Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28th - Baptism Now Saves You

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Bethany Going to Indianapolis
Bethany's Grandma going to Hawaii
Sarah and Mark Geil in Chicago
Greg Traveling
Dave Back at Work
Baby Eden
Christians in Iraq

Text – 1 Peter 3:18-22

I’ve done so much research on this passage this week that I have to teach it today, which is why we’re skipping verses 8-12 for now. Those verses are on prayer and I’m anticipating another Prayer Sunday, so we’ll hold off for a little so it can be taught on with the whole church.

The passage we are going to look at today is the only passage which Martin Luther didn’t have a definite belief on what it meant, and one that has caused a lot of confusion and arguments and even heresies have come out of it. The major heresy is baptismal regeneration, the belief that a person has to be baptized rightly in water in order to be saved. A baptismal regeneration belief will keep you from grace and keep you out of Heaven.

As we look at this lesson, one thing I’d really like you to take away is that baptism, which means immersion, is not synonymous with water, and water is not synonymous with baptism. You can be baptized, immersed, in the Spirit, in fire, in peanut butter, or in water. Likewise, you can go swimming in water and it not be counted baptism, even though in the strictest sense of the word, you are immersed.

A smaller mistake, and one that won’t keep you out of Heaven, but is still wrong, is the idea that Christ went to Hell. The newer versions of the Apostle’s Creed contain this belief,

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
-the Maker of heaven and earth,
-and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
-born of the virgin Mary,
-suffered under Pontius Pilate,
-was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
-and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
-from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
-the holy universal church;
-the communion of saints;
-the forgiveness of sins;
-the resurrection of the body;
-and the life everlasting.

We’ll look at our passage today and see that there is no evidence nor reason to believe that Christ descended into Hell, but rather that the lowest he descended was from Heaven to Earth.

So let’s read our verse before we get too far ahead of ourselves. First though, usually I read from the ESV, I think it is a great Bible. However, here it is terribly translated to try to make it out that Christ went to Hell, and so today we’ll read from the NIV because it accurately translates the Greek. The NASB is also good.

I feel it is important for me to point this out because if you were to say read the NIV and the HCSB together, you’d see that this passage says two totally different things. One of Peter’s major points throughout his Epistles is to teach us both what the Holy Spirit says, and second how to read the Bible, you’ll see this in a major way when we look at 1 Peter 3:8-12 and 2 Peter 1. When we look at verses like the one we’re about to read it is more important to ask, “What does the Bible mean and what does the Holy Spirit want me to learn?” rather than, “What does this mean to me? How else can I interpret it?” We want to know what Peter originally meant, and I believe pretty strongly that this is how I’m going to teach it to you today, and how the NIV translates it.

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

The first thing Peter does is setup the context for what he’s about to say, having previously been talking about the suffering of the saints for the sake of God’s righteousness.

v.18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

This is my favorite verse. Christ was crucified ultimately for standing for righteousness, he suffered for doing good, and even though he was crucified for a very bad reason, check out what he accomplished, he has brought us to God. What men meant for bad, crucifying the Son of God, God used for good, saving all who would repent and believe the gospel.

It’s a very important point that Christ died once, as evidenced by the rest of the verse,

v.18 He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…

Christ, though dead in the body, did not cease to exist or go to Hell to suffer in death, but was made alive by the Spirit. His body was laid in a tomb, yet he was able to say to a dying saint,

Luke 23:43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Peter is reminding his audience that there are two major parts to you, a perishable body and an imperishable soul. We see our bodies everyday so we begin to think we’re bodies with souls, but it is much better to think of ourselves as souls with bodies. This will cause us to take better care of our souls than our bodies, because our souls will endure forever but our bodies will waste away. Take a car for example, when it’s going down the road we think it’s a car with a person in it, but really it’s a person controlling the car.

Peter takes a radical tangent all of the sudden to really make his point well. I don’t know why he goes where he goes, it’s not where I would have gone, but it makes his point and makes it well.

v.19-20 also he went and preached to the spirits (who are now) in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

How long does your average body last? 70 years maybe? 120 if you’re fortunate. Check out this major point Peter is making, Christ’s Spirit which he has today (AD 65), is the same Spirit he had in 2,400 BC, and ultimately it’s the same Spirit he’ll have forever. We know Christ’s Spirit is eternal with no beginning and no end, but Peter here is showing that Christ’s Spirit has been the same for 2,400 years, that’s a little longer than his body of 33 years was on earth.

