THEARKAND THE CHURCH
T. Pierce Brown
Many of us have preached many sermons on such subjects as “The Ark As a Type of the Church.” We need to realize that although we can properly use the ark to illustrate many things about the church, the fact that Peter says in I Peter 3:21, “The like figure (antitupon) whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” does not mean that we can properly say the Bible sets forth the ark as a type of the church, but only that their salvation by water was a type of our salvation by water. The denominational quibble that it could not be a type of salvation by baptism because they were saved from the water by the ark, not saved by the water, and that they were not even touched by the water has no relevance for two reasons. First, when the Bible says a thing is a type or antitype it is, whether or not you can reason or quibble yourself around it. Second, the water saved them from the ungodly world as it washed that sinful world away. That is the type and antitype, not that the ark saved them from the flood of water. So Peter is not talking about the ark as a type of the church, but their salvation by water as a type of our salvation by water. This is not a matter of guessing or trying to find some new hermeneutic principle by which to prove a preconceived doctrine. It is a matter of taking what the Bible plainly says. It says, “They were saved by water, the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.” So there are three things absolutely certain. First, they were saved by water. Second, baptism is the antitype. Third, in some fashion, baptism saves us.
But our purpose today is to understand some principles about salvation from the ark, even though we may not be using it as a type of the church. If we were claiming that the Bible teaches that it is a type of the church, we might have difficulty explaining how people were in it before the water was applied, and various other problems. It can still be used to illustrate truths that the Bible teaches in other places.
First, when God said to Noah, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood” (Gen. 6:14), there are two things of vital importance. The thing specified was an ark. Noah might have said, “I have great faith, so I will build a barn, for any one with any reasoning knows that animals can be cared for better in a barn than an ark.” He might have reasoned, as some of those I thought were brethren are reasoning today, “I know he said gopher wood, but that is generic, meaning any kind of soft wood, so he really does not care. I will use my sanctified common sense and use the best wood available, which is oak and hickory.”
There is a principle here of which we constantly need to be aware. When God specifies a thing, no other thing is acceptable. He may in his grace overlook some things as “in the times of this ignorance” (Acts17:30), but that is for him to decide, not for you and me.
When God specifies a method, that method is authorized. Some other we may devise is not. When God specifies a time, that time is authorized. Some other time we may imagine is not satisfactory. There may be some apparent exceptions to these principles in which God specified some particular thing, time, place or method and yet by some act or word indicated that the thing specified was not significant, but I am not aware of any. If any reader is, I would appreciate hearing of it.
These principles or “rules” are not something that we devised or imagined. They are discovered by an examination of all the examples and revelation of God on such matters. When God specified to Naaman to dip in the riverJordan, the story plainly shows that no other river was authorized.
We cannot prove by the fact that the ark had only one door that there is only one way to be saved. But we may use it to illustrate what Jesus plainly teaches in John 10. And we can use any lesson in the Old Testament to find some principle on which God deals with man, for Paul points out specifically that these things were written for our example and admonition (I Cor. 10:11).