Your Crucified, Risen, Ascended Lord Saves You!

How can we who have sinned against God, we who are unrighteous, come into the presence of a holy God, a God who is too holy to tolerate sin? 1 Peter 3:18–22 focuses on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. He also points you to the way that God makes visible the reality of Christ’s work.

Christ died for you. Christ died once. Christ’s death is unique. It cannot be repeated. Christ died once for all. His death is sufficient. It accomplished what it set out to do.

The righteous died for the unrighteous. Christ died because of sins. It was your rebellion and disobedience that made his suffering and death necessary. He died in your place. The substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel.

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Feed on Christ

Meals are important. Jesus taught you to pray for your daily bread, But, remember that Jesus not only gives you bread, he is the bread of life who offers you eternal life as you feed on him, as you see in John 6:52–59.

Be sure that it is Christ on whom you feed. This hard teaching is connected with the Lord’s Supper. It would be simplistic to say that this message that Jesus gave is only about the Lord’s Supper (though some evidence leans that way). Jesus presents himself as the Passover Lamb (John 1:29; 6:59 [cf. 6:4]), which had a focus on eating and drinking. The Jesus who speaks in John 6 is the Jesus who has his eye on the suffering and death on the cross by which he would redeem you. As Jesus preaches in the synagogue he presents himself as the One on whom his hearers must feed. You need to be united with Christ in the kind of closeness that involves eating and digesting. He talks about the same reality that he seals as he institutes the Lord’s Supper.

“It is certain, then, that he now speaks of the perpetual and ordinary manner of eating the flesh of Christ, which is done by faith only. And yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented, and actually bestowed upon believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of John, at John 6:54)

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Your Baptism and Your Savior

What does the ceremony of baptism really mean? What does your baptism mean to you? Paul explains in Colossians 2:11–12.

Christ has brought you into a covenant relationship with himself. The Old Testament sign sealed a special relationship with God. Circumcision was more than a sign of national identity. It was a seal of the covenant God had made with Abraham and his descendants, Genesis 17:7ff. It symbolized the removal of defilement, Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10. Too often Israel trusted in the outward sign, but that alone, without trust in God and a life of covenant obedience was worse than worthless.

A sign points to something beyond itself. Christ has done what the sign pictured. This is the powerful Christ of Colossians 2:9, 10. In him the (sinful) flesh is put off — not a surgical operation, but a cleansing from sin. He breaks the power of sin and sets you apart to be God’s holy, pure people.

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Washed!

Washing with water is a great defense against germs. Water is also the element used in the sacrament of baptism–and it also involves cleansing. Your baptism seals your cleansing from sin, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11.

This what you were! The wicked will not inherit God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is contrasted with the wicked. The so-called “kings” of 1 Corinthians 4:8 are in danger of being excluded from the kingdom! “God” and “the wicked” are juxtaposed (in Greek) for the sake of contrast. Sin a violates God’s character and nature. When Paul speaks of inheriting the God’s kingdom, he is talking about eternal life, being with God in the new heavens and earth. Will you inherit the kingdom? Paul lists especially notorious sins. He focuses on the extremes, but the Corinthians were moving in that direction. And we live in a culture where these sins have become so accepted that “sin” is an almost unknown term. The culture affects the church. All Christians (this side of heaven) are guilty of sin. The sins Paul lists are sins which tend to control and characterize the sinner.

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Sealing the Promise

A diploma has a seal on it, placed there by the faculty and trustees of the school, authenticating what the diploma says. Paul uses that language in Romans 4:11 as he teaches us something about the sacraments.

The covenant sign is a seal of your faith. God ordained a sign of his covenant with Abraham. The heart of the covenant is fellowship between God and his people. It includes the other things promised to Abram, the land, an heir, becoming the father of a great nation, etc., Genesis 17:6, 8. But the heart of covenant fellowship is “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Genesis 17:7. The sign points to the existence of what it signifies. Golden arches point to a fast food place. The sign itself doesn’t feed you. The Bible doesn’t use the word sacrament (nor does it use the word Trinity), but it refers to the signs and seals God has ordained as signs of the covenant. The don’t replace the Word of God, but God has ordained them for us in addition to the Word. They have been described as the Word in visible form. The sign of circumcision pointed to the reality of covenant fellowship, to the reality of Abram’s trust in God. Recognize that the sacraments function in two directions. We are saying something to God, but, even more importantly, God is saying something to us.

“In the sacrament God first comes to believers to signify and seal his benefits. He assures them with visible pledges that he is their God and the God of their children. He attaches seals to his Word to strengthen their faith in that Word (Gen. 9:11–15; 17:11; Exod. 12:13; Mark 1:4; 16:16; Luke 22:19; Rom. 4:11; and so forth). On the other hand, the sacraments are also an act of confession. In them believers confess their conversion, their faith, their obedience, their communion with Christ and with each other. While God assures them that his is their God, they solemnly testify that they are his children. Every observance of the sacrament is an act of covenant renewal, a vow of faithfulness, an oath that obligates those who take it to engage in the service of Christ (Mark 1:5; 16:16; Acts 2:41; Rom. 6:3ff.; 1 Cor. 10:16ff.).”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, pages 476–476
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