1 Peter 3:21
Our Bible reading today comes from 1 Peter chapter 3 and Peter here has been writing about the story of Noah and the ark and how the ark rose above the waters to save everyone. And he uses that as a picture of baptism. He says
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. (1 Peter 3:21)
How old do you think you were when you could have explained to me what it meant to be a human being? Maybe four or five years old? Maybe six? The fact that it took you that long didn’t mean that at age 2 you weren’t a human being. It just meant that logically your ability to speak about it and to reason and think it through finally caught up with what you were. When I was a little child, the first day I was born, my parents had me baptized and yet I couldn’t explain obviously that first day what it meant to be a Christian. Maybe by age 4 or 5 my intellect caught up with being able to now explain what it meant that I belonged to Jesus as a Christian. But the fact that my intellect hadn’t caught up to that point didn’t mean that at age 2 I wasn’t a believer in Christ.
God speaks some very powerful words about baptism. Listen to some of the things that God says takes place in us with baptism. He says it brings us from the kingdom of darkness and unbelief to the kingdom of light and faith. We are now clothed with Christ St. Paul says. That means we’re given his holy perfect record before God. God through this act gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s faith in Jesus. God tells us he connects it to the forgiveness of our sins. It’s called the washing of regeneration that means giving us new spiritual life before God. The Bible says that we are cleansed and made holy through the washing with water through the word.
And so my intellect was finally able to catch up by age five or six to explain what it meant that I was a Christian. And yet even back on that first day when I was baptized God gave me all of those wonderful gifts in my baptism. When our Lord Jesus went into the water to be baptized he didn’t need it to receive all of these gifts. He didn’t need his sins forgiven because he didn’t have any. He didn’t need righteousness given to him because he already possessed it. But he went into the water of baptism to put all of those gifts into it for you and me. So that all of those treasures in baptism could now come to us when God has us baptized in the name of Christ.
Baptism is more than just kind of an outward act and an outward thing that we do. It’s not just like washing dirt off of our body and off of our skin, but God always connects it to the saving work of Jesus Christ. He always connects us to what happened on the cross in baptism. That’s why Peter says to us baptism now saves us. That means it takes us to heaven. He says it’s the pledge, the guarantee, of a good conscience toward God. And in the same way that the ark was lifted by the water so that the people inside of it were brought to safety. This is what baptism now does for us. It lifts us so that we will go to heaven and saves us before God.
May God give all of us hearts of faith to truly appreciate the gifts that he brings us in baptism so that someday we can live in his presence forevermore, amen.