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  • Chad Werkhoven

Genesis 8:20-22 - Unsinkable Sin

Was the great flood a symbol of God's justice, or His mercy? Yes.


Genesis 8:20-22 (ESV)

CONTEXT: Noah, his family and all of the animals have just come out of the ark.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”


Listen to passage & devotional:


Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 15: The Doctrine of Original Sin

We believe

that by the disobedience of Adam

original sin has been spread

through the whole human race.

It is a corruption of all nature—

an inherited depravity which even infects small infants

in their mother’s womb,

and the root which produces in man

every sort of sin.

It is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight

that it is enough to condemn the human race,

and it is not abolished

or wholly uprooted

even by baptism,

seeing that sin constantly boils forth

as though from a contaminated spring.


it is not imputed to God’s children

for their condemnation

but is forgiven

by his grace and mercy—

not to put them to sleep

but so that the awareness of this corruption

might often make believers groan

as they long to be set free

from the “body of this death.”

Therefore we reject the error of the Pelagians

who say that this sin is nothing else than a matter of imitation.



Was the great flood a symbol of God's justice, or His mercy? Yes.

The flood narrative begins with these words from the sixth chapter of Genesis:

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

God certainly was justified in raining His justice down upon His rebellious creation drop by drop until the whole earth was inundated, snuffing out all life. Well, not all life; God in His great mercy preserved the life of Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal.

But as Noah and crew disembark their massive lifeboat and begin the process of resettling the newly 'washed' earth, it becomes immediately clear that the root of the problem persisted. That God immediately makes a covenantal promise to them shouldn't be surprising, for God always deals with His image bearers within a covenantal framework.

But in the midst of the wonderful promises that God will never again destroy all living creatures in a flood, and that the seasons will continue without ceasing, God makes it painfully clear that the issue which precipitated the flood in the first place will continue:

...The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

Dig Deeper

Sin is not a learned behavior. Certainly many specific sins are the result of people replicating what they've seen done by others, which is why the example parents set for subsequent generations is so critically important, but our sinful condition is something we're born into. More than that, says King David. It's something we're conceived in (Psalm 51:5).

So the story of the great flood is not just a giant 'do-over' opportunity that God gives to man. Just a paragraph after God seals this covenant with creation by setting a rainbow in the sky, Noah and his sons have already fallen into the most grievous of sins. They weren't imitating the sins of others, for there was nobody left to imitate; they were just following their heart.

Sin and guilt is so intertwined with you that it's wrapped up in your DNA. This is why the New Testament emphasizes your need to not just change your behavior, but to change your very nature; you need to go from being in Adam and his sin to being grafted into Christ and His righteousness.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who is fully just and fully merciful, and who provides His people with rescue, just as He did for believing Noah and his family;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that more and more you will die to the sinful nature you were conceived in and come to new life in Christ;



Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 20


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