The flood and baptism: what old stories have to do with the new covenant

God made it rain. He saved Noah and his family with the ark. And at the end, He made a promise. These thoughts were the basis of a divine service by the Chief Apostle, which focussed on gratitude for a very particular God-given promise.

For a divine service on 1 October 2023 in Augsburg, Germany, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider used Genesis 8: 22 as the basis, although he was aware of the controversies that the story of the Flood could give rise to: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Some take the great Flood literally, others see it as a metaphor, and still others maintain that the story is an old legend that has been passed down. The mission of the Apostle ministry is to convey the message contained therein, the Chief Apostle clarified. “What is God trying to tell me?”

The message still applies today

God wants to convey an unmistakable message with the story of the great flood.

  • “Watch out, sin leads to death. Sin separates from God.”
  • The Chief Apostle said that God loves human beings and wants to save them, “and He will save the righteous”. The righteous are those who believe in God’s word and live it.
  • The third point is the promise that God gave to humankind, which the Chief Apostle chose as Bible text for this service.

God’s covenant with Noah

This promise still applies today, and the Bible text emphasises that

  • God is caring: “He is the giver of all things. Human beings cannot do that on their own. They need God and they can only get these things from God.”
  • God is merciful: “God shows us His grace. He knows full well that human beings are sinners and will always sin. However, as it says in the New Testament, ‘He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’”
  • God is faithful. “There will never come a day when God says, ‘I’ve had enough, this is going to stop now. People should have nothing more now.’ God will make sure that we can live until the end. He preserves His creation and cares for it.”

This realisation makes us grateful. “We thank the Creator for His creation, for His care, and for His faithfulness. The Chief Apostle went on to explain how gratitude is best expressed.

  • By acknowledging His benefits: “We acknowledge the giver and are aware that we have God to thank for all we have.”
  • Through giving and sacrifice: “This is a very concrete way of thanking God. Obviously, He is not interested in money. He does not have a bank account. He does not need one. But through our willingness to make sacrifices, we simply express that we trust in the giver: “What He gives me is enough.”
  • By responsible use of the gifts He has given us: “How we treat the environment, how we treat our own lives, how we treat our families is also an expression of our gratitude.”
  • By sharing: “Let’s share, let’s help one another.”
  • By the fact that our love for God does not depend on His gifts: “God gives whether we are good or evil. We express gratitude when we build a relationship with Him that is totally independent of our well-being and prosperity. No matter how much we have, no matter how we are doing, our relationship with God remains the same.”

The new covenant

Through Jesus Christ, God has made a new covenant with humankind. “Sinners are separated from God, and God wants to deliver them from sin,” the Chief Apostle said. “In the new covenant, God will save those who believe in and follow Jesus. Just as God spoke to Noah then, He speaks to us through Jesus Christ.” The Chief Apostle drew a parallel between the flood and the new covenant. “In the New Testament, the flood is presented as the model for baptism. That means: sin is overcome and a new person comes into being who is then saved, just as Noah and his family were saved. And the ark is a symbol of the church of Christ: given by God, established by Jesus Christ; but people must participate in it, otherwise it won’t work.”

God also shows His care, grace, and faithfulness in the new covenant.

  • Salvation is a gift from God. We cannot earn it. No one can create his or her salvation. This is the gift of care.”
  • “He offers His grace and salvation to all, unconditionally. He does not look to see whether we are great sinners or devout people. He offers salvation to everyone. Everyone can be saved, even the worst sinner, because God’s love is unconditional.”
  • “His salvation will even continue to be offered in the kingdom of peace. This offer will be there until the end. This is the faithfulness of God to the end.”

We can express our gratitude for all of this to Jesus by

  • remaining humble: “He is the giver. He saves us. We don’t deserve this.”
  • being prepared to do without certain things: “Let us give up what is not pleasing to God.”
  • appreciating His gifts: “Let’s be careful how we utilise grace.”
  • supporting one another: “It is becoming more and more important in our time that we comfort and help one another, support one another in faith, and make it easier for our neighbour to follow Jesus Christ.”
  • waiting patiently until He fulfils His promise, until He does what He has foretold. We know God is the truth, and He is faithful. God does what he says He will do.

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Katrin Löwen
Chief Apostle, Thanksgiving, Divine service