Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Did the First Christians Preach?

This particular topic I believe can really instruct not only the modern pastor, but also the modern layperson as to what sermons should look like. Sitting in Starbucks the other day, there were some BBC students sitting next to me and they were doing research for their classes.  One of them was googling “the best places to find sermon illustrations.”  Not an illegitimate venture.  I’ve used many a search engine to find illustrations.  However it struck me as I was sitting there thinking about it, that I was witnessing a real life illustration of how many sermons are constructed today.  All illustration.  All story.  All entertainment.  Very little content.   To be clear, I’m a fan of illustration.  Charles Spurgeon called illustrations windows through which the light comes in.  In fact, Jesus used illustrations, stories, and parables.  He, who was God incarnate, approved of these invaluable literary devices.  But let’s be honest, that’s what they are, devices or tools that serve as lights, illuminating the precious truths of Christ.  They are not the truths themselves.      
Having said that, the book of Acts contains the historically oldest sermons that followed the ascension of Jesus Christ.  These sermons were soaked in Holy Spirit empowerment and loaded with the richest content straight from the source.   These sermons were preached at great risk, not only to preacher’s lives, but also to the lives of their listeners.  It is from these sermons that a type arrises for which all other sermons ought to be modeled.  
THE BIG IDEA is that the first sermons were covenantal in nature, kā-rü's-sō  in manner, and Christological in content.
I. Covenantal in Nature.
II.  Kā-rü's-sō  in Manner.
III.  Christological in Content. 
I.  Covenantal in Nature
What do I mean that these sermons are covenantal in nature?  Last semester we completed our covenant theology class which is not a disconnected idea from what we see here.  A covenant is a binding contract or an agreement between two or more persons.  A divine covenant is a “ in blood sovereignly administered.”
John Frame says something helpful here when examining the Biblical account “...the whole Bible, diverse in content as it may appear at first sight, can be seen as a story of God making covenants and man responding to them.  The books of law show what God expects of his covenant people.  The books of history indicate man’s actual response.  The psalms contain the praise, the laments, the questionings, the blessings and cursing that should be on the lips of a covenant people.  The wisdom books contain applications of the covenant law to human problems.  The Prophets bring God’s covenant lawsuit against the covenant-breakers while at the same time promising covenant renewal.”  (John Frame pg. 146-147 The Doctrine of the Word of God P & R Publishing 2010)  
      In the Gospels we see Jesus Christ, the Son of God, breaking into time, putting on flesh so that he can establish the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 with his own blood.  In fact, we find Him using that language at the last supper when He said  “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Matthew 26:26-28  When He rose from the dead, His followers were commissioned to go out and to declare to the world the terms of that covenant.  I use “followers” instead of apostles because we find new disciples being spiritually raised from the dead who also carry these covenant stipulations to the world, and not just apostles.  That same idea is undeniable true today as well.
Regarding the ingredients of a covenant, we see that both Biblically, as well as historical accounts apart from the Bible, that the elements of a covenant are the following:  
1.  Name of the great king  
2.  Historical prologue  
3.  Stipulations (laws) 
     a. Exclusive loyalty (=love)  
     b. Specific requirements]  
4.  Sanctions (blessings and curses)  
5.  Administration
These elements, more or less, are the DNA of the sermons found in the book of Acts.  Lets look at some specific examples.
Stephen in Acts 7  spoke in terms of a covenant in the longest sermon recorded in the book of Acts.  His sermon might be the most complete picture of all of those elements.  He refers to the name of the great king is in v. 2  “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,”  This mention of the great king of the covenant is the ground for his entire discourse.  Next we see the second element of a covenant being the historical prologue.  Stephen makes mention of the birth of the nation of Israel, through the Exodus, through the kingdom, and makes mention of all the major players of the covenants being Abraham, Moses, and David.  He then reminds his listeners of the third element being the  stipulations of the covenants.  To Abraham in v. 3, God says  “Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.”  God then gives him the covenant of circumcision in v. 8.  Stephen goes on to preach that those stipulations were expanded in the Mosaic covenant in v. 30ff.  These stipulations demanded exclusive loyalty..., and specific requirements, in the form of the law, were laid out for God’s covenant people.  Connecting to those stipulations, Stephen reminded his listeners of the sanctions, or the blessings and cursing, following obedience or disobedience respectively.  First, God promises to bless and protect His covenant people in v. 6-7 “And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.”  Likewise, we also see the cursing that follows his people because of their disobedience in v. 39 “Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt.”  Stephen tells of God’s response in v. 42  “But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven,”  Of course the ultimate cursing came when Israel was completely cast out of their land by God.  This demonstrates the administration of the covenant from first to last.  Not only did God create it in the beginning, but He made sure that this binding covenant was carried out to the end.  This covenantal nature was what made up Stephen’s sermon.  We see these same elements scattered throughout the other sermons in acts, although not with the same comprehensiveness.  
If we look at Peter’s sermon at the Temple in Acts 3, se see in v. 13 that he makes reference to the great king  at the beginning of his address:   “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers.”  A covenant is of course between two parties so he addresses them as being the lesser party in the covenant, v. 25 “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’”  His sermon is basically a retelling of the binding covenantal relationship that Israel has with her God. 
Likewise we see Paul in Acts 13 preaching in Antioch starting off his sermon by making mention of God as the Sovereign administrator in v. 17  “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.”  You can also hear the historical prologue and the sanctions that God bestowed on his people (back to the verse) “He made the people great” and “with an uplifted arm he led them out.”  Paul preaches on in v. 32-33  “...we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus,”  Here he points to the end in God’s administration of the covenant, in that God fulfilled his promise to the fathers by raising Jesus.
       We see this same covenantal nature in the rest of the sermons, although not as explicitly laid out.  However, they all do bear at least some of the elements of covenant in them.  
So an objection could be made in regards to the “Gentile” sermons in the book of Acts.  One could say that these “Jewish” covenants weren’t made with non-Jews.  A couple answers immediately present themselves.   1)  That the covenant made at creation is binding on all of God’s creatures, including Gentiles.  This is why Paul in Acts 17 on Mars Hill tells the Athenians in v. 26-27  that God  “...made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him,”  The word “that” introduces the ground for God doing His actions.  God did all these things so that mankind should seek him.  That word “should” speaks of “oughtness.”  All mankind ought to seek God, because God created them.  That is the creational covenant that all mankind are bound under.  This is exactly the argument we see Paul making in his letter to the Gentile Romans.  God created at the beginning, and He is angry because mankind has refused to honor Him or give thanks to Him as God.  In fact all mankind suppresses that truth and therefore break that covenant that they are bound under.
     One more thing regarding this before we move on to the next section.  The medium for the covenant was the written word of God found in the Scriptures.  Over and over again throughout these sermons, you find the preachers constantly appealing to the Scriptures as the basis of authority.  They would say things like “...this is what is spoken of through the prophet” Acts 2:16, or “Moses said” Acts 3:22, or “...I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:”  Acts 26:22  etc.  It’s clear that these 1st century preachers were appealing to the covenant agreement that the Lord God gave to them.  
II.  Kā-rü's-sō in Manner.

