Sin, Faith and Salvation (Gen 6:1-14)


Yesterday, I visited Ford Santiago in Manila, which housed the museum of Jose Rizal (1861-1896), the national hero of the Philippines. During the Spanish colonial era, he was tried and executed by a firing squad at age 35 for advocating reform and rebellion. But his martyrdom strengthened and united his people and eventually led to the Philippines revolution (1896-98) and secession and liberation from the Spanish Empire. His short life of great personal sacrifice because of his love for his country is moving and gripping, echoing shades of Christ's sacrifice to set men free from bondage to sin. His story shows that for true "salvation" there must be both justice and love. The "justice" of Spain cost him his dear life. But his love set his people free.

In Gen 4:1-16, we examined the story of Cain and Abel with the title, Sin, Grace and Salvation. In Gen 6:1-14, I want to think about the story of Noah and the Flood with the title, "Sin, Faith and Salvation." (Previously, I shared this passage with the title, Divine Judgment.) The Deluge reveals in rudimentary seed form that God's salvation always includes his judgment.

  1. Sin (The devastation of sin)
  2. Faith (The practicality of faith)
  3. Salvation (The way of salvation through judgment)
I. Sin

All human beings, including Christians, tend to treat sin lightly, especially our own sins, while we tend to "see" the sin of others much more clearly (Mt 7:3-4). What do the early chapters of Genesis show us about sin? So far, we see that the sin of Adam spread to Cain, then to Lamech, and then to the entire generation in the times of Noah (Gen 6:1-4,11-12). We learn the following about sin:
  1. The seriousness of sin. Sin is so serious that God would destroy man (Gen 6:7). God cannot tolerate evil.
  2. The inner nature of sin. Sin always begins with "the thoughts of the heart" (Gen 6:5), not behavior.
  3. The inclination (content) of sin. Sin is primarily "inclination" (NIV) or "intention" (ESV) (Gen 6:5; Lk 15:11-32).
  4. The grievousness of sin. The ultimate reason sin is sin is that it is against God (Gen 6:6; Mk 2:5; Ps 51:4; Lk 23:34).
  5. The universality of sin. With God's judgment against sin, there are no exceptions (Rom 3:10-12,23).
II. Faith

What would God do with his world that is devastated by sin? True to his character of holiness and righteousness, he would judge and destroy the world. Yet, true to his character of love, he would also save the world. Gen 6:8 says, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." He did not earn or merit this favor or grace (Hebrew chen). But because of the grace and favor of God, he lived a blameless and faithful life before God (Gen 6:9), for grace and favor always precedes works. His faithfulness to God was expressed in his obedience to build an ark of salvation. Heb 11:7 says, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith." What do we learn here about faith?

  1. Faith is deeply connected to God's word. Noah heard God's word when he was "warned about things not yet seen" 120 years before the flood.
  2. Faith involves holy fear. Noah lived in a condition of "inner awe and wonder" before God. (Distinguish Fear from fear.)
  3. Faith expresses itself through example, not just words. Noah did not "condemn the world" by his words (John 3:17).
  4. Faith saved his family. Noah's "faith-life" both condemned the world and saved his family, though he "failed" with Ham.
  5. Faith leads to obedience. Being saturated with God's word, he "lived it (his faith) out" in obedience.
III. Salvation

Salvation always expresses both God's love (Gen 6:6) and God's justice (Gen 6:13). Liberal people emphasize God's love without God's justice for sin. Conservative people emphasize God's justice for sin without clearly evidencing God's love. Both expressions of salvation fail to clearly reveal God's salvation that fully expresses both love and justice simultaneously.

  1. God's love is expressed in his own personal pain and grief because of man's sins (Gen 6:6). God has so tied his heart to us that the pain and brokenness of human life now actually affects him too!
  2. God's holiness and justice is expressed in his chilling and sweeping expression of the devastation of his judgment against man's sin. People complain most about God's judgment. But Gen 6:11 says, "the earth was corrupt..." which translates the Hebrew word for "destroyed." Thus what God decided to judge and cleanse was already "virtually self-destroyed already" (Atkinson, 137; Kidner, 37). The human race had destroyed itself! Sin is a kind of self-judgment, self-punishment, de-constructive. God's judgment is simply to confirm our choices.
As Creator, God has:
  1. the right to judge, since he owns it all.
  2. the power to judge, since he assembled it all.
  3. the wisdom to judge, since he knows all hearts and all ends.
Simultaneously, the flood also shows the love and grace of God. In the midst of God's judgment, he is also showing mercy to Noah and his family. The ark is a "vessel of grace." Thus, both God's justice and mercy are evidenced in the flood. The flood is both a "judgment" and a "salvation," that both worked and did not work; it was both partial and incomplete. They point to a complete judgment and a complete salvation that will come years later at the Cross (1 Pet 3:20-22; 1 Jn 1:8-9).

Many of the thoughts and ideas are from the Genesis Leader's Guide by Tim Keller: "What Were You Put in the World to do?", Study 8: Judgment and Grace, 65-73

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