April 30, 2018

The Flood - 1 Peter 3:15-22

Theme: Prepare Yourself for the Flood
  1.   The flood of unrighteousness
  2.   The flood of forgiveness
1 Peter 3:15-22:

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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. 18 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, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 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. 21 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the name of Jesus, who has washed away our sins, dear fellow redeemed:

The story of Noah’s flood is one the most well-known and recognized portions of the Bible. Both Christians and non-Christians know it and it’s one of the first stories that little kids learn and understand. Throughout history, there have been hundreds of flood legends in other cultures and areas of the world. These legends are all connected in some way to the Biblical account of Noah. This tells us that ever since the flood happened, it has resonated with all peoples and cultures in some way.

However, the purpose behind the global flood is often lost on most people. Sadly, many simply are fascinated at the mere thought of an event like it even happening. Many more believe it to be just a myth instead of an actual historical occurrence. Most people understand correctly that the reason for the flood was man’s wickedness. But even at this, many still fail to apply it to their lives. Fewer people actually see the flood story as a positive thing, by focusing on God’s gracious deliverance to Noah and the preservation of the human race.

Today, in our text, we see another way to understand Noah’s flood, as the Holy Spirit reveals to us that it serves as a picture of deliverance through Jesus Christ. Not only was the promise of the Messiah preserved by the flood, but the actual event pre-figured the spiritual condition of all people. And through that picture we see that we need to prepare today for another flood. As Christians, we must prepare for the flood of unrighteousness in our day but also be ready preparing ourselves and others for the flood of Christ’s forgiveness. For guidance, let us return to the Word, and the Spirit who inspired it, as we mediate on this amazing truth today.

Part 1: The flood of unrighteousness (End Times)

The first point worth mentioning in this section is how Peter understands the Genesis account of Noah’s flood. Peter takes Genesis as history upon which he can base his teaching. If you remember, Jesus did the same thing in the Gospels several times – going back to the Old Testament to understand something about today. We should take this lesson to heart in our lives and as we spread God’s Word to others. If we want to be trustworthy and reliable in what we say we need to use God’s Word as it is meant to be used.

The first connection that Peter makes to the Old Testament flood is the wickedness of sin. Peter compares the evil of Noah’s day to what is happening in the present time for Christians and the imagery still fits for our day. Peter mentions those who slander Christians, those who are doing evil, and those cause others to suffer for doing good. The very fact that he compares this with what happened in Noah’s day helps us to understand the serious nature of what is going on. It also makes you wonder how bad things could still get. How long will God continue to endure with the present generation?

Paul warned Timothy about the increasing wickedness of these final days in his second letter: But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

In many ways this seems like a fitting description of the world we live in today. The wicked have the appearance of being good and righteous people, but inwardly they are lovers of themselves, not God. This echoes the same sentiment that the Spirit inspired in the book of Hebrews, that “without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).” The flood of unrighteousness that is among us today is the same as in Noah’s day –  outright denial of God and the many attitudes and lifestyles that manifest that. Don’t be fooled by what Satan peddles in our modern world, there is no morality before God outside of faith in Jesus. It is impossible to be found acceptable in His eyes without Christ’s satisfactory atonement in our place.  

Just as many Christians past and present have suffered tribulation and persecution, so also many have been martyred for their faith – yet they overcame through the resurrection of Christ. This is Peter’s focus as He urges his readers to prepare for the end just as Noah prepared for God’s judgment. Those who are faithful unto death, especially under extreme persecution and tribulation, will receive the crown of life in place of eternal damnation. This is ultimately the Christian’s hope despite the flood of wickedness we experience on a daily basis, even from our own hearts and actions. God offers us relief and hope through the Word.

Part 2: The flood of forgiveness

The only way to prepare ourselves for the sin that surrounds us is to focus on the Lord’s forgiveness. Again, Peter goes back to Noah as a picture of how God has paid for sins. Peter likens the waters of the flood to the waters of baptism, but in so doing he makes an important distinction. The waters of baptism don’t wash like ordinary water, it’s not intended to clean our bodies. The waters of baptism remove the stains and stench of our old sinful flesh and renew our spirits to receive God’s blessings daily in faith. Just as the flood waters served the purpose of eradicating wickedness from the earth, so baptism’s purpose is the removal of sin.   

Notice with what power and authority Peter speaks with when describing baptism. He doesn’t speak of it as just a symbol or a dedication that someone makes after coming to faith. No, baptism is powerful; Peter says that baptism saves. From our training in the Word we know that baptism isn’t some type of mystical act of magic. There is no transformation of ordinary water into holy water. Rather, baptism is simply receiving God’s blessing, and just as Peter states, the power behind it comes v.21 “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

And through this resurrection of His Son, God introduces the flood of forgiveness. Sin itself and the wickedness it gives birth to is a global problem, no one can escape any more than someone could escape global flood. But in the very same way, God now forgives the entire world because of Christ’s death and resurrection. This forgiveness is given freely to all people. We can preach with confidence and authority to anyone because we know they are covered by the flood of forgiveness. God tells us as much here when He compares it to Noah’s flood. If you are a member of this world, you have been forgiven, nothing can reverse that fact.

However, the connection to Noah’s flood doesn’t end there. Only those who believe in Jesus, who are aboard the ark of faith if you will, will avoid eternal destruction. Just because the gift of forgiveness is available to all doesn’t necessarily mean that all will accept it. Rejection of faith is a rejection of Christ Himself and the very gift of forgiveness that He offers. The shortcoming is not with faith or with Christ, the shortcoming is with the person who rejects in unbelief. This is part of what makes the torment of hell so agonizing. All who go there will go with the knowledge that they are forgiven. Peter explains how after his death Christ descended into hell to proclaim this very message, that He indeed had conquered sin and death. And this is the note on which Peter ends this section. Christ has all authority in heaven and earth because He accomplished His mission. All people, even those who rejected Him, eventually must submit to Him; a fact which will become readily apparent on the final day.    

Many today fight and rage against this truth, just as many must have fought against God and their impending destruction during Noah’s day. But fight as they did the day of the flood did eventually come and nothing they did could stop it. But even if we could change God’s declaration of a final day, why would we want to? Judgment day will usher in the end of sin and wickedness. It’s built on another unchangeable event – Christ’s forgiveness of all sins. No one could stop the flood of His own blood descending the cross to wash us clean of sin. God’s righteous judgment will erase evil forever, in a more perfect and complete way than Noah’s flood. And there will be more on that day than just judgment, there will also be deliverance because of the flood of forgiveness in Christ.

The impending judgment of the Lord is not lead us to get discouraged or further rebel from His Word. Rather, it should lead us work even more fervently at spreading the gospel to all people. There’s no need for anyone to suffer for their sins, Christ has already done that in their place. The flood of forgiveness is a reality for us; let us continually prepare ourselves to tell others in meekness and fear. 

So, how do we prepare ourselves for the flood? Well, when it comes to the flood of unrighteousness around us each day and getting worse as the end approaches, we prepare by daily strengthening and renewing ourselves in the Word of God. If we try another approach, we will only be left frustrated and uncertain because of the increasing evil around us. Preparing ourselves for the flood of forgiveness is very much the same. We must stay active in the Word so that we can provide answers of truth for those who are looking for the truth. We should not only be concerned with preparing our own hearts for the final day but we should also be actively involved in helping others in the same regard. Noah’s flood teaches us these important spiritual lessons. All need forgiveness, for all have sinned. The global judgment is rapidly approaching. But all have free access to forgiveness in Christ Jesus. May the Holy Spirit prepare us to receive that gospel and prepare us to spread it to others. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.

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