1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
February 22, 2015
The 40 days of Lent reflect several 40 day and year intervals in the Bible, especially Jesus’ temptation that we consider today. As Sundays are “Little Easters,” they are not counted in the 40 days, so today is the first Sunday in Lent, not of Lent.
Very early, during Lent new believers prepared for baptism on Easter. This soon developed into a season of spiritual renewal for all believers, preparing for mission.
For Jesus, 40 days of testing followed his baptism, having passed the test, he launched his public ministry.
My hope is that contemplating baptism today will feed our confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuel introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus.
In the compact space of 7 verses, Mark 1:9-15 presents Jesus’ baptism, temptation and start of ministry with fierceness not evident in Matthew and Luke (not in John at all). Usually I tell the Gospel before explaining it, but today I want to point out Mark’s distinctive features so you can listen for them.
When Jesus came up from the water of his baptism, Matthew and Luke said heaven was opened, but Mark wrote “he saw the heavens torn apart.” (v. 10)
Matthew and Luke said the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but Mark wrote, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” (v. 12)
Matthew and Luke called the tempter “the devil,” but Mark called him “Satan.” Satan is not the devil’s name but identifies him as “the accuser” as we see ha satan in Job 1-2 and the accuser of our brothers in Rev.12:10.
Only Mark wrote that while tested in the wilderness Jesus “was with the wild beasts.” (v. 13)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
We need some context and perspective to contemplate baptism in a way that feeds confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuels introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus.
In the interest of full disclosure, I tell you I did not come to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) until 2000. Candy and I were both baptized by immersion on profession of faith in the Baptist churches with whom we grew up. Our children were baptized by effusion (sprinkling) on profession of faith in the Presbyterian church we served in NJ. During my 17 years there, I assisted with the baptism of infants by effusion. Sharing our baptismal journeys could be interesting and fruitful.
Baptismal thinking in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has not been static but developed over the last two centuries. Part of Alexander Campbell’s break with the Presbyterians came when he refused to present his daughter for baptism arguing she should be baptized by immersion on her profession of faith, which he regarded as essential to her salvation. Barton Stone also advocated immersion on profession of faith, but in the interest of Christian unity was unwilling to reject what someone else considered their legitimate baptism, thus not necessarily essential for salvation. For many years, Campbell’s view prevailed, but since WW II, we have moved toward a view more like Stone’s, practicing believer’s immersion but accepting all Christian baptisms, and not re-baptizing. Interestingly, the NT used the words “pour” in Titus 3:6 and “sprinkle” in Hebrews 10:22 in association with baptism, and by the 2nd and 3rd centuries art in the catacombs showed John pouring water over Jesus. I’m not suggesting that resolves the conflicts, only interesting.
Contemplating what baptism accomplishes feeds confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuels introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus. Though Disciples have avoided the word “sacrament” until lately, it just means that baptism and communion were given by Jesus for believers in which something physical (ordinary) conveys something spiritual (holy, sacred, thus sacrament). Though scholars seem only to agree that 1 Peter 3:18-22 may the most difficult NT passage to interpret, it does shed light on the meaning of baptism.
The washing away of sin is the clearest spiritual reality conveyed in baptism, not water washing dirt from the body but by the resurrection of Christ. This is seen in Acts 22:16 and 2:38, which our Disciples forbearer Walter Scott gave as the five finger exercise: faith, repentance, baptism, forgiveness, receiving the Holy Spirit.
Just as sinless Jesus identified with us sinners when he was baptized, Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:11-12 tell us that we are identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection when we are baptized, and are clothed with his righteousness.
Titus 3:5 tells us that we are not saved by any works we have done, not even the ritual of baptism, but God saves us by his mercy in Christ. Baptism is not something we do for God, but God gives us baptism to assure us of our redemption, which is an objective reality that does not depend on the faith or righteousness of the one who baptized us, or even on whether we stray for Jesus’ path. When we come back we don’t need to be re-baptized.
1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:4-6 tell us that baptism incorporates, initiates us into the one Body of Christ, the community of faith that is the Church.
Danielle Shroyer, one of the pastors of Journey Church here in Dallas, has correctly, and cleverly, said, “What happens in baptism … doesn’t stay in baptism. Baptism gives us travelin’ shoes.… It gives us the indelible mark of belovedness.” Just as Jesus’ baptism was his anointing for his redemptive mission, Jesus put baptism at the core of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19: make disciples and baptize them!
Key Baptism Passages
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.
Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:13
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
1 Peter 3:20b-21
God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, 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.
Let us approach 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.