     What do I mean by Kā-rü's-sō in manner?  This is the Greek word for preaching.  When these 1st century preachers preached, they did so in a Kā-rü's-sō manner.  Biblically defined, this means to “ be a herald; to proclaim after the manner of a herald;  to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done;  always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.”
      There is another word for preaching, but it has less to do with the manner, and more to do with the content.  It is the word yü-än-ge-lē'-zō, and it’s where we get the word evangelize from.  This word speaks to the good news of God’s kindness being brought to the nations.   It is the literal spreading of the gospel.  It is a proclaiming of glad tidings.   It is a verb with content. Kā-rü's-sō  speaks to the manner in which this preaching is done.  Now the 1st century preachers certainly evangelized, but more than that, there was an urgency in their preaching.  A sense of gravity and authority that must be listened to and obeyed.  
I’ll give a few examples of this urgency in their preaching, but first we need to ask: where did they get this authority from?  Jesus, in the great commission, said that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”(28:18) On the basis of that authority He tells them in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and proclaim [Kā-rü's-sō] the gospel to the whole creation.”  That’s just His first followers did.   So listen to the urgency in their manner here.  Peter in Acts 2:14 said  “...let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”   Paul in Acts 13:16 said “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.”   Paul in Acts 20 when he preached to the Ephesian elders  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the alert.(v. 28, 31)  The very last sentences in the book of Acts includes this Kā-rü's-sō again from the lips of Paul.  In Acts 28:25-28, we find him in Rome.  After trying to convince a Jewish crowd of the Lordship of Christ to no avail, he says this  “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:  “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”  For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”  That quote from Isaiah was Isaiah’s direct commission from God to go preach with authority to the people of Israel in his day.  Paul preaches here with Kā-rü's-sō applying it directly to his listeners.   He was heralding these words and they bore the same gravity and authority that Isaiah rendered in his day.  
This is how the 1st century disciples preached, in a manner of urgency, with gravity.  There was no flippancy or a sense of being cavalier in their speech.  It was ‘listen to these words as if your life depended on it, because in fact it does.’  Sin was not compared to chocolate cake in their preaching, like I’ve heard a modern “preacher” claim.  That’s not Kā-rü's-sō, that is Ccrraappo.
So what about modern preachers?  Where do we get our authority from? 1) I would point back to the great commission to where Jesus said that he would be with us always, even to the end of the age.  The disciples who actually heard those words died long ago and their mission ended.  Therefore, Jesus was commissioning all his disciples even unto the end of the age.  2)  I would point out Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:2 “...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  That charge is to all of those who would take up the mantle of pastor especially. We are to preach the word.  Again Kā-rü's-sō.  We are to Kā-rü's-sō the word with all gravity and authority because it it in fact God’s own word. 
III.  Christological in Content
What do I mean by Christological in content?  I mean that the center of the 1st century preacher’s universe was Christ.  Their content was throughly Christ saturated and Christ centered.  They preached in such a way that pointed away from themselves, and solely pointed to Christ. Amazingly this was even done when Paul gave his personal testimony.  The part that he personally played in that story was a collateral effect of Christ breaking in as the main actor, the main player, the main mover and shaker in all of history. 
A few examples of this: 

