Last year, on Shabbos Lech Lecha a friend and I went to a tisch bei Rav Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, while he was visiting Chicago (the tish was in Lincolnwood). The Novominsker said over the following regarding the debate over the status of Noach if he had lived in the generation of Avraham.
He said that, while he was holding up a shot glass, that for 2000 years before Avraham the world was empty. He then filled the shot glass half way with wiskey and said that in Noach’s zechus the world was saved. Noach’s level of Torah was not as great as that of Avraham, but Noach helped fill the world with his understanding of Hashem and his Torah.
The Novominsker went on to say that in life we can look at a glass as either half empty or half full. He said, we should look at it as half full. Because of Noach we are alive today. Noach was able to recognize that the glass was half full. He had a relationship with the one who poured the drink. Then came Avraham. His job was to m’kadesh the world around him. That’s why the Chumash says that he and his children walked w/ Hashem in Tzedek (charity) and Mishpat (justice). These ideas are known to the non-Jewish world, too. The difference is that Avraham was able to m’kadesh these concepts. That was his gadlus. Avraham took the half filled glass and made a bracha over it, using it for kedusha. That was Avraham’s avodah…to m’kadesh everything in his world. This is also our avodah today. Noach stated the work, Avraham continued, and now it’s our turn.