First Lesson: Genesis 9: 8-17
Responsive Reading: Psalm 25: 1-10
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 3: 18-22
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1: 9-15
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”- 1 Peter 3:21
Baptism now saves you. There are arguably no more controversial words in the entire scriptures for their meaning then this verse from 1st Peter 3. To understand the meaning of the 1st Peter, you need to know the story behind 1st Peter. I want to tell you its story today.
I want to tell you the story of two characters.
I want to tell you the story of a man that we will call Billy Baptism. Billy got baptized as a baby because Mom and Dad had been baptized as infants. Billy’s Baptism was going to be an excuse for Grandma and Grandpa to come see little Billy. So Billy grows in years, Billy attends Sunday School then Confirmation. In Confirmation, Billy is forced to wear what he thought was an ugly acolyte gown against his wishes. Billy finally gets confirmed. Billy looked at his Confirmation like a kid looks at the end of high school, he’s going to celebrate because he is not going back again. Billy went off to college, where he met and married a girl that wasn’t real religious either. Billy figured his kids should be baptized, yet when they didn’t want to be bored in Confirmation, Billy was fine with this. Billy eventually becomes an old man who occasionally attended a Christmas or Easter service. Billy dies. Billy’s preacher didn’t know Billy at all, so he had to think of what to say at the funeral. Billy’s preacher gets up at the funeral saying “Billy was saved because of his Baptism.” Billy’s Baptist cousin is furious! Billy was baptized eighty-some years ago. Billy’s life showed all sorts of evidence that he didn’t take the meaning of his Baptism all that seriously. Billy’s Baptist cousin started to complain about the Lutheran preacher to anyone who would listen. Everyone in this room knows Billy Baptism.
Now I want to tell you the story of another man named John Pilgrim. John Pilgrim was the type of person to whom the book of 1st Peter was written. John Pilgrim grew up in a devout Jewish home. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, John Pilgrim encounters one of Jesus’ followers who convinces John Pilgrim that Jesus was the Messiah. John Pilgrim’s family was not happy with him. John Pilgrim was disowned by his family. Things were getting hot for Christians during John Pilgrim’s life. Many of them were forced to flee the lands where their family lived for generations to go into exile. John Pilgrim’s life was going to be hard because of his faith. John Pilgrim was not going to be able to maintain much in the way of social relationships outside the Church community. Think of confessing that you were a proud and open communist in the midst of the Cold War, this was the type of social ostracism that John Pilgrim would face. People often didn’t just think of John Pilgrim as wrong, they thought of him as “evil”.
John Pilgrim was “maligned” (2:12), and “reviled” (4:14). He lived in constant fear (1:17) of criminal charges being brought before him on account of possessing insufficient loyalty to the emperor. (3:15)
Where in the land where Billy Baptism lived, persecution of Christians might be people thinking you were some sort of religious weirdo. In John Pilgrim’s land, Christian faith could often be the difference between life and death. Billy Baptism would have no understanding of what John Pilgrim would have gone through on account of his faith. It seems foolish that Baptism as salvation applies equally to everyone involved here.
Let me tell you why John Pilgrim’s story matters as we consider the meaning of 1st Peter. John Pilgrim’s underground church would have probably received a letter like this through a messenger who traveled under the cover of darkness.
When we think of the famous words from 2 Timothy “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These words would apply to a man like John Pilgrim like no other man that we know.
The thing about 1st Peter is its promises of Baptismal salvation are meant to apply to Billy Baptism just as much as John Pilgrim, and this is what I want to talk about this morning.
Let me begin by telling a story, as I’ve talked about before when I was misbehaving at fourteen years old, my parents sent me to the local Baptist high school to get corrected.
When I first started attending school there, I encountered an entirely different type of kid than I had encountered at the public school. There were kids that competed in Bible memorization contests (I didn’t know before there were such things), whereas my friends could only quote inappropriate Snoopy Doggy Dogg lyrics. At the public school, you were considered an odd duck if you weren’t watching R-rated movies at 12. At the Baptist school, you were regarded as a rebel if you ever watched an “R” rated movie. Kids would not attend dances, I knew a kid that got expelled for smoking a cigarette in the school parking lot. These kids knew the scriptures backward and forwards. I remember hearing the line again and again “It’s not enough to be baptized as an Infant”. I heard all sorts of dramatic testimonies of salvation from previously failed Christians.