1) In regards to the exclusivity of Christ,  Peter at Pentecost says that “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Acts 2:21  Implication:  only those who actually do call will be saved, all others will be lost.  Acts 3:23 records Peter saying “And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.”  That prophet is Jesus Christ as prophesied in Deut 18:15  Next Peter preaches in Acts 4:12 saying “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  The only hope that was given in these 1st century sermons was that of Jesus Christ and His sole ability to save.  

2) The Christological content of these sermons showed the suffering of Christ.  Peter preaches in Acts 2:23 “...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”  At the temple he says in Acts 3:18 “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.”  In Acts 5:30 he preaches “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”  Later, in Acts 13:28-29, Paul preaches in Antioch and tells of the part that the authorities played in the suffering of Christ “And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.”  

3)  The Christological content of these sermons demonstrated the exaltation of Christ.  This would not only include his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension, but His current ruling and reigning at the right hand of God as well.  Peter at Pentecost speaks about David and connects his prophecies to Christ.  Acts 2:30-32  “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ...[v. 32] This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”  Resurrection.  Ascension.  Ruling and reigning at the right hand of God.  Acts 4:11 says of “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”  The chief cornerstone, that is the most important, the most prominent, the most exalted.  Stephen before he was stoned to death was filled with the Holy Spirit and he “...gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  Acts 7:55-56  His exaltation of Christ were the last words that he spoke in his sermon before he perished.  

4) The Christological content of these sermons demonstrated the grace of Christ.  Although all of the listeners, and the preachers themselves were covenant breaking, God-haters, just like us, grace was offered in the preaching of the gospel.  In Acts 5:31 Peter preaches that because Christ was exalted, grace will be granted. “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”   Paul at Antioch tells his listeners “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”  Acts 13:38-39  In fact Paul before heading off to Rome basically tells the the Ephesian elders that He has not failed in preaching the whole counsel of God and that he “...testified both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Acts 20:21  

5) The Christological content of these sermons demonstrated the treasure of Christ.  Peter preaches in Acts 3:20 that the  “...times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”  A couple verses later he says that Christ is said to be the one in whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(v. 25)   Paul in his sermon/defense before Agrippa in Acts 26 records the words that Christ spoke to him when he commissioned him.  He said  “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  Acts 26:17-18  NASB uses the word “inheritance” there instead of place.  It means the same thing, that those whose eyes have been opened will receive an inheritance.  That inheritance is nothing less than God himself.  

In conclusion we see that the first sermons in the Book of Acts were covenantal in nature, kā-rü's-sō  in manner, and Christological in content.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Being Winsome in our Evangelism

I received this email tonight, and thought that it was too excellent to not respond to and then repost here.  Hope it's helpful: 

1. It is true that some people, through winsomeness and tactics, are more effective at evangelism than others.

2. It is true that the person being saved has absolutely nothing to do with the process; It is 100% God "flipping the switch" so to speak.

