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The Victorious Waters of Baptism

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Baptism is a pledge of Christ's victory over the Forces of Darkness and salvation from the judgement of God. The ministries of Enoch and Noah foreshadowed this great work of Christ's.

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“Victory in Jesus” is one of the more popular hymns in the English speaking world, but I fear that most Christians don’t really appreciate how great our victory is. This is especially true when we face the difficult, sufferings and persecutions of this life. To follow Jesus is to humble ourselves and take up our crosses just like Jesus did. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday He did not look anything like a victorious King. Let’s turn in our Bibles to John 12:12-19 to remind ourselves of this story.
John 12:12–19 ESV
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
A few days earlier according to John 11:53 the plot to kill Jesus had been hatched and by Friday of that week the plot to kill Jesus reached a successful conclusion. Jesus was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified. By all appearances the Forces of Darkness had won, but appearances can be deceiving. Right under their noses, Jesus had launched a surprise attack and defeated the Forces of Darkness once and for all! Paul writes of this surprising victory in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8.
1 Corinthians 2:6–8 ESV
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The cross was not the final nail in the coffin to defeat the Son of God, but rather the key to his victory over sin and Satan!
This wasn’t the first time God had outsmarted the Forces of Darkness, in the days of Noah the Forces of Darkness had seemingly won an overwhelming victory. The opening verses of Genesis 6 describe those dark days as follows:
Genesis 6:1–6 ESV
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
But through two men, God won a surprising victory. The apostle Peter uses this victory to teach and encourage beleaguered Christians that they have an even greater victory in Christ and that the sign and seal of this victory is baptism.
1 Peter 3:14–22 ESV
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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.
This is a difficult passage to understand and interpret, but once you understand what Peter is doing this passage becomes a great encouragement to us. The first thing we must understand is that Peter teaches that God in his providence used Enoch and Noah prophetic types pointing to Christ Jesus.

Enoch and Noah Were Types Pointing to Christ

A type is an unspoken prophecy. It is an event, person, or institution that foreshadows something that will come, but that isn’t revealed until after the fact. Last year in our series through the book of Romans, we learned that Adam was a type pointed to Christ. As a representative or federal head Adam’s sin effected all who were in him. In the same way, Christ effected by his death and resurrection all those who are in him by faith.
Romans 5:14–15 ESV
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
Peter’s use of Enoch and Noah as types pointing to the greater work of Christ is found in verses 19-20.
1 Peter 3:19–20 ESV
in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Now clearly, these verses speak of Noah and how Christ was like him, but were is Enoch? The clue is found in the opening words of verse 19, “[in the spirit Jesus] went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” There is only one person in the “days of Noah” that we know of who “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison” and that is Enoch.

Just Like Enoch, Jesus Proclaimed God’s Victory and Judgement Upon the Forces of Darkness

