Crossfunction: 1 Peter 3: "Baptism now saves You..."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

1 Peter 3: "Baptism now saves You..."

1 In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives.
2 Considering your chaste conversation with fear.
3 Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel:
4 But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God.
5 For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands:
6 As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, doing well, and not fearing any disturbance.
7 Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel, and as to the co-heirs of the grace of life: that your prayers be not hindered.

8 And in fine, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble:
9 Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing.
10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.
11 Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it:
12 Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things.
13 And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?
14 But if also you suffer any thing for justice' sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled.
15 But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.
16 But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
17 For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill.
18 Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,
19 In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:
20 Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.
21 Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

22 Who is on the right hand of God, swallowing down death, that we might be made heirs of life everlasting: being gone into heaven, the angels and powers and virtues being made subject to him.

When Noah entered the ark, he was saved from the flood as a result of his obedience to God in building and entering the ark. His family members likewise were saved by following Noah into the ark, although we are not told whether at the time these relatives had faith in God or understood the disaster to come. In order to be saved from the flood it was sufficient that they merely board the ark and remain there until the water subsided.

It's interesting that Peter does not say that these individuals were "saved from the water", but rather "were saved by water". His interpretation -the interpretation of the New Testament- is that Noah's passage through the water is a prefigurement of Baptism. Just as the flood was sent by God to wash away sinners and sin, and the only sinners spared were those who submitted to God's plan of passage through the water, so in Baptism the water washes away sin and the baptized begin a new life.

In neither case -Noah's ark, or Baptism by water- does the water play a magical role. In both they are instruments used by God to transform the world and individuals, to end sinful lives of darkness and begin new lives as children of God.

It wasn't Noah's building of the ark that saved him. Rather, he was saved by God's fulfilling a promise in response to Noah's obedience: an uneven exchange in which a man offered simple obedience and in return received salvation from the flood for himself and his family.

Similarly, it isn't either water or the action of any human person which accomplishes the salvation that Peter attributes to Baptism. Rather, this salvation is granted through God's superabundant fulfillment of a promise in response to our obedience in submitting to His command to be baptized. Saint John Chrysostom (349-407, Bishop of Constantinople), said, "God does not need our work, but He does need our obedience." (Homilies on St. Matthew's Gospel, 56)

Note that circumcision and Baptism both require a visible human work. But the resulting profound change in one's spiritual status -entry into the old covenant, and entry into the new covenant, respectively- results from God's simultaneous action, performed in fulfillment of His divine promises.

Therefore Scripture teaches that the efficacy of Baptism rests on the bedrock of God's new covenant with man, just as the efficacy of circumcision rested on the old covenant.

Peter's teaching stands against any attempt to dilute the significance and power of Baptism. He does not say that Baptism is a 'figure' of Noah's ark, but the opposite: Noah's ark is an 'antitype' ('anti-tupon' in Greek) of Baptism. That is, the stupendous event of Noah's ark and the flood points to something even greater and more important. God's ultimate intention is not just the preservation of natural life in a world tainted by sin. Through Baptism God performs a far greater miracle: He actually washes away sin; He actually regenerates man from death to a new and eternal life; He grafts man into Christ; He does for man precisely what He desired to do ever since before the beginning of time: to make man a new creation and a true son of God.

Therefore Peter says "baptism now saves You".


What happens when we are Baptized?

-what does Scripture explicitly teach?

We are saved:

"he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:5 RSV

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:19-21 RSV

We put on Christ:

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Galatians 3:27 RSV

We are incorporated into Christ's Body:

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -Jews or Greeks, slaves or free..." 1 Corinthians 12:13 RSV

We drink of the one Spirit:

"...and all were made to drink of one Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:13 RSV

We are united with Christ's death and burial, and we are raised with Him:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" Romans 6:3 RSV

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

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" Colossians 2:11-13 RSV

We are washed and regenerated:

"he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:5 RSV

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," Ephesians 5:25-26 RSV

Our hearts are cleansed from an "evil conscience":

"let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22 RSV

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:19-21 RSV

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