Christ preached through Noah to the wicked generation before the flood. The Greek very clearly states that the same Spirit of Christ preached to the people in Noah’s day, which are now souls in Hell. After spending about fifteen hours of research on this I can’t see why anyone would remotely believe Christ went to Hell to preach to dead people. Christ did not go to Hell. He went through all of the sufferings of Hell on the cross, but there was absolutely no reason for him to have to go to Hell. John Calvin, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived, is only wrong on two points, first that he liked to get babies wet, and second that he believed Jesus went to Hell. I mention that so you trust the Bible more than men, although men can and do certainly reveal the truth in amazing ways, they can and do make mistakes, while the Holy Spirit never will.

Ephesians 4:7-10 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

We’re going to talk in depth about Noah and the flood in Second Peter, so to cover this only basically, the people of Noah’s day were exceedingly wicked; greedy, violent, corrupt, yet Noah preached righteousness to them, and we believe the ark was considerably bigger than it needed to be, it could have held many more people if they would have just believed in God’s judgment and gotten on the boat. But they wouldn’t.

v.20 In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved by water

Wait a minute, I thought Noah and his family were saved by an ark. They were saved from God’s wrath by the ark, but what saved them from evil and corrupt men? The flood. Because God sent the flood which he brought Noah and his family through, he saved them from the violent generation of Noah’s day.

v.21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We’re going to talk a whole lot more about the mode and history of baptism next week, but this week we’re just going to look at what Peter means here. He says baptism saves you…the question is from what? I don’t doubt at all that baptism saves you, it’s just not that it saves you from the wrath of God like Jesus saves you.

Baptism (immersion), into death, saves you from the suffering and wickedness of this world, and just as the ark brought Noah and his family safely through the flood to a new world, so will Christ’s resurrection be that ark which brings us safely through death to a New Jerusalem.

This is why we say what we say from Romans 6 when someone is baptized,

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water baptism is purely symbolic of the event that our soul went through, dying to sin and raising to Eternal life. But there is a second baptism, immersion, into physical death in which we are saved from the ability to sin as well as its effects. Baptism, therefore, into death, saves you. The world knows this when they give the eulogy, “He’s in a better place now.”

But the caveat is that believers are saved from wickedness by death, and saved from God’s wrath by Jesus, where-as unbelievers step out of this world into infinitely worse consequences for sin. So it is not true of everyone who dies, “he’s in a better place now.” When George Carlin died I preached at KSU that he’s in an infinitely worse place now and is praying that someone would go and warn his family, friends, and fans not to come there! (cf. Luke 16)

Right in the middle of verse 21 Peter gives a very quick addendum to make sure readers don’t think that the symbolic baptism by immersion in water is what saves,

v.21 (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God)

Martin Luther used to take every bath in remembrance of the baptism of his soul, the cleansing of his conscience, because the reason we need frequent washings is because we constantly get dirty. Read this back to verse 18, Christ died ONCE for all, his one act of obedience has made us righteous forever, so that where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. We don’t need to work for salvation, we don’t need to be physically baptized, we don’t need to continually confess, because Christ has done all the work, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that he might bring us to God. Next week we’ll look at why we do get baptized, because there is a very good reason, and to not do so is a sin, but a sin which Christ is more than capable of paying for.

v.22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

So Peter’s major point, coming from verse 13, is that suffering is a part of the Christian life, but that Christ has gone before and has proved many magnificent things, first that he is mighty to save from sin and death, to reconcile us to God having absorbed the wrath, and that there is a soul that lives on after death.

We have this promise, that to live is Christ, and to die is gain, for our lasting city is the city in which Christ sits and reigns over, where angels, authorities, powers, and all things are in submission to him. We seek that city.

But until then, we seek to bring others with us, witnessing for righteousness’ sake, suffering for Christ’s sake, even into death, but this baptism into death saves us forever from pain and suffering.

Many people want to die peacefully in their sleep at a hundred years old. For the Christians they will pass into eternal peace, for the wicked they will pass into eternal death. Me, if given the option, I would face the most heinous of tortures to death, for truly this baptism will save me and for all the rest of eternity I will feel not a pinprick of pain.

So stand up for righteousness, no matter the cost. Are you afraid of having your feelings hurt? They crucified your Saviour. Are you afraid of the pain? They plucked his beard out by its roots. Are you afraid of the shame? They spit on him and crowned him with thorns. Are you afraid of losing friends? Christ’s friends ran from him and one of them sold him for the price of a slave. Are you afraid of death? Death has lost its sting. Are you afraid of failure? Through Christ we are assured of the victory.

Truly nothing of consequence stands between us and our King. God, once our greatest enemy, is now our loving Father; Death, once a daunting darkness, is now a friend; Life, once our greatest treasure, is beset on every side with pain and suffering; Christ, once just a name, is now our supreme reward.

So place your trust on him, lay hold of Christ, and while your body shall pass away, your spirit will reign eternally with the Living Christ, the righteous and triumphant Saviour.