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First Sunday of Lent
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, February 21, 20211

Because God Remembers His Promises

Text: 1 Peter 3: 18–22

This is the first Sunday in Lent which is a time of prayer and fasting as we focus on the cost of our sins that made the cross of Jesus Christ necessary. Perhaps this is now more easily seen, as daily we can see what happens when people and nations decide to walk away from the authority of God’s word and end up pursuing a path of unrestrained evil. Even though the times seem dark and hopeless and evil seems to have the upper hand, we should reject that lie and focus on the truth of God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit to overwhelm.

This is definitely not the first time in history that God’s people have found themselves as a minority in the midst of unrighteousness and demonic influence. The solution to the problem is always the same, the light of Christ dispels and overwhelms the darkness and revivals, or great awakenings happen. This is as true today as it has been down through history. So, it is imperative that we become very intentional in our prayers and refocus on our relationship with Jesus Christ as of first importance above all things.

This week our primary passage will be 1 Peter 3:18–22 but I want to begin with briefly considering how our reading from Genesis 9:8–17 serves as the backdrop and context for the Epistle reading.

Let’s briefly look at Genesis 9:8–10; 13–15,

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth… I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

The first thing we notice is that God established a covenant, which is defined as an agreement between two or more persons. God made a covenant with Adam that theologians call “the Covenant of Works” whereby Adam was promised blessings if he obeyed the command of God (Genesis 1:28–30), but judgment if he disobeyed (Genesis 2:15–17). So, the first covenant was contingent on Adam’s obedience. But Adam sinned against the command of God and was thrown out of the Garden of Eden because he broke his part of the covenant. Therefore, God established a new covenant that theologians call the “Covenant of Grace.” This began in Genesis 3:15 with the promise that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. Of course, we see this fulfilled in Jesus Christ as he fulfilled the obligations of human loyalty that Adam failed to keep.

The Covenant of Grace is used to describe God’s relationship with his people throughout the rest of Scripture. Every other covenant that God made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus Christ would be based on God’s grace given, so that sin could be atoned for and the relationship between God and men/women could be restored.

In the covenant with Noah, God was unilaterally taking full responsibility to preserve the earth and its complete ecology forever in order to sustain the human race. This covenant confirmed God’s pre-existing relationship with all creatures when he blessed them at the time of their creation.

God brought judgment upon the earth because men had become so evil that He was no longer willing to tolerate them. He did find one exception and that was Noah. You know the story, God told Noah to build an ark big enough for his family of eight and two of every animal upon the earth, plus some extra animals and anything else that served as food. The most interesting part of the story is that up until this point there had never been a flood or rain because a mist would come up out of the earth to water the earth (Genesis 2:6). Despