A sermon on 1 Peter 3 v. 15 – 22, first published in the Baptist Times on May 20th 2010
As soon as a person knows you are a baptist, it won’t be long before the ‘b’ question comes up. What exactly is baptism all about? Do you really get wet all over, and why is it necessary?
Christians get baptised because they are wholehearted about their commitment to Jesus. Peter himself, who once denied all knowledge of Jesus, here urges his readers to ‘set him apart as Lord’ in their hearts. To set him apart like this is to give him the highest place, without hesitation or dilution.
Christians get baptised, too, because they have thrown themselves headlong into an open-ended commitment to Jesus – just as Peter had done. Sometimes they reject baptism because they feel they have been too bad – and yet there are plenty of bad people who have gone before them. Other times they feel it is too soon, and that they should learn a little more of what’s more before they take the plunge – but how much more is a little more? Others feel it is too late – and that if they were going to do it they should have done it years ago. Now is always a good time for a headlong commitment to Christ, no matter what has gone before.
Christians get baptised, too, as a pledge of their future hope and reliance upon God. In doing this public thing now, they express their hope for a public resurrection and reunion with Jesus then.
- Read carelessly, v. 21 could imply that baptism itself is vital to salvation. How should we interpret it?
- Apart from the involvement of water, what does Noah’s faith (v. 20) have in common with that of a person who gets baptised today?
- It can be well worth airing people’s fears about baptism, which might range from a fear of embarrassment that their clothes will go transparent when wet, to a very real fear of speaking out in public.
- Since many of our churches attract those from other denominational backgrounds – how do we deal with those who feel that an adult baptism dishonours the infant baptism their parents arranged for them?
‘Christians are those who have set apart Jesus as Lord, and their hearts are set on him in the same way that a compass needle is set upon North. Tip it this way or that – always the needle will swing back to its true point. God has got a hold of their hearts, and getting baptised is a way of declaring that in a public and irreversible way.’