I struggled with the question of Infant Baptism until I got to Concordia. At Concordia, I wanted to put qualifiers on Baptism to make my position acceptable to my Evangelical Free friends. It wasn’t until I got to Luther Seminary, where I fully grasped the Lutheran beliefs on Baptism. What changed me was seeing over and again, how messed up were the lives of even the best Christians.
Whenever someone claims Baptism is not enough, it is based on a misunderstanding of Baptism.
A few points about the scriptures and Baptism always need to be repeated.
1. The Scriptures never describe Baptism as one’s personal confession of faith. When people say that no infants are baptized in the Bible (this is true), but this is missing the point rather the key point is that God is the actor, we are the audience. God is giving to us, and acting for us, not we to him. Within Baptism, the direction is always Heaven to Earth, never Earth to Heaven. So in theory, God could baptize a rock to eternal life, no differently then he made a bush burn. Do not the scriptures say “"if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”- Luke 19:40
2. Baptism does save because it delivers Christ. Lutheranism gives all credit to God and no credit to man when it comes to salvation. For this reason, we place importance on things like Baptism and Communion like no other church does. Lutherans believe that Baptism bring Christ unto us. Baptism is the means by which God gives unto others his grace.
Perhaps the key words in the entire scriptures dealing with Baptism take place in Romans 6 where the Apostle Paul connects Baptism to one’s own death and subsequent rebirth and resurrection. Remember the scriptures describe Baptism as an act of “rebirth” of which we are as active of participants as our natural birth.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned,”-Mark 16:16
Often I’ll people say that it’s not enough to be “baptized” that you need to believe instead. Baptism though cannot be separated from belief. Baptism is the means by which receive Christ.
People will wonder what about the guy that his faith, yet is never baptized. When we say Baptism creates faith, we don’t believe that Baptism is the only means by which faith is created. We are a church of Word and Sacrament. The Gospel preached could be just as effective as the Gospel received. Whereas God reaches some through the spoken word, he also reach people from the physical element.
Educators will often talk about different types of learning styles how they learn either by seeing, doing or hearing. You talk to any long time teacher; they will not dispute this truth for a second. Different learning styles explain why some people thrive in shop, yet struggle in history. It’s not a question of brains but rather how they process information. Yet many people can’t understand that grasping Faith can come to us in different means.
What we must remember is that God reaches us through ways outside Baptism. No, differently than kids learn different ways.
Now we get back to the story of Billy Baptism and what are we to make of his salvation. What are we to make of the kid that grows up Lutheran, and comes home for family Christmas declaring himself to be an Atheist.
Do we believe that if someone is saved in Baptism that therefore they are always saved? Do we believe this, even if they publically profess against the faith of the church at a later date?
I don’t have a position on the question of “Once saved, always saved.”
“If God wants to be more generous than I would be, this is God’s business, not mine.”
When I was in Seminary, my preaching professor Micheal Rogness said something about funerals that’s always stuck with me that we never make a judgment as to a person’s salvation at their funeral.
Pastor Jason Peterson cites an excellent example. Peterson mentions how that “sweet church lady with the huge offering statement might be a prideful, callous unbeliever at heart”. “At the same time that drug-addicted pervert just might remember the Gospel from his Confirmation instruction during the seven seconds when his motorcycle collides with the semi and his heart stops beating”. We should not begin to attempt to answer these questions. We really don’t know what exactly Billy Baptism believes in the depths of his soul.
Today’s lesson from the Book of 1st Peter ties in baptismal salvation with an issue a story that we do know. It’s the story of Noah. The story of a world that had grown so wicked, and so thirsty that God needed to overwhelm the whole world with water in the midst of a dessert. The flood served as a reminder that God was not going to sit idly by in the face of destruction. God was going to come into the world and overwhelm once again through his death and Resurrection. Baptism is the completion of God’s salvation brought down from heaven brought unto the people left behind.
As we reflect upon the stories of John Pilgrim (the faithful 1st Century Christian) who risked his life nearly every single day for his faith. John Pilgrim was the type of man our Baptismal promise from 1st Peter was given. We also reflect on Billy Baptism the man who never found a preacher good enough to bring him to church. We remember the words about the meaning of Baptism found in Ephesians 4 that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. The same baptism is given to two men that although very different, stood at the pearly gates with the same one hope given through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
 2 Timothy 4:7
 Titus 3:5-7.
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save? Lutheran Reformission Blog. 9. Sept.2010. Web. Feb.15.2015.
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 John 3:1-8
 Romans 6:3-5
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 Ephesians 4:5