How do you resolve the contradiction between these two beliefs? If becoming a Christian has nothing to do with the person being saved and how much they appreciate the evangelists' tactics and winsomeness then how can those same attributes make the evangelist more effective?

Those attributes should only be effective when you are trying to convince someone of something that they themselves have some role in when it comes to the decision process. A winsome car salesman with finely tuned tactics will be more effective at getting the consumer to make a certain decision but that's because it's a decision that that consumer is involved in. If the consumer had absolutely no say in the matter then the salesman's winsomeness and tactics would be irrelevant; A poor salesman would be just as effective.

Very good questions.  Obviously some deep thought went into them.  

2 things have to be in view when solving this conflict.

1)  The Glory of God is the reason we do everything that we do AND the reason that God does everything He does.

2)  There is a multiplicity of causes to everything that happens in the universe. 

So in addressing the first proposition:
1. It is true that some people, through winsomeness and tactics, are more effective at evangelism than others.

Proverbs and the New Testament are very clear that this is absolutely true.  "The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness." Proverbs 16:20 (Notice that this proverb is in one of the most God sovereign chapters in all of Proverbs. Specifically vs. 1, 4, 9, 33 )  "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:5-6 (This one is key especially for addressing the next question.  Notice that there is a way you should respond to each person.  Paul is saying there is a response that "ought" to be offered.)
So regarding proposition #1, I absolutely agree that some people are more effective at evangelism than others, because they are taking these Scriptures (and many others) and synthesizing them into their evangelism and are being obedient in that process.  (Perhaps a different question could be asked:  What makes the difference between some people's evangelism and others?)

Addressing the second proposition:
2. It is true that the person being saved has absolutely nothing to do with the process; It is 100% God "flipping the switch" so to speak.

This is also absolutely true.  "What shall we say then?  There is no injustice of God, is there?  May it never be!  For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth."  So then He has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.  You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault?  For who resists His will"  On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?  The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?  Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump on vessel for honorable use and another for common use?"  Romans 9:14-21
There's more that could be said about this.  The Scripture witness is overwhelming that God is the one who sovereignly decrees how everything falls out.  (Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12, Isaiah 45:6-7, 46:10, 48:9-11, etc.) 

How do you resolve the contradiction between these two beliefs? If becoming a Christian has nothing to do with the person being saved and how much they appreciate the evangelists' tactics and winsomeness then how can those same attributes make the evangelist more effective?

This is the conflict between human responsibility and the Sovereignty of God.  Understanding this conflict is key to understanding much of the Scripture.  For every effect in the universe, there is a multiplicity of causes that bring that effect into being.  For instance, when a house is built, it takes the people who want to build the house; it takes $ from the people who want to build the house, it takes blueprints, it takes construction workers and their tools, and it takes building material.  All of these are causes in the building of the house, but they are all not causes in the same way.  The efficient cause is the chief causer, and the end cause is the motive for him doing what he does.  So to chart it out below:

The efficient cause:  The $ from the "homeowners"
The formal cause:  The blueprints
The material cause:  Construction materials
The instrumental cause:  The workers and their tools
The end cause:  The DESIRE from the "homeowners: to have a house built. (Closely related to the efficient cause)

In salvation, God desires to save some for the motive of His own glory.  God's own fame is His chief concern in all of the Scriptures.  Do a word search on "my name's sake," "my glory" "for the sake of my name," and you will find that this is the reason why God does everything that He does AND the reason that should inform every action that we do. God wanted to save some in order to show them how merciful He is which highlights His glory.  "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory," Romans 9:22-23
So that's God's job.  He is the efficient cause and the end cause.
Our job is to be winsome because it says something great about God.  We do what we do because it says something about God and not about us.  In other words, we should evangelize excellently, because to do otherwise would lie about God's character.  We are the instrumental causes in His hand, which is an effect of His efficient and end causes.  When we evangelize excellently, which tells the truth about God, God often sees fit to bless that work and make the evangelist effective.  When we evangelize horribly, which lies about God, God often does not bless that work and thus the evangelist is not effective.    (BTW, even this "excellent evangelism" is a result of God working in us-cf. Phil 2:13)  In either case, it is still God who is ultimately the deciding factor.  However our obedience to Him is just that, it is a command from Him to us to conform to His holy character. 

