Friday, June 27, 2008
Take Me Down to the River: Passing Through the Waters, Part II
More Musings on Isaiah 43:1-3a
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you."
Fire and water represent many things in the Bible, and it would be hard to do an exhaustive study of that in a blog. We've looked at Isaiah 43:1-3a about how God promises to be with us in the trials of life, and we've applied that promise to motherhood. There is another sense in which children of God pass through fire and water without being destroyed, and that is because God saves us from the penalty and condemnation of our sins. In the final judgment, those who have accepted God's offer of salvation by faith and grace and have walked in faith and faithfully with him will come through unscathed. Heaven -- an eternity with the Lord -- awaits them.
God is with us in the waters! Peter uses the story of Noah passing through the flood safely to teach us truth about what happens when we believe and are baptized. He says, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." I Peter 3:18-21
When Paul was opposing the Lord, the Lord revealed himself to him. At that moment, Paul became a believer in the Lord, who was willing to do anything the Lord told him to do. He was blinded from seeing the Lord. God sent Ananias to Paul to restore his sight and to explain to Paul that he was to be a witness of what he had seen and heard. Surely, Paul was believing, humble, broken, and repentant. Still, one vital thing was missing.
Ananias said, "And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his Name." It wasn't until that point that Paul's sins were washed away. (Acts 22:1-16)
Paul tells us in Colossians 2:10-14, "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead; and when you were dead in your transgression and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.
Paul also tells us in Romans 6:3-8: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slave to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.
In light of all that God does for us in baptism, it's no accident that when Peter preaches the first sermon teaching people how to become Christians, he stresses its importance. When many of his hearers realized that Jesus was Lord and Savior, they were cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do.
In Acts 2:38-39 Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord shall call to Himself."
So, exactly what does happen when a believer walks with God through the waters of baptism? There are plenty of other scriptures that talk about this, but just based on the ones we've looked at
1) As in Paul's conversion, our sins are washed away and we call on the name of the Lord to save us.
2) Just as Noah and his family were saved from the physical judgment that came upon the world in his day, we are saved
3) God circumcises our hearts, taking away the fleshly nature and giving us new life; baptism is a response of faith on our part to the power of the resurrection; God's power is what saves us in baptism.
4) We are buried with Christ and raised with him; we are given new life; we know that we will live with Him for eternity; our old fleshly self is done away with and we are born to live a new life in Christ, created to be like Him. It is at this point that we are born again.
5) This is the point at which our belief, our understanding that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and our repentance -- our turning from living for self and sin to living for Christ -- meets God's saving power. We are given the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven. This promise is for all whom the Lord shall call to Himself.
What a beautiful way that God is with us in the waters!