What Should We do Now?
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
1st Peter 3:20-4:11
We have been studying through 1st Peter; last week I inadvertently stepped back an entire chapter, and taught on the end of chapter 2, again, where we saw that the believer is “Dead to Sin and Alive to God.” It was not intentional and I was pretty confused, as you may recall, when I discovered that I had studied the “wrong” chapter! But it turned out well, because it actually laid a good foundation for today’s message! (Today, we are in chapter three!)
How is the Genesis Flood a “picture of Baptism?”
In verses 18-20, Peter reminded us that Jesus, in the person of the Holy Spirit (also referred to as “the Spirit of Christ” in 1st Peter 1:11) went and preached through Noah, to the people of Noah’s day, who rebelled against the message Noah preached. And they have been in hades ever since the Flood, awaiting final judgment. But the initial judgment, which separated Noah from the World, and the World from him, was the Flood. And Peter confirms that in some way, the Flood is a picture of Baptism.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Our automatic assumption is that the “water” of the Flood is a foreshadowing of the “water”of water baptism. This is flawed thinking, though: We have already seen that water baptism is only a “picture” of the real baptism (1st Corinthians 12:13) which is the fact of the believer being placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. We also saw (in our Wednesday night Bible Study) that anyone can receive water baptism, and, if they are an unbeliever, all they get out of it is a soaking and possibly a false sense of security, thinking that “baptism saved me!” (Possibly even because of this passage!) But only a believer receives the Baptism by the Holy Spirit, and it happens at the moment of faith, resulting in the New Birth!
Remember, now, that the Flood permanently “separated” Noah and his family from the rest of the World’s population, and “separated” all of them, not only from Noah, but from their own physical bodies. We call that particular separation “Physical death.” Sadly, they had also been unbelievers, spiritually separated from God, so they were eternally lost, and now they face eternal separation from God in the lake of fire, which is called the “Second death” in Revelation 20:14.
So, if this really is a “picture of baptism,” (and God says it is!) then we need to ask, which kind of baptism would it most closely match? Does “water baptism” separate you from the world? No, because any unbeliever can be baptized…and it has zero spiritual effect on him/her. In fact, water baptism has no “spiritual effect” at all, in terms of salvation. It does mark a “step of obedience,” in a new believer’s life. And, in some cultures, that step of obedience will permanently separate the believer from their own society, because that society recognizes baptism as a public declaration that the believer is permanently identified with Christ. And that is true, outwardly.
But in reality, if the person was not already a believer, and already permanently identified with Christ, by the “real” baptism (the Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ) then the water baptism is simply a lie…the person is publicly “declaring something to have happened” that has not happened!
So, what kind of Baptism saves us? The Real one! The moment that you believed the Gospel, placing your dependence upon the blood of Jesus for your salvation, the Holy Spirit placed you into the Body of Christ. This is the “real” baptism, and it is a permanent transaction: Jesus said (John 6:37) “…He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out!”
So, the same separation that put Noah on the inside of the Ark and the unbelieving World on the outside, is accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit. The “door behind us” is closed, just as it was for Noah—we cannot leave. But it is still open to anyone who will enter in by faith. Unlike Noah’s day, it is not too late to be saved…yet. That door will close, someday.
For those of us who have entered in, Jesus says we have been washed and we stand before Him clean: He no longer sees us as guilty sinners. Jesus said in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you” And, in 1st Corinthians 6:11, Paul reiterated this, saying, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed (you are clean!), but ye are sanctified (you are holy!, but ye are justified (you have been declared righteous!) in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (The “filth of the Flesh” has been put away, positionally: see Ephesians 4:22)
The fact is, Water Baptism cannot accomplish any of those things! So that is not what this verse is talking about. Only the Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ accomplishes all these things. And, best of all, we don’t have to seek it, we don’t have to pray for it, or wait for it, or anything else! The moment you believed, whether you knew it or not, all these things happened in your life! And, until Acts chapter 2, it hadn’t happened to anyone before; but now it happens to every single believer! (Romans 8:9 says that if you don’t have the Spirit of God living in you, you aren’t His child. It’s a good thing we don’t have to do anything to gain this blessing. This is strictly positional truth. If you are in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, whether you know it or not!) That’s Good News!
What Should We do Now?
1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
We talked about this idea last week: the fact that we are dead to sin, and alive to God! Jesus took our place under the wrath of God, so that, as our representative, He literally “died in our place.” And, according to God’s Law, that means we are dead! God’s justice has been satisfied; the price has been paid. The Law no longer calls for my death, because it now sees me as having died with Christ! The argument, here (and throughout the rest of the New Testament) is that because I am dead with Him, and resurrected with Him, and since I am thereby free to “walk in the newness of life” with Him, I need to get on with it, and do just that!
3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Notice that he says we all originally had our roots in the World. He also says, that our background there should be enough of that—it should suffice! We have already done the things the World expected, to one degree or another. We don’t need to “go back for more.” Even now, we still live “in” the World, but God says we are no longer “of” the World. So, all the things that once were common in most people’s lives (to one degree or another) are no longer “normal behavior” for us. (Perhaps you think that you “don’t fit” in this short list. There is a much more comprehensive “list” in Romans 1:18-32, and I can guarantee you will find yourself there!)
4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
And how does the World see us now? We are the oddballs! They see us as “strange” and they say bad things about us because of our new position. This reaction is not limited to faith in Christ: at my work there was a national certification (Certified Welding Inspector…CWI) which was available to welding inspectors, but the inspection department at work scorned it, for some reason. So every time an individual inspector chose to study and prepare, and pay over $1,000 out of their own pocket to take that exam—a very difficult test—they were rejected by the other inspectors! They were accused of thinking they were “better” than the others! They were harassed until either they left the department or left the company!
That is a pretty sad thing, but it parallels how the World feels toward Christians: they say we are “goody two-shoes,” or that we act as if we are “holier-than-thou!” (Or other accusations: Hypocrites! Phonies! Etc.)
Verse five in the King James uses an old English word, “quick,” meaning “alive.” We still use the word “quick” in this way, but only in extremely limited context. If we cut our fingernails too short, so that they are sore, or even so that they bleed, we say “I accidently cut into the quick,” meaning, “I cut into the living flesh!” Or, if we are deeply hurt by someone else’s words, we might say, “I was cut to the quick by their words!” So, this passage says that those who falsely accuse believers will face the judgment of Him who judges “the living and the dead.” It has nothing to do with “fast reflexes,” though this verse is frequently misused to mean that, because, over the centuries, the meaning of the word has changed.
6 For for this cause was the gospel preached (past tense) also to them that are (present tense) dead, that they might be judged (future tense) according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
I love seeing the “changing tenses” in verses like this: it lets me see that those who were dead (at that time Peter was writing, which was present tense) had received the Gospel earlier (past tense…looking back to verses 18-20, so, I would like to say it refers to the time of Noah) and that the result is that they will be judged (future tense.) However, it also specifies that whoever this refers to will be judged according to human judgment in the flesh, but (possibly meaning if they had responded in faith) they would live according to God in the Spirit. So that is a little strange, and it cannot refer back to Noah’s day. Those people lost their opportunity and will certainly not live unto God.
Perhaps I need to look at it another way: the Gospel was preached to me while I was dead in trespasses and sins (past tense,) so that (present and future tense) though I will continue to be judged harshly by humans, I am alive to God, and can live for Him by the Spirit. I think I have to look at it this way, for all three tenses to fit. So, knowing that God the Son is the judge of the living and the dead, and that I am now, permanently, one of the living, what should I do next?
Be Serious about This!
7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Peter gives some solid commands as to how we are to respond to the knowledge of God:
- Be Sober! Take this seriously!
- Be in Prayer! This is a serious thing, too…not to be taken lightly. It is not “saying prayers:” it is talking to God, bringing confession, praise and thanksgiving, as well as requests for help for one another.
- Above all, “Love one another with the Agapé love!” That covers a lot of faults!
- Be hospitable (love of the stranger) toward one another without selfishness. The word translated “hospitality,” oddly enough, is “philoxenoi:” the “love of the stranger.” This rules out the attitude of, “I don’t know them well enough to want them in my home.” I am bound to extend hospitality to every believer, as a bare minimum: serving to meet the needs of the brethren.
10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Peter closes this passage by stating that whatever my gift (or yours) is, it is to be used to serve (that is what “minister” means) in order to bless the assembly. If it is a speaking gift, I need to recognize that I am acting as a “mouthpiece for God,” and be very careful what I say, and how I present it. If I serve in any capacity, I must serve as God has gifted me to serve, always recognizing that I am serving Him, not just people.
The result should be that whatever my gifts may be, my exercising of those gifts should bring glory to God through Jesus, not “glory to me through pride.” (That can happen so easily!) I remind myself regularly that the flock belongs to God: whatever I do toward the flock, I do as a service to Him. It is not for personal self-aggrandizement, or to seek honor, or even “desiring the limelight,” so to speak…wanting to attract attention. (The Holy Spirit does not attract attention to Himself. He works to glorify Jesus!)
I would just as soon “take a back seat” entirely, and at times in the past, I have attempted to do just that: to maintain that deliberate “low-profile.” But God has always ended up putting me back to the task of teaching believers to understand His Word. So I no longer resist it…I just throw myself on His Mercy, and confess that only He can truly feed His Flock.
I don’t know how else to proceed. Each of us shares this responsibility before God. All we can do is to seek to please Him daily, and look for His leading in service.
Lord Jesus, we hardly know how to stand before you: we often feel that we don’t know what we should do. Please guide us into all truth, and teach us to walk with you in faithfulness.