The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on water baptism. For the rest of the series, go here.
This week we’ll be thinking about global baptism as represented through the Flood that covered the earth in the days of Noah (found in Genesis 6-9). Three aspects of water help us to understand the Flood’s significance in the gospel narrative: water removes what is corrupt, refills what is empty, and revitalizes what is dead.
Removes what is corrupt
The Flood was a result of the unleashing of sin onto humanity through the Fall, because the sinfulness of man had thoroughly consumed the hearts of men. In reading the chapters in Genesis about the Flood, we find what was at one time pure and powerfully made in the image of God reduced to utter filth and nothingness, resembling the dust of creation more than the breath of life from God himself:
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they Created by Mobile Word Ministry married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Genesis 6:1-7
While many find the complete destruction of the Flood offensive due to the thought of “innocent” lives lost, this reaction fails to recognize the corruption in the preflood state of humanity. This corruption was born out of addiction to sin. This addiction, as addiction tends to do, placed the needs of self over all else, regardless of the methods by which it sought to find satisfaction and gratification. This hunger to please the self had no regard for the well being of others, had no consideration of the rights and feelings of others and no care for the impact their selfish behavior had on others.
This corruption was not simply a sin here and there, or simply not being perfect. This corruption was like rust that quickly eats through the shimmering exterior of the brilliant finish to a vintage automobile. This corruption was akin to the power of weeds to completely overpower a pristine, pruned flowerbed overnight. The corruption was like a cancer persistently eating through the healthy cells of the human body. Once one comes to the realization of the depth of the corruption, then the frantic search for a cure begins. Whether in the example of rust, weeds or cancer, the search for an immediate cure or solution is the primary concern for reversing the destruction. If there is a way to stop the corruption, the owner of the car, the garden or the body will do just about anything to fix the problem.
In the case of the world before the Flood, God knew that the only way to reveal hope for future generations to live in his peace and love was to cleanse the world through the power of the mighty floodwaters from below ground and above. Although the floodwaters took life, the floodwaters ultimately cleansed the world to reveal the lives of many more to come that would find the hope of living in the Lord’s presence, free from the clutches of sin, as a result of the flood.
Refills what is empty
When considering how sin had overpowered righteousness in the days of Noah, we must not merely understand the depths of sin in the human heart at that time but must also understand the vast expanse of sin present in the world. The corruption of sin in the days of Noah was not confined to a certain sect of society or to a specific portion of the population. The corruption of sin was complete. The entire world was so consumed by sin that in order to start anew, the cleansing had to, in its turn, consume the world. In the presence of sin, one cannot simply remove the sin without filling that now empty space with the righteousness of God. Upon being emptied, without the presence of God’s righteousness now taking up the space previously occupied by sin, the space quickly yields itself to sin once more, thus continuing the spread of destruction.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26
For the world then, the only way to reveal the hopes that find completion in Jesus thousands of years later was to move from a state of complete ruin to a state of complete purity. While sin still existed in the hearts of man post-flood, the earth was thus relieved of the burdens of sin for the time being, given a new beginning and a new endurance to bear the burdens of human sin until the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ.
Revitalizes what is dead
After the Fall, God made it clear to Adam and Eve that the penalty of sin is death. Thus, in the state of the world at the time of Noah, it is clear that the entire creation was charging violently and destructively toward one destination. The hunger for sin in the heart of man was so quickly consuming every inch of the human heart and the world that without cleansing the world of this blight, the entire creation was destined to die with and in its sin. The floodwaters filled the entire world, taking the place of the sin and preparing the new foundation for God’s work to be revealed and refilled. The floodwaters also gave new life to the world and to the human race in the same way that water in the human body works its way through the human system, reenergizing and reintroducing life where there was previously an utter lack. The floodwaters slowly receded, revealing the plant life created by God. The floodwaters supplied the animals alive in the ark with the water necessary to live and thrive in the new creation. The floodwaters also revealed a world to Noah and his family that was reborn out of the grip of sin and ready to be populated once again. This time it would be with the righteousness of God born out of his love and grace, by cleansing the corruption unleashed by sin in the attempt to destroy the image of God in man and replace that image with the image of sin and the human self.