Those attributes should only be effective when you are trying to convince someone of something that they themselves have some role in when it comes to the decision process. A winsome car salesman with finely tuned tactics will be more effective at getting the consumer to make a certain decision but that's because it's a decision that that consumer is involved in. If the consumer had absolutely no say in the matter then the salesman's winsomeness and tactics would be irrelevant; A poor salesman would be just as effective.

Regarding the first sentence here.  Why does think this have to be the case?  What's the governing authority that says this is so?
God's word says that our role in the decision making process always has us saying NO to God when the Holy Spirit is not present.  "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." 1 Cor. 2:14 (cf. Romans 8:7-8)  "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;...For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:63, 65. "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;  All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one." Romans 3:10-12.
We always say no to God in our flesh.  Without the Holy Spirit acting first (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Jer. 31:31-35), there is no hope for a man.  God must work first.  

The analogy of the car salesman is good but it's comparing apples with oranges.  The person can't buy the car because he's dead and is in need of a resurrection.  The "tactics" that the car salesman engages in is preaching the word of God that is in accord with how it should be preached.  So he's preaching the Word of God, which God says is necessary for a person to hear and believe, and he's doing it in a way that honors God and is therefore being obedient.  The dead man will respond if God makes him alive to hear.  

Bottom line:  We should be winsome because it honors God.  God will save whom he will in the process. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Noah: The Covenant of Preservation

All four of these passages (Genesis 6:17-22, 8:20-22, 9:1-7, 9:8-17 ) that we are going to be picking through today make of the Noahic covenant.  The first passage referring to pre-flood, and then the last three referring to post.  Now, reflecting back on the Adamic covenant, or the covenant of commencement, we remember that God administered a promise when he pronounced cursing on Satan.  He said that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15.  The promise here is that there will be this perpetual war, between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of Satan.  A war between the city of God and the city of man.  The history between Genesis 3 and Genesis 6 records the beginning of these two cities.  Approximately 1650(minimum) years separate the fall from the flood. This is significant for it reveals how large the city of man had grown.  One research firms says this “Genesis Chapter 5 states that each person had "sons and daughters" in addition to the son whose chronology is given. Since a plural is used to describe the number of sons and daughters, a minimum of two sons and two daughters are assumed. Therefore, a reasonable value would appear to be a range of 5 to 8 children per family. As previously stated, Adam and Eve had seven children. Using 5 to 8 children per family, the population falls with in a range of ~2 billion to 11.5 billion (over the range of 16 to 22 generations).  The most conservative estimates would be 2 billion people.  That is even taking into consideration  that “...plagues, famines, and wars were no more common than in the last several thousand years” 2  
The Center of Scientific Creation puts it’s estimate at 7 billion people.  Moving on to Genesis 6:5-8 we find God’s disposition towards this city..  “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”  
So as a consequence of the fall of Adam, God completely wipes out billions of people.  This massive judgment is a sign of the ultimate judgment to come, and is in fact pointed to in the N.T. as such.  The city of man (seed of Satan) can only produce covenant-breaking, God-hating, traitors.  God decided to punish the entire world, at that time, for their treachery.  Genesis 6:17-22  “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
What we find in this passage is the same pattern that we saw in Genesis 3:  covenant breaking on the part of man; AND judgment being executed and gracious promises being extended on the part of God.  Notice also, that just like the Adamic covenant, we see a mixture of both common and special grace.  We see special grace, in that Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.; and we see common grace in that God promises to preserve the earth in ways that are applicable to all.  
THE BIG IDEA is that the Noahic covenant is the vehicle for which both common and special grace have been delivered throughout history. 
I. The Noahic Covenant and common grace.
II. The Noahic Covenant and special grace. 
I. The Noahic Covenant and common grace.

