“God said to Noah, I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13)—Genesis 6:12–13.
When we study the Scriptures, we do well to remember proper principles of hermeneutics, the science of biblical interpretation. Fundamentally, we must always interpret the Old Testament in light of the new covenant in Christ. Jesus Himself affirmed this rule in His teaching ministry (Matt. 5:17–20; Luke 24:13–35).
The Reformed tradition’s practice of Christ-centered preaching summarizes this dictum well. In light of the tendency to read the Old Testament solely as a moralistic tome, we confess that the goal of the old covenant is Christ. The saints who came before Jesus looked for God to establish His kingdom (Heb. 11:13–16).
Christ-centered Bible study is more than just finding a one-to-one correlation between every detail of the Old Testament and the life of Christ. The New Testament includes kingdom ethics (Matt. 5:2–12; Rom. 12–13; Heb. 13) as part of serving the Messiah. As long as we remember that kingdom living is only possible for those with faith in Jesus, we are Christ-centered in our approach to Scripture when we look at how the old covenant saints exemplify kingdom life.
Noah is a paradigm of kingdom living, because the righteousness he practiced flowed from faith (Heb. 11:7). This holiness was in no sense the basis for his justification—God still accepted him through his faith alone (Gal. 2:15–16). However, he righteously conformed to the kingdom ethic, and so we should imitate his living faith.
In his comments on Noah’s righteousness in light of the wickedness of his generation, John Calvin offers insight into how this old covenant saint is a model for us. Today’s passage tells us “all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:12), and thus it must have been exceptionally difficult for Noah to persevere in giving thanks to God before the flood. Yet if Noah could do this in his day, we who live under the more glorious new covenant can so much more do the same, by the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:17). Calvin writes: “As, however, the singular virtue of Noah is here commended; so let us remember that we are instructed what we ought to do, though the whole world were rushing to its own destruction.”
As Christians, we are all concerned to place Christ at the center of our lives. However, putting Jesus at the center of our attention involves more than just intellectual assent to His teaching or a verbal affirmation of trust. As the apostle James makes clear, we are not Christ-centered if we do not follow the examples of those who walked with God, doing good works of obedience (2:14–26). Be truly Christ-centered today and do a good deed for another person.
Passages for Further Study
Lev. 16; Ezek. 14:12–20; 1 Cor. 10:1–13; Heb. 11
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