A woman was traveling one day on a train when she encountered a stranger. The man struck up a conversation, explaining that he was a Christian worker on his way to minister in a distant city.
“Oh I know all about ministry,” the woman said proudly. “I’ve been a faithful Sunday School teacher for ages. I sing in the church choir and haven’t missed a Sunday service in many years.”
The minister was delighted and happily asked her about what the Lord was doing in her life. Yet the more they discussed spiritual things he began to see a gap in the woman’s understanding. In spite of all her efforts for the church, there appeared to be a lack in her own personal experience. He suddenly asked her a question that was jarring to her.
“Can you tell me what became of Noah’s carpenters?”
“No,” she replied, “I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it.”
“Well,” the man said, “to build a ship so large Noah must have hired builders to help him and his three sons. Yet none of those men were saved in the Ark. I’m sure many of them worked very hard in its construction. Why do you suppose they weren't saved?”
“I would think that it was because they didn’t come inside. They could only be saved by entering it.”
As she spoke those words a very great recognition suddenly seized her by the heart. The woman was speechless. This had been her very own condition. She had been working so hard and so long for the church, and yet she had never encountered Christ personally herself. She knew all about salvation – the need for it and the means of it, and yet she had never herself been saved. She had never ventured to enter inside. A terrible realization suddenly dawned on her – she was not “in Christ.”
That very day, by God’s grace, she finally found entry into that blessed union. With that God-sent stranger’s help, she entered in.
"Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him."
– Acts 8:30-31, 35 NKJV
The book of Acts shares the first-century story of a devout Ethiopian Jew who had served God for all his life. His hunger for God had compelled him to make the long journey to Jerusalem where he followed all the ordinances and outward acts of faith. Yet he too had never really understood what it meant to know the God he was worshiping. While riding in his chariot, he was reading a passage from Isaiah but did not understand the meaning.
'Do you understand what you are reading?' Phillip asked him.
'How can I, unless someone guides me?'
Philip responded by preaching Jesus, ‘beginning at this Scripture.’ Yet it was the Holy Spirit who truly opened the Ethiopian man’s eyes.
Paul illustrated this when he wrote, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.” These spiritual truths can seem like “foolishness” to our natural minds – the knowledge of our deep need for Christ is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
"Seven days from now I will make it rain on the earth..."
Those who resisted the invitation to enter the Ark most certainly felt they had good reasons for doing so. They had comfortable homes and families. They didn’t understand their need for saving.
We see a picture of God’s grace in the final days before the flood when God told Noah and his family to enter the Ark and then waited for seven more days before finally closing the door. It was God Himself who closed it – He didn’t leave that important an act to Noah's discretion. It was only after the hearts of every man and woman had truly spurned the Ark’s safety that the door was finally closed.
Noah’s carpenters perished in the flood.
Based on an account retold by Irving C. Larson