Tuesday: Feb. 28                                                       

1 Peter 3:18-22

            `For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

             And baptism, which this prefigured, 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 made subject to him.


            Among the most public facts with which the Apostolic Church dealt was the crucifixion of Jesus.  In the Roman world, crucifixion was known widely as the most shame-laden means of execution, reserved for slaves and the off-scouring of society.  That Jesus died was known; and the means of his death was blatantly common knowledge, such that the Church from its first days was obliged to understand and interpret the violent death of the Lord.  As a result, the early teaching centered on the cross and the death of Jesus.  Even the Gospels have been called passion narratives with extended introductions.

            So we encounter the Lord Jesus as having died for sins once for all.  “Hapax”, the Greek word for ‘once for all’, claims the uniqueness of this death for sins.  Only once is this death happening, even by the cruelest, most shaming means available.  The affront on sins, often taken in sacrificial terms as an act that atones for sins, is an act of the righteous for the unrighteous, an act of enablement, by which he brings us – writer and reader alike – to God.  The cross, that is, transports us to the face of God.  Here we would be like the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, exposed to the awe-inspiring intensity of God – before the people suggested someone else take care of this intimate connection for them!

            Before our text goes on to speak of baptism, we find it prefaced by a comment on us: “being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (we might say, Spirit).  We go on to the simile of Noah passing through the water, the eight souls saved through water, directed to baptism and opening toward the proclamation of Jesus to the spirits formerly lost and now recovered.  Here the Lord is lifting those previously lost – having been put to death in the flesh, now made alive in the Spirit – just the same as we, you see.

            The trajectory of faith is by way of the cross, into the catalogue of death as partner to the life made fresh in the Spirit: a transition, transformation in common with the Lord Jesus, drawing us inviolate into the joy of God before whom we stand by the righteousness and justice of Jesus our Lord, the Crucified.

Our God, bring us whole into your glory.

By your splendor in the cross of Jesus,

bring us near to joy in your delight by Spirit’s gift: new life in Jesus.

Rev. William Flewelling, Proctor, WV