By Wayne S. Walker
One of the great heroes of God’s word in the Old Testament was Noah. This example of faith lived during a very difficult time, when the people of the world were so wicked that the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually and that God determined to destroy the earth with a flood. But Noah was a man who found grace in God’s sight because he was just, perfect in his generations, and one that walked with God. Therefore, God determined to save Noah and his family and commanded him, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch” (Gen. 6:14). There are several interesting lessons that we can learn and applications that we can make from a study of Noah’s ark.
I. Noah had a pattern to follow. He was told to make an ark. The wood was to be gopherwood. The proportions were to be three-hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. There were to be a window for the ark a cubit from the top and a door to the ark in the side. It is interesting to note that the dimensions in the Bible are common for any worthy sea-going vessel, unlike those mentioned in many of the ancient heathen flood stories. Also, based upon an eighteen-inch cubit, the total capacity of the ark would have been 3,500,000 cubic feet, plenty of room for all the animals and supplies that Noah needed to take.
Now, what would have happened if Noah had added a few cubits to come out with a length of 305 cubits? What if he had decided that he really did not need a window in the ark? What if he substituted oak or pine for the gopherwood that God had specified? It is not our desire to engage in a lot of fruitless speculation, but consider the following points. When Nadab and Abihu substituted their own fire for the fire that God had commanded, they were both consumed immediately with fire from heaven (Lev. 10:1-2). When Uzzah disobeyed the instructions of the Lord and touched the ark, he was struck dead on the spot (2 Sam. 6:1-7). Simply put, God has never allowed any deviation from his expressed will, so there is no reason to believe that Noah could have been saved by ignoring or rejecting what God said.
Moses also had a pattern given by God for building the tabernacle. “. . For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mount” (Exod. 25:9, cf. Heb. 8:5). In a similar vein, the New Testament reveals God’s pattern for mankind today. We can be made free from sin only by obeying from the heart the form or pattern of doctrine to which we have been delivered (Rom. 6:17-18). Then after we are thus saved, the Lord has a “pattern of sound words” which he wants us to hold fast (2 Tim. 1:13). This-idea which we are hearing with increasing frequency, that we do not have nor do we need a “pattern” with regards to the church today, is plainly not taught in God’s word.
II. Salvation was found only in the ark. Let me ask you a question. How many people were saved outside the ark? Look at Genesis 7:13-16. “And all flesh died that moved on the earth . . . both men and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.” Reread the last sentence and notice the word “only” and the phrase “in the ark.” Again, “only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.” Very clearly, no one outside the ark was saved.
The apostle Peter tells us that Noah’s salvation is like ours. “. . . When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism. . . ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives were all saved from the evil and ungodliness in the world. How were these eight souls saved? By water. Where were they saved? In the ark. As Noah and his family were saved from the unrighteous world by the waters of the flood, Peter says that we are saved from sin by baptism.
Baptism puts one into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). The body of Christ is his church (Eph. 1:22-23). Thus, when one is baptized into the body or church of Christ, he is said to be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). The church is God’s ark of safety today for salvation is found in it. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ and therefore in his church (Eph. 1:3). This includes salvation. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and he is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). The only people of whom Christ is ever said to be the Savior are those in his body or church. Those who teach that the church is unimportant, that one can be saved and go to heaven yet not be a member of the church, do not find that doctrine in the Scriptures.
III. There was only one door to the ark. God told Noah to put it there in Genesis 6:16. Its purpose is quite evident. “On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark. . . .So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in” (Gen. 7:13-16). There had to be a way by which Noah, his family, and all the animals that God had commanded to be taken could enter into the ark and be shut in by God for their protection. Once the door was shut, there was no other way in.
Similarly, as the church is God’s ark for us, there is only one door into it. In a different context, but making the same basic point, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . . . I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:7-9). This truth is reinforced by many other passages of Scripture. Christ also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). In Matthew 7:13-14, the Lord described two basic ways. One is broad, with a wide gate and room for many different routes. But it leads to destruction. The other is narrow or confined, with a gate that is strait or difficult. And only that way will lead to eternal life.
As we have already indicated, this way includes baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Since the only way to the Father is by Christ, we must find the way by which we come into contact with Christ. Paul wrote, “. . . As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. . . . Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death” (Rom. 6:3-4). The only way my Bible says that I can get into Christ, and thus come unto the Father, is by baptism. Many folks have the concept that we are all going to heaven, just traveling different ways. But the book of God does not say that there are many different ways, that it does not make any difference what one believes as long as he is honest and sincere. There is only one way.
God commanded Noah to build an ark. How did Noah respond? “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him so he did” (Gen. 6:22). The result of this obedience is revealed for us in Hebrews 11:7. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Noah was not saved by “faith only” as some claim we can be saved. He was saved by a faith that prompted him to do everything exactly as God had told him to do.
As we conclude our study of Noah’s ark, we need to remember that Noah had to build the ark after a pattern and that God has commanded us to make all things in the church according to his pattern. We must also realize that as salvation in Noah’s day was available only in the ark, so salvation today is offered to mankind only in the church. And let us understand that the only door into God’s ark for us, the church, is through Jesus Christ by being baptized unto Him. These are simple, basic lessons. But they are recorded for our learning that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope (Rom. 15:4).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, pp. 172-173
March 17, 1988