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"Baptism Now Saves You"

1 Peter 3:13-22

Rev. Alan Taylor

Easter 6, series A
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, May 21, 2017 

In Nomine Jesu

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

By all appearances it was an ordinary day.  Well, except for the fact there was a guy out in the wilderness who was building a huge ark and shouting for people to repent of their sins.  The ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall.  It was massive, especially for the time, but the thing is, there was no water anywhere in sight to float it. 

Noah appeared to be a mad man.  But, in reality, he was on a mission from God.  “God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for ALL flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.  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.  Make yourself an ark.”

Noah wasn’t crazy at all.  He was a servant of God and he was doing precisely what God commanded him to do.  Still, he had to be the brunt of a lot of jokes.  His ark was impressive and his craftsmanship was impeccable, but no one, with the exception of Noah and his family, really believed that God was going flood the earth and destroy every living thing!  Noah preached to deaf ears.  It was as if God didn’t matter.  But, He did matter and because no one would listen to Noah, He wiped everyone off of the face of the earth.

The flood was a horrific event.  To deal with it we turn it in to a sort of a nursery rhyme for the kids and among adults we interject humor into it.  My favorite meme of the flood is one where Noah is about to close the doors of the ark.  There are dinosaurs standing around on the dry ground as the water begins to soak the earth and one of the dinosaurs says to another, “was that today?”

What happened that day gives us a completely different image of God than the one that is commonly held by people today, doesn’t it?  I mean, these days God is most often viewed as a grandfatherly type figure who sits around in heaven, rocking away the hours, waiting for all of His children to come home.  He’s not much concerned with what people do or don’t do.  Right and wrong are categories that no longer apply because God sees everyone the same.  We’re all simply doing the best we can, trying to get through life so we can join in heaven.  God isn’t really seen as a God of wrath.  He’s not seen as a God love either though.  No, He’s seen simply as a god of tolerance and of permissiveness.  As such, He condones whatever it is we decide to do with our lives.

Mimicking those who lived in the days of Noah, people today are turning away from God in alarming numbers.  Hyper individualism is thought to be one of the main reasons why.  “The U.S. (says a recent study) may begin to look more and more like Northern Europe, where marriage is optional and religious participation is low. More young people will decide not to marry, even when they have children; 41% of babies were born to unmarried mothers in 2013, and this will likely continue to rise. Prejudice may never entirely leave us, but will increasingly be tossed into the dustbin of history, with transgender rights becoming the new civil rights movement after gay and lesbian rights become taken for granted. More Americans will disassociate from religion – not just in affiliation but in participation, religiosity, and belief.  The America of the future, if these trends hold, will be unchurched, unmarried, and unprejudiced.”

Culturally, it would seem that we’re trying to carve out our own little utopia here on earth.  Although, because God is considered irrelevant in our little cultural experiment, we are really carving out our own dystopia.  All the while, the Scriptures remind us that the God who judged the world by sending a raging flood to drown those who disobeyed His word in the days of Noah, is the same God who will ultimately return to judge both the living and the dead.  As it turns out, God does care about what we do and don’t do with our lives and the categories of right and wrong that once influenced our culture are the very standards by which we will one day be judged, that is, unless Christ is our advocate.

God saved Noah and his family purely by grace in order to save His creation.  Water, which once reeked havoc and brought death to the unbelieving world, brought life and salvation to Noah.  Peter, whose ultimate goal was to extol the grace and mercy of God, tells us about Noah and the flood in order to show us God’s saving grace and mercy, which are ultimately freely given to us in Holy Baptism.

“Baptism (Peter says), which corresponds to this (that is, to the water that saved Noah’s family), now saves YOU, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, 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.”

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now SAVES YOU.” It is nothing but the steely heart of a fallen humanity that views Holy Baptism as a human work, turning it into an offering to God, instead of a gracious gift of God that regenerates and restores life.  While the Scriptures clearly testify that Baptism saves you, some insist that it has no such power.  Rather, it is but a sign that the human will has made it’s solemn choice, it’s decision to follow God and to forsake all, rather than fall away from Him. 

Holy Baptism doesn’t simply affirm faith.  Rather, it creates it, connecting the baptized, by faith, to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The forgiveness, life and salvation purchased by Jesus with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, are credited to Baptized as their own.  The water that washed over you in your baptism was, as St. Paul writes elsewhere, “a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” It is most certainly just as Peter says, “Baptism now SAVES YOU.”

Just as it is the steely heart of a fallen humanity that views baptism as a human work, so it is the steely heart that denies baptism to the youngest among us.  Children, some would say, must not be baptized because they can’t believe.  And besides, they aren’t accountable for their sin until a certain age. 

Friends, I would take you back briefly to the flood once again.  This is really important because it shows the fallacy of human doctrines that have been interjected into the faith of so many.  Children were not excluded from God’s wrath in the days of Noah.  It’s a sobering fact!  They were washed away in the deluge because they too were included in the awful judgment of God!  There is, you see, no such thing as an age of accountability, for, as the Scriptures clearly teach, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Jesus clearly says, “let the little children come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of God.  Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom as a little child will never enter it.” “Baptism now SAVES YOU.” Children too are saved by the “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Right here this morning, at this font, a miracle of God was worked.  Little Bailey was marked with the sign of the cross both upon her forehead and upon her heart.  Water flowed over her.  As such, she has been redeemed by Christ, the crucified.  His death became her death and His resurrection from the dead became her resurrection from the dead.  She was, as St. Paul tells us, “transferred from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”

Holy Baptism is a gift of grace and not a human work!  One of the great tragedy’s in Christendom is that some have thought and continue to think otherwise.  God’s Word is truth and it’s that truth that finally sets us free, free to live our lives in Christ, our sins washed away and our lives declared holy, robed as we are, in the very righteousness and purity of Jesus Christ.  Baptism, which corresponds to (the flood in the days of Noah), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Thanks be to God for His wondrous gift of grace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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