A. This covenant binds together creation and redemption.
  1.   Provision for animals.
And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.  Gen. 6:19-20 (cf. Gen. 8:17)  Here God preserves all animal life so it will not perish in judgment.  This is a keeping with his creational ordinance back in Genesis 1.  When God is preserving here a “seed of the woman,”  he does not neglect his other decree of creation.
2.  “Be fruitful and multiply.’
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  Genesis 9:1  This is an identical command given to Adam and Eve back in Genesis 1:30.  Because God was starting over so-to-speak, this command to image forth God, founded in creation, continued to be Noah’s responsibility.  
3.  Subdue the earth with terror.
It was already man’s responsibility to rule the earth.  He imaged forth God in that he had dominion over both land and animals. In the Adamic covenant we already saw creation being cursed in that Adam would bring forth food out of thorns and thistles by the sweat of his brow.  Here God adds an element to the dominion over the animals. Genesis 9:2 “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.”  Calvin says here “Savage beasts indeed prevail and rage against men in various ways, and no wonder; for since we perversely exalt ourselves against God, why should not the beasts rise up against us?  Nevertheless, the providence of God is a secret bridle to restrain their violence.” John Calvin pg. 290 Commentaries on Genesis  BakerBooks 2009  
This common grace however doesn’t just result in our safety but also our advancement.  Mankind uses animals all the time for nearly every convenience under the sun.  1) Food.  Still speaking in this covenant God says in the next verse  “...Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Genesis 9:3  
2) Clothing.  We use the skins of animals in nearly every clothing article we wear.  3) Work.  Animals have always been used to work farms, to bear heavy loads, and for transportation.  This is especially relevant to more rural areas, but indirectly to urban since the two are dependent upon each other.  This subduing relationship that we have with them is not something we owe to our own ingenuity but rather to the creation covenant secured in the redemption covenant. 
Since God saw it fit to reiterate these creational ordinances in this Noahic covenant, it would do us good to pay close attention.  A negligence of these, and other important mandates, can reduce us to those German pietists who personalized their salvation so much to the destruction of so many Jews.  Robertson says “Redeemed man must not internalize his salvation so that he thinks narrowly [merely] in terms of a “soul-saving” deliverance.  To the contrary, redemption involves his total life-style as a social, cultural creature.  Rather than withdrawing narrowly into a restricted form of “spiritual” existence, redeemed man must move out with a total world-and-life perspective.”
  I would say this is done most naturally when the glory of God is seen as the driving force in all our our lives.  1 Cor. 10:31 means that everything we do is worship or idolatry.  So under this first section we see creation and redemption being bound together in the Noahic covenant. 
B.  This covenant has a universal effect.  
The common grace aspect of the Noahic covenant applies to all of creation.  Not only the created order, but to ALL of mankind and animal life.  Genesis 9:8-10 says  Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.”  God covenants with the animals--”it is for every beast of the earth.” Not only do the benefits of this covenant include fruitfulness in reproduction and dominion over the earth(plant and animal life), but it includes a regulation of time and the seasons.  Genesis 8:22 says “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”  God graciously bound his word to keep these ordinances, that He is not obligated to keep, in order to effect His creation.  
 1. The ultimate effect. 
“This universal character of the covenant with Noah provides the foundation for the world-wide proclamation of the gospel in the present age.”
  The Noahic covenant provides the platform,TIME, in order for God’s purposes of redemption to be consummated.  This benefit extends to all, and especially to the elect.  God is committed to His own glory and the spread of His fame.  These “seasons,” and “weather” and “days” that He promised to regulate, do extend grace to us; but ultimately serve to make much of Him.  Psalm 19 speaks of the created order showing God to be glorious in every language under the sun, day after day, year after year.  That TIME to show God glorious was secured by God’s covenant to Noah.  That glory seeing, firmly planted in the time secured by the Noahic covenant, is what God uses to save His elect.  2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  God is redeeming real people over real time.  The Noahic covenant effected this.  Prior to those comforting words in 2 Peter 3:9 we can see the Apostle clearly connecting these two ideas together.  In vv. 5-7 we read  “...that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.[FLOOD]  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  The word of God effected all of creation in the beginning-v. 5; AND the word of God (God’s word to Noah) upholds the world even now for the purpose of spreading His fame, and saving souls.  That’s one clear example of how all of these covenants are bound together.    
2.  Governing effects 
Genesis 9:4-6  “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  Here we see God instituting a way of governance.   
a. We see that animal blood was to be revered.  
Not because it was blood per say, but because it was a sign of life that pointed to something else.  In Leviticus 17:11 God says “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”  So God had given us animals to eat in the previous verse, but the restriction to abstain from blood was put into effect to tell a different story.  That was fulfilled in the spilt blood of Christ Jesus.   Under the new covenant God has made all foods clean.   As an interesting footnote Calvin comments on the Apostles requiring the Gentile converts to abstain from blood in Acts 15:20, 29 “For the apostles, in commanding the Gentiles to observe this rite, for a short time, did not intend to inject a scruple into their consciences, but only to prevent the liberty which was otherwise sacred, from providing an occasion of offense to the ignorant and the weak.” John Calvin pg. 294 Commentaries on Genesis  BakerBooks 2009
b.  Man’s life is to be revered. 
Here we see this idea of  trespassing.  Man, being made in the image of God is sacred not because of man’s nature, but because of his essence.  In essence, man is an image bearer of the Most High, and to snuff that out is an attack on the holiness of God.  That’s why v. 6 says “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  God made man in His image, and only God has the right to disintegrate that image.  We see him sharing that dominion in this verse for those who would usurp his authority.  Any man or animal that violates God’s authority in this way, their life will be required.  And it will be required at the hands of man.  Robertson says here “While the words spoken to Noah do not present an elaborately developed theology of the role of the state, the seed-concept certainly is present.  In effect, God institutes the temporal power of the state as his instrument in the insistent necessity of controlling evil.  This power of the sword, now for the first time placed in the hands of men, terrifies the potential evildoer and restrains his conscious activity of wickedness.”
  We see Scriptural support for this regarding animal murders in Exodus 21:28 and people murderers in Exodus 21:12-14  This is not just an O.T. thing.  God instituted governments in order uphold his image in society. He gives them the sword in order to punish those who do wrong-1 Peter 2:1.  They do not exist for themselves.  Romans 13:4 says “...he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”
To sum up these last two sections, we could say that 1) God covenanted with Noah to continue the ordinance of time in order to fulfill his plan of redemption and 2) God covenanted with Adam to institute governance in order restrain evil.
 D.  The sign of the covenant  
Genesis 9:12-17 “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
First of all, God doesn’t forget anything.  This sign does say something about God, and great at that.  But this is a condescension on His part for our benefit.  It is to remind us that God did judge all wickedness at one point and destroyed billions of people.  That should bring a Godly fear.  However it should bring delight and praise, for God promised that he will not do it again.  When it rains, there will again be dry land.  Ultimate judgment will come at some point, but it will not come through a flood.  “...the recurring rainbow imposed on the retreating storm by the shining again of the sun is God’s battle bow laid aside, a token of grace staying the lightning-shafts of wrath.”
II.  The Noahic Covenant and special grace. 