The Bible itself tells us very little about Enoch.
Genesis 5:22–24 ESV
Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
However, when Peter speaks of Christ “preaching to the spirits in prison” he is clearly making a typological allusion to the preaching of Enoch found in one of the extrabiblical Jewish writings entitled 1 Enoch. A few weeks ago we saw Paul making use of these Jewish extrabiblical writings in 2 Timothy 3:8 when he identifies the two Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses as Jannes and Jambres. Peter and Paul are not alone in this, John, Jude, Luke, the author of Hebrews and even Jesus himself all quote or make allusion to one or more of these Jewish intertestamental books. What are we to make of this? Clearly these books are not inspired and are not Scripture. However, just as the New York Times is mostly filled with “fake news” there is so truth in it. God must have providentially preserved some truth in the oral traditions of the Jewish people, which during the second temple period was recorded in these books. Then by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he guided the authors of Scripture to make use only of those portions which preserved true history.
Now the portion of 1 Enoch that Peter is using to typologically link the preaching of Jesus to the imprisoned spirits to that of Enoch is entitled, The Book of the Watchers. The Watchers is another name of the “sons of God” found in Genesis 6 which we read from earlier. The sons of God, are high ranking angelic beings were members of God’s Divine Council. According to Genesis 6, the sons of God took human women and sired children by them. This rebellion against God’s order so increased human sin and depravity that God decided that the only solution was to destroy all life upon the earth by a flood, but before God does this he must take care of the rebellious sons of God.
Quoting from 1 Enoch Peter in his second letter tells us what God did:
2 Peter 2:4 ESV
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
The Lord’s brother Jude also makes use of this story:
Jude 6 ESV
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
Once chained and imprisoned, God sends Enoch to them to proclaim God’s victory and their utter defeat. This Peter tells us foreshadowed the preaching of Christ.
1 Peter 3:19 ESV
in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
Now some Christian interpreters have identified the original preacher with Noah. Scripture does teach us that Noah preached to his generation, however the problem with this interpretation is that nowhere in Scripture or in extra-biblical Jewish literature is it ever suggested that the souls of departed men are imprisoned and in chains. The story of the “harrowing of hell” in which Christ preached to the souls of the people who perished in the flood was a story invented centuries later. More importantly, as we just read from 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, God has given us all the clues we need to properly understand who these spirits are—they are angles!
What Peter is teaching us is this; just as Enoch went down into the depths to proclaim God’s judgement and victory over the Forces of Darkness, so Christ has done so by his death on the cross. Paul gives us this clue as to what Jesus was doing between Good Friday and Easter Sunday:
Colossians 2:15 NIV11
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
On the cross, Jesus destroyed the power and authority of the Devil.
Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The cosmic disorder created by the sin of Adam in Gen 3 and the sin of the sons of God in Gen 6 has been totally reversed and repaired by Jesus.
Colossians 1:19–20 ESV
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The application is clear, Peter is writing to persecuted Christians. From the human perspective it seems like the Forces of Darkness are winning. I think of how Christians being killed by ISIS must feel. But we must not look at the persecutions we are undergoing from the human perspective, but from the perspective of the cross and resurrection. The Forces of Darkness are not winning, they are doomed! We can sing with Martin Luther:
Logos Hymnal A Mighty Fortress is Our God

And tho’ this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us;

The prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

With the victory of Jesus clearly before us, let us not forget his greatest victory is over our own sin and guilt. The apostle John also makes allusion to 1 Enoch, because he almost quotes it verbatim in Revelation 20:10:
Revelation 20:10 ESV
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
But just a few verses later, John writes:
Revelation 20:15 ESV
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
It is not enough to have the Devil defeated, we must be saved from our own sin. If not we will join the Devil in the Lake of Fire. Just as in the days of Noah, we need an Ark to hid ourselves in to be preserved through the coming judgement—praise God, through Jesus, God has provided us with that salvation.

Just Like Noah, Jesus Provides Salvation from God’s Coming Judgement

Noah built a great ship called the Ark in which he and seven others were saved from the judgement of God. The Ark Jesus built was himself. One of the apostle Paul’s favorite phrases was “in Christ.” It is our union with Christ by faith that saves us.
2 Corinthians 5:17–19 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
I again think of another old hymn that communicates this truth so well.
Logos Hymnal Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

Save from wrath and make me pure.

In our Scripture text, Peter puts it like this:
1 Peter 3:18 ESV
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
Peter goes on to say that baptism is the sign and seal of Christ’s victory over both Satan and sin.
1 Peter 3:21–22 ESV
Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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.
Notice carefully what Peter is saying here. Baptism does not save us in the way that water washes away dirt. Baptism cannot wash away any person’s sins, nor can it in and of itself free a person from the power of the Devil. Baptism saves by acting as an “appeal or pledge to God for a good conscience.” In other words, what is being pledged in baptism must be believed in order for a person to have a good conscience before God.
What is being pledged? The two things that Enoch and Noah are types of—the defeat of the Forces of Darkness and salvation from the judgement of God.
You can’t hush your guilty conscience because you have been baptized—whether as an infant or as an adult. The only way you can sooth your conscience is by believing in Christ Jesus whose victory is pledged to us in the waters of baptism.

Conclusion: Improving Your Baptism

The Reformers taught of the necessity of improving our baptism. By this they ment that we must examine ourselves to see if we truly are trusting in the promises of Christ every time we witness a baptism. The meaning and significance of our baptism is not something locked up in the past, but something that should be growing throughout our lifetimes. Is your faith in Christ and assurance of salvation stronger today than it was yesterday? If not why not? Don’t waste Adelyn’s baptism—let it remind you of the victory we have in Jesus!
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