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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Baptism Points to the Way of Escape (1 Peter 3:21-22)

Another essential aspect of the way in which the flood depicts baptism is the divinely-provided means of escape. As far as the flood was concerned, the means of escape was the ark that Noah built. The ark of Noah points to the One that God has provided as the Saviour of his people, and baptism also points to Jesus and his work. We can imagine the family of Noah asking him whether or not the ark was secure, and we then can see him answering in detail why he is confident that it will keep all of them and the animals safe during the awful days when God’s judgement was poured forth.

In a grander manner, Peter informs his readers of the reasons why their Saviour will keep them safe and they are listed in the last phrase of verse 21 and in verse 22: ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.’ Each of these details should provide assurance, which means that the combined effect should be strong assurance. 

Peter reminds his readers of what has happened to and through Jesus. Perhaps the apostle here is giving a hint at the most appropriate way for baptised people to interact with one another – tell one another about Jesus. Of course, a lot could be said about Jesus. Here Peter refers to four aspects of what he previously summarised as ‘the glories that would follow’ the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:11). They are his resurrection, his ascension, his enthronement and his servants. 

Peter states that what gives meaning to their ritual of baptism is the resurrection of Jesus. We are familiar with many rituals that are totally meaningless because of a lack of real power connected to them. Indeed Christian baptism was not the only form of baptism that was practised – many Jewish groups had their own reasons for including baptisms in their religious practices. What would make Christian baptism effective and not like these other kinds? The resurrection power of Jesus is the answer. Christian baptism is an outward sign that it is possible to experience union with Jesus Christ through faith. As we watch baptisms or recall our own baptisms, we should reflect on the power of the risen Christ. 

The resurrection of Jesus is clear evidence that he has defeated all his and our enemies. On the cross, as he bore the judgement of God, he dealt with the claims of God’s law against us and defeated the powers of darkness; from the cross he entered into death as a Conqueror determined to remove its iron hold, and his resurrection is proof that he has done so.

Peter has been encouraging his readers who may be about to suffer for their faith in Jesus. The highest form of encouragement that he can give them is to think about the glories that Jesus entered into after his sufferings. In a similar way, they too would have glory after this life of suffering for Jesus is over. Great though their sufferings may now be, they cannot be compared with the glory that Christians will receive. Paul puts it this way: ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us’ (Rom. 8:18). Thinking about their baptism and what it signified would help them to recall what Jesus had done for them.

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