From an outside perspective it might have seemed as though Satan was going to be successful in his attempt to frustrate God’s plan to have the seed of the woman crush his seed (Gen. 3:15). However one splices the relationship between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” of Genesis 6:2, it clearly was not a good thing and it did not produce worshippers (see also 2 Pet. 2:4-5; Jd. 6). Brutal men (i.e. the nephilim) had become the “men of renown” (cf. vs.4); every thought of men’s hearts were continually wicked (vs.5); and so, not surprisingly, the earth was corrupt and filled with violence (vs.11). It was indeed a world made well-rotten by sin and Satan.
But in the midst of what looked like the blackest night, shined the light of God’s grace. As the Scripture says,
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (vs.8)
If Noah found grace, he found mercy. If he found mercy, he found that which he didn’t deserve but was freely given to him according to the election of grace. God, in all times, regardless of how dark, reserves a remnant to Himself. In some cases, like in the time of Elijah the prophet, God reserved unto Himself 7,000 men who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Ki. 19:18; Rom. 11:4). In the case of the years leading up to the flood He reserved unto Himself one man and his family. And even the grace that Noah found, could only be found, in view of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would be the sacrifice for Noah’s sins years later.
And the means of Noah’s justification – the same as ours: faith alone.
Hebrews 7:11 says, “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 the heir of righteousness which is according to faith.”
Noah’s righteous was not based on the works of the law written on the hearts of men, nor by his performance in accordance with whatever revelation may have been orally passed down from Adam to his descendants. Noah became an heir of the righteousness of God according to faith.
What kind of faith? Faith that God’s Word was true. The Scripture says that he was “divinely warned of things not yet seen,” and he believed it. Noah received warning of a universal flood, the likes of which there was no earthly evidence for, or means to forecast. But although he hadn’t seen it, it was guaranteed by Him whose words are not only true, but truth.
The Scripture also shows us that this work began on the inside of Noah. Upon being divinely warned of things not yet seen, he was moved with Godly fear. There was an inner work of grace before there was an outward manifestation of faith. This is where the work begins, on the inside. The Word of God pierces our hearts and the Spirit of God teaches us the fear of God. Noah heard God’s word, undoubtedly trembled at the prospect of coming judgment and had an immediate sense of God-wrought fear, awe, and reverence upon hearing the voice of God.
That faith-filled fear prompted obedience. As a matter of fact, after receiving the divine warning from God and the commandments he was to obey, the Scripture says, “Thus Noah did, according to all God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22). Just as Moses received the blueprints from God as to how the Tabernacle was to be built, so Noah received instruction as to how to the ark was to be built. And “so he did,” building and obeying over the course of many years, while most likely being discounted and disliked for being a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5; cf. Amos 5:10) by a society at enmity with God.
Noah’s faith, like Abraham, and like ours, was the means whereby he was imputed righteousness. Although Noah was blameless (Gen. 6:9), he was not sinless – Genesis 9 and Romans 3:23 are good reminders of that. The only way Noah could be made righteous was if the One who embodied all that the ark signified, the Lord Jesus Christ, came and exhausted the full flood of God’s wrath. Noah believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness in view of the Messiah who would pay his debt in full, becoming sin on a roman cross so that both he and we (i.e. all who believe the Gospel) could be forgiven and forever-safe from the torrents of divine justice.