disturbing the waters of the sea! Serene and calm in an atmosphere of friendship with God, a man and his family calmly ride out the storm, and are, in fact, benefited by it! How wonderful is that covenant which God establishes with us in Christ! Therefore we one day also will be delivered fully from the whole anti-Christian world and are safe in the arms of Jesus.
But take away that covenant which God established and according to which Noah becomes His friend, and because of which He makes Noah live in friendship with and not enmity against Himself, and you can never explain so terrible a destruction to save so few people. Look at the almost unbelievable upheaval that formed such an island as this one of Jamaica, (on which these lines are being written) with mountains literally rising up out of the sea, with chasms and canyons in the interior that have sheer walls and unbelievably steep sides, with valleys that are interrupted by tree-covered peaks that rise up with towering heights reaching in a perpendicular line toward the sky, and all this in valleys that themselves are so very narrow to begin with, that fold upon fold of rock appears in an area so small that even the idea of a road through such country is ridiculous. And God did all this all over the world for eight souls?
Well, no, not for eight souls, but for a hundred forty and four thousand, for the whole church, for all His covenant people, for all His friends whose spiritual minds, by the grace of that covenant are not filled with enmity but with love toward God, are subject to His law, and indeed can be because He established that covenant with them in Christ.
But make no mistake here. God established that covenant with Noah. Noah did not establish a relationship of friendship with God. If it depended on Noah and on man, then this is not an everlasting covenant — which it certainly is. For shortly after Noah and his family came safely out of the ark into a new world, he reintroduced the sins of the old world, and the covenant would have had to end right there, if it were conditional and a two-sided covenant. God established it with Noah. He took the initiative. He gave the promises. He supplied the grace that would make Noah faithful in that covenant. It is, in every respect God’s covenant. And it is ours only to enjoy in the way of faithfulness to it with a faithfulness which God must and does give us.
Believe that, and you will have confidence for the final judgment upon the world. If it depends upon us, there will be no Noah and his family. There will not be eight souls left on this earth for whom Christ will come with fire to save from the Antichrist and his universal kingdom. There will not be found even one who is worth saving. There will not be one friend of God anywhere on the face of this earth. Friends of God, faithful servants of Him are not brought forth by man or by the will of man. They are brought forth by the grace of God’s covenant. They are children of God because He brings them forth. And that is why we are sure that there will always be a covenant people of God to the very end. They may be only a handful as at the time of the flood. But they will be there. And they will be as few in number or as numerous as they will be because that is the way He wants it to be.
God did not succeed in coaxing into the ark eight souls. That is all He eternally intended to save by water. He spelled out just exactly how many animals were to be saved in the ark; and He determined to the last man who would of the human race be delivered from all the rest! He established that covenant with Noah and did not accept what man was ready to offer to Him. Man has nothing to offer Him except that which He cannot and will not receive. All man has is that carnal mind that is enmity against God. Can the Holy One of Israel accept such an offering? Can that carnal mind that is enmity against God want a covenant of friendship with God? All it can do is hate Him. All it wants to do is fight Him, break His law, ignore Him and use all His creation to rebel against Him. And this they showed very clearly when He came in our flesh, for they used His iron, and His tree to seek to take away His life. They used the judicial body of His church and His judge in the State to get Him condemned. They set all creation against its Creator.
From that wicked world God has in principle saved us already. And soon He will by a judgment of fire save us completely because it pleased Him eternally to choose us in Christ and to establish His covenant with us in Christ and make us friends whom He desires to save from His and our enemies. And it is only because He has established His covenant with us in Christ that we are sure of being saved not only from His wrath but by His wrath. For by His awful wrath against the devil and his kingdom of darkness He will send His Son back at the proper moment to deliver us from all of our enemies, including that last enemy that is death.