The account of Noah’s ark provides a detailed illustration of the truth that “Salvation is of the LORD.” Peter uses this Old Testament narrative as he pens his 3rd chapter of this first letter he wrote to Christ followers.
Having declared Christ’s sufficient and final payment for sin (1 Peter 3:18a), he reminds us that “He (Christ) was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:18b-22)
Although there are some complexities of interpretation from this passage, let’s tackle the ‘main’ points.
1) The people (sinners) in Noah’s day were disobedient. The impact of Adam’s sin had spread to every individual and the world was progressively increasing in evil. Though ‘normal activities’ were being engaged in–note that Jesus speaks of people “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” the hearts of the people was bent away from God. These ‘normal activities’ were not engaged in for the glory of God as they should be (1 Corinthians 10:31).
2) God’s patience was evident as Noah built the ark. People were given 120 years to repent and respond to the preaching of this solitary sermon by this Old Testament herald of God’s message who was providing a visual illustration of the impending judgment. I’m sure insults were hurled, people mocked and rejected the warnings while God patiently provided an opportunity to repent.
3) The majority of people were not saved. Though I reject the critique that ‘large numbers’ prove a weak ministry, certainly on this occasion only 7 others (his family) joined this preacher in intentional application of the message.
4) God determined the appointed day of judgment. The door was shut, the account in Genesis declares, by God. How many individuals do you know have postponed any serious seeking of God to a future “more convenient time” only sadly to discover that they have been whisked into eternity to face God without time to rightfully prepare.
5) The ark illustrates salvation clearly. My paternal grandmother (Helen Edwards) spoke to her family often of this account and used it to press home the claims of Christ upon the heart of her family. My Aunt Grace, with whom I shared many profitable conversations, reminded me of this family history as she communicated with me her own concern for family members who thus far have had “no room” for Jesus.
The account of Noah and the details of God’s judgment in the flood should be seriously explored by each person. Though artists have portrayed an idyllic scene with pairs of animals making their way up the gangplank into the ark, the reality of the ‘closed door’ as the rain began to fall reminds us that all should, as Isaiah urges, “Seek the LORD while He may be found. Call upon HIM while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. ” (Isaiah 55:6-7)