What is grace?  
Remember that all of this took place because of Genesis 6:5-8 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”  
Every rests on this word here “favor.”  There are only two camps when it comes to interpreting this verse.  The foundation of this “favor” rests on either merit or mercy.  It cannot be a mixture of both.  Matt on Sunday just preached from Rom 4:4-5 which says if you earn something-the payment is due to you, but if you don’t earn something and are given it anyway it is a gift.   The law of excluded middle is at play.  Monergists think the foundation is mercy, while Synergists hold to merit.   Monergists, or those who think salvation is entirely of one, being God, will say that this could have been Tom, Dick or Harry.  It didn’t have to be Noah, because Noah was in this fallen race just like Tom, Dick or Harry.  Noah found favor, because God showed it to him sovereignly.  Synergists, or those who think salvation is a cooperative effort between God and man.  They look to the next verse (v. 9) which says “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”   So Noah found favor because he was righteous and blameless.  The more careful synergists will say that he was righteous because he believed.  Which in one sense is true.  In the ordo salutis  or order of salvation, belief does proceed justification or righteousness. 

However the question still remains for our synergist friends:  is there anything that proceeds that?  They essentially say no.  They say there is an outward call that goes to everybody.  But they nullify the inward call by saying that Christ draws everybody equally.  This is  from their misinterpretation of John 12:32 where Jesus says “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”   Which violates everything else Jesus said in John 6.  So Noah here in Genesis 6,with no special electing grace, put his faith in God.  He out of the 7 billion people on earth was able to “make the clean out of the unclean” Which Job 14:4 says that “no one!” can do that.  This word “favor” in Genesis 6 is the cause of the Noah being saved, and not the effect of Noah’s righteousness.  Grace precedes faith otherwise grace is no longer grace.  Law of identity.   This later group fails to take into account many Biblical texts, one of which was God’s declaration right after the flood in Genesis 8:21  “...the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.”  It sounds strikingly similar to that of Genesis 6:5 except with one important difference.  Everybody else is already dead.  This charge would rightly be applied to Noah.  He was in the category of only, evil, continually like the rest of mankind.  Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.”  Noah was dead.  But it pleased God to make him alive through special grace.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
All other quotes not cited are from O. Palmer Robertson The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980