13 July, 2017

I Peter 3:20—“… the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing …”

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (I Pet. 3:19-20).

One of the primary effects of common grace is said, by proponents, to be that “God exercises forbearance and longsuffering towards the world. Man collectively deserves the judicial outpouring of divine wrath, but God suspends it” (Donald Macleod, Behold Your God [Christian Focus, 1990], p. 118).

Peter, in this text, speaks of the longsuffering of God “waiting” in the days of Noah. This is often thought to be about God graciously giving the reprobate a chance (120 years—an abundance of time) to repent and turn to Him, and that He is longsuffering towards them, desiring them to be saved, if only they will heed His gracious overtures in the preaching.

Through the preaching of Noah, during that 120-year period, God is said to be conveying a well-meant offer of salvation to all that outwardly hear, before eventually bringing that time of opportunity to a close.


Prof. David J. Engelsma

In general, the case has been made that longsuffering is God’s loving attitude towards His elect people in their suffering in the world. In His fatherly love, He is moved to deliver them at once from their sufferings at the hands of the wicked but allows them to suffer because He is working out His plan for their full salvation and His plan for the wicked’s filling their cup of iniquity. It is comparable to the surgeon’s performance of a painful surgery upon his own dear child. He is inclined to spare the child, but in love for the child’s good he performs the surgery. 
This explains the longsuffering of I Peter 3. God was longsuffering towards Noah and his family. In that longsuffering towards His dear child, God endured the wicked for a long time. 



Prof. Herman C. Hanko


[Source: A Pilgrim’s Manual: Commentary on 1 Peter (RFPA, 2012), pp. 231-232]

The longsuffering of God is an attribute of God that he shows only to his elect people who are in the world and who suffer greatly in the world at the hands of the ungodly. Reverently speaking, God finds it difficult to endure this suffering of which he is a witness. It is as difficult for God to endure the suffering of his people as it would be for a husband who loves his wife dearly to see her beaten and mistreated by thieves who have broken into the home. He cannot bear it. Nevertheless, God does bear it, because he knows that the suffering that his people must endure is necessary for their entrance into the kingdom. It is only through suffering that the elect can be purified and made ready for their home in glory. In this respect, God is like a surgeon who must operate on his son to save his life. To see the knife cut into his son’s body and to witness the agony of recovery is almost more than a father can bear. Yet he does bear it, because it will be the healing of his son. This is God’s longsuffering toward his people.

During Noah’s days the wicked cruelly treated the people of God. Such persecution is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, but we may deduce it from Enoch’s being a preacher of judgment upon the wicked and his being translated into heaven without dying (Jude 14-15; Gen. 5:24). Especially the words “and was not found” in Hebrews 11:5 indicate that evil men were hunting for Enoch. The church had been reduced by persecution at the time of the flood to one family of eight people. Apostasy was also a contributing cause for the smallness of the church in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:1-5). Jesus compares the days prior to the flood with the days before the end of the world (Matt. 24:21-22, 38-39). Lamech boasted to his two wives of the murder of a child of God and dared God to punish him as he punished Cain (Gen. 4:23-24).

If a comparison can be made, the sin of persecuting the church is the worst sin the wicked commit. The church is God’s bride, God’s beloved. The church is so precious to him that he will do anything to save his church—even give his only begotten Son to die in the throes of hell’s agony to redeem her. In his eternal counsel he has ordered all things that take place in heaven and on earth, in order to bring his church into heaven with him. The church represents his cause of truth and righteousness. When the wicked kill God’s people, they show their contempt and hatred for God himself. When Christ accomplishes all God’s purpose, the victory of Christ over all of the wicked is announced throughout all God’s world.

While the pre-flood saints were being persecuted, Noah was building the ark at God’s command. While he was building, Noah was preaching. The very building of the ark was a sermon, because building a boat on dry land was sheer nonsense, except that God had said he would send a flood to destroy the world (Heb. 11:7). When the creation had never received one drop of rain, it seemed incredible that God would send so much rain that the whole world would be drowned. Only by faith was it possible to do what God had commanded, and by that flood came Noah’s salvation.

This all is written as a word of comfort to the church that suffers so much in the world for well-doing. God will once more vindicate our cause and send his judgments upon the disobedient.


[Source: Another Look at Common Grace  (2019 edition), p. 45]

[In] the days of Noah … the true people of God were hard pressed by their enemies. In fact, so great was the pressure of the wicked world that by the time the flood came only eight souls were left among the believers. During that terrible time of suffering, Noah was building the ark in which he was saved. God did not deliver them immediately from their sufferings, because He had His own appointed time for their deliverance in the ark by the flood. But during that time of persecution God was longsuffering towards His people. When the time came for deliverance, God came in judgment upon the world and saved His church.



Rev. Angus Stewart

[Source: “The Longsuffering of God: A Survey of God’s Longsuffering throughout Scripture”—originally published in the Covenant Reformed News, volume XVI, issues 3-10]

Here Jehovah’s longsuffering is directed not to the wicked world He destroyed by the flood but to the “eight souls” (Noah and his three sons with their four wives) who were “saved” by water, as a picture of their eternal salvation.



More to come! (DV)

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