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1 Peter 3:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

When once the long-suffering of God waited - In Pirkey Aboth, cap. v. 2, we have these words: "There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, that the long-suffering of God might appear; for each of these generations provoked him to anger, and went on in their iniquity, till at last the deluge came."

Were saved by water - While the ark was preparing, only Noah's family believed; these amounted to eight persons; and these only were saved from the deluge δι ' ὑδατος, on the water: all the rest perished in the water; though many of them, while the rains descended, and the waters daily increased, did undoubtedly humble themselves before God, call for mercy, and receive it; but as they had not repented at the preaching of Noah, and the ark was now closed, and the fountains of the great deep broken up, they lost their lives, though God might have extended mercy to their souls.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Which sometime were disobedient - Which were “once,” or “formerly,” ( ποτε potedisobedient or rebellious. The language here does not imply that they had ceased to be disobedient, or that they had become obedient at the time when the apostle wrote; but the object is to direct the attention to a former race of people characterized by disobedience, and to show the patience evinced under their provocations, in endeavoring to do them good. To say that people were formerly rebellious, or rebellious in a specified age, is no evidence that they are otherwise now. The meaning here is, that they did not obey the command of God when he called them to repentance by the preaching of Noah. Compare 2 Peter 2:5, where Noah is called “a preacher of righteousness.”

When once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah - God waited on that guilty race for 120 years, Genesis 6:3, a period sufficiently protracted to evince his long-suffering toward one generation. It is not improbable that during that whole period Noah was, in various ways, preaching to that wicked generation. Compare the notes at Hebrews 11:7.

While the ark was a preparing - It is probable that preparations were made for building the ark during a considerable portion of that time. Peter‘s, at Rome, was a much longer time in building; and it is to be remembered that in the age of the world when Noah lived, and with the imperfect knowledge of the arts of naval architecture which must have prevailed, it was a much more serious undertaking to construct an ark that would hold such a variety and such a number of animals as that was designed to, land that would float safely for more than a year in an universal flood, than it was to construct such a fabric as Peter‘s, in the days when that edifice was raised.

Wherein few, that is, eight souls - Eight persons - Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives, Genesis 7:7. The allusion to their being saved here seems to be to encourage those whom Peter addressed to perseverance and fidelity, in the midst of all the opposition which they might experience. Noah was not disheartened. Sustained by the Spirit of Christ - the presence of the Son of God - he continued to preach. He did not abandon his purpose, and the result was that tie was saved. True, they were few in number who were saved; the great mass continued to be wicked; but this very fact should be an encouragement to us - that though the great mass of any one generation may be wicked, God can protect and save the few who are faithful.

By water - They were borne up by the waters, and were thus preserved. The thought on which the apostle makes his remarks turn, and which leads him in the next verse to the suggestions about baptism, is, that water was employed in their preservation, or that they owed their safety, in an important sense, to that element. In like manner we owe our salvation, in an important sense, to water; or, there is an important agency which it is made to perform in our salvation. The apostle does not say that it was in the same way, or that the one was a type designed to represent the other, or even that the efficacy of water was in both cases the same; but he says, that as Noah owed his salvation to water, so there is an important sense in which water is employed in ours. There is in certain respects - he does not say in all respects - a resemblance between the agency of water in the salvation of Noah, and the agency of water in our salvation. In both cases water is employed, though it may not be that it is in the same manner, or with precisely the same efficacy.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him. What was the ground and reason of their hope? We should be able to defend our religion with meekness, in the fear of God. There is no room for any other fears where this great fear is; it disturbs not. The conscience is good, when it does its office well. That person is in a sad condition on whom sin and suffering meet: sin makes suffering extreme, comfortless, and destructive. Surely it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, whatever our natural impatience at times may suggest. The example of Christ is an argument for patience under sufferings. In the case of our Lord's suffering, he that knew no sin, suffered instead of those who knew no righteousness. The blessed end and design of our Lord's sufferings were, to reconcile us to God, and to bring us to eternal glory. He was put to death in respect of his human nature, but was quickened and raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christ could not be freed from sufferings, why should Christians think to be so? God takes exact notice of the means and advantages people in all ages have had. As to the old world, Christ sent his Spirit; gave warning by Noah. But though the patience of God waits long, it will cease at last. And the spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, where those that despised Noah's warning now are, and from whence there is no redemption. Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water, which carried him above the floods, set forth the salvation of all true believers. That temporal salvation by the ark was a type of the eternal salvation of believers by baptism of the Holy Spirit. To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism, of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery. Rest not then till thou art cleansed by the Spirit of Christ and the blood of Christ. His resurrection from the dead is that whereby we are assured of purifying and peace.
Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 504

I have a message for those standing at the head of our educational institutions. I am instructed to call the attention of every one occupying a position of responsibility, to the divine law as the basis of all right conduct. I am to begin by calling attention to the law given in Eden, and to the reward of obedience and the penalty of disobedience. FE 504.1

In consequence of Adam's transgression, sin was introduced into the fair world that God had created, and men and women became more and still more bold in disobeying His law. The Lord looked down upon the impenitent world, and decided that He must give transgressors an exhibition of His power. He caused Noah to know His purpose, and instructed him to warn the people while building an ark in which the obedient could find shelter until God's indignation was overpast. For one hundred and twenty years Noah proclaimed the message of warning to the antediluvian world; but only a few repented. Some of the carpenters he employed in building the ark, believed the message, but died before the flood; others of Noah's converts backslid. The righteous on the earth were but few, and only eight lived to enter the ark. These were Noah and his family. FE 504.2

The rebellious race was swept away by the flood. Death was their portion. By the fulfillment of the prophetic warning that all who would not keep the commandments of heaven should drink the waters of the flood, the truth of God's word was exemplified. FE 504.3

After the flood the people once more increased on the earth, and wickedness also increased. Idolatry became well-nigh universal, and the Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of His law for future generations. To him the message came, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee.” And by faith Abraham obeyed. “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” FE 504.4

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 76

The Lord said of Noah and his family, who were saved in the ark, “For thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.” Genesis 7:1. Noah had but one wife, and their united family discipline was blessed of God. Because Noah's sons were righteous they were preserved in the ark with their righteous father. God has not sanctioned polygamy in a single instance. It is contrary to His will. He knew that the happiness of man would be destroyed by it. Abraham's peace was greatly marred by his unhappy marriage with Hagar. SR 76.1

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 69

Anxiously did Noah and his family watch the decrease of the waters. He desired to go forth upon the earth again. He sent out a raven which flew back and forth to and from the ark. He did not receive the information he desired, and he sent forth a dove, which, finding no rest, returned to the ark again. After seven days the dove was sent forth again, and when the olive leaf was seen in its mouth, there was great rejoicing by this family of eight, which had so long been shut up in the ark. SR 69.1

Again an angel descended and opened the door of the ark. Noah could remove the top, but he could not open the door which God had shut. God spoke to Noah through the angel who opened the door, and bade the family of Noah go forth out of the ark and bring forth with them every living thing. SR 69.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 396.3

In the exercise of the longsuffering of God, He gives to nations a certain period of probation, but there is a point which, if they pass, there will be the visitation of God in His indignation. He will punish. The world has been advancing from one degree of contempt for God's law to another, and the prayer may be appropriate at this time, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).... 3SM 396.3

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