In 2008 I was working with a wonderful little congregation out in the country. One Sunday morning a man approached me in the foyer after service and said that he needed to talk with me. As an aside here is a little insight when you approach a preacher after a service and say you need to talk we rarely have good thoughts. So we made our way to my office, where he proceeded to tell me that his wife forced him to watch a movie and it had changed his life. Anytime someone get’s their life changed I’m interested, so I asked him to tell me more about this life changing movie.
The movie was Fireproof, and it was about a young couple that was spiraling towards divorce. If you have seen the movie you know that the main character’s parents intervene by giving their son a 40 day experiment, The Love Dare. The premise of the Love Dare is to start acting in loving ways toward his wife; if you really love someone you need to do more than just say the words, you must act in loving ways. What a great premise, and one that I fully believe in. I believe that it is great advice for our marriages and one that goes even deeper. Anything we believe demands action or it’s not really belief. If we believe that we love someone it causes us to move, if we believe that our dad will catch us we jump into his arms, and if we believe that God is who He claims to be we follow Him into the water.
The book of 1 Peter was written by a loving apostle to his brethren who are enduring persecution under the hand of Rome and specifically Nero. Peter’s intent is to reassure the church that he loved, in their faith while striving to encourage them to move them to greater works. In 1 Peter 3, the apostle reminds his fellow believers of the need to continue to work out their faith in the midst of their suffering. In this part of his letter he not only mentions the suffering of Christ, but he also draws on the example of Noah. With this as a back drop, Peter references how they first moved in their faith: The water through which the ark safely passed symbolizes now the ceremonial washing through baptism that initiates you into salvation. You are saved not because it cleanses your body of filth but because of your appeal to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King (The Voice).
In his discussion about suffering, endurance and faith Peter takes them back to the water. His greatest desire is for them to endure their present troubles, so he reminds them of their faith and the movement of their faith. Peter is not teaching about the sacred nature of water, he is simply reminding them of the forward motion their lives experienced because of their faith. Their faith lead them into the water of baptism, not because they were physically dirty and needed a bath but because they realized their brokenness. They went to the water because they had stained their own souls and were appealing to God to make them clean.
Faith requires movement or it’s not faith. The power of your baptism is not found in the water, the power is found in your appeal for cleansing that comes from the grace and mercy of God.
In Romans 6, Paul says that there is a bit of symbolism in the act of this appeal. But, it is so much deeper than mere symbolism; it’s participation. Paul knows that our faith calls us to enter the water so we can participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Our salvation comes from our participation in what happened on a day back in Calvary and three days later when Jesus was resurrected.
Simply put faith is a verb, faith requires and demands action. That’s not an idea that is original with me, James says “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) You might already know that the idea of faith being a verb wasn’t original with James either, it was an idea that He got from Jesus: If you love me, you will obey my commandments. (John 14:15)
If we really believe in Christ, if we really believe that He is the one who can fix our brokenness, then we will follow Him into the water and wherever He leads in this life. The appeal we make at our baptism, is the same appeal we make every day of our life as we come to God for cleansing and follow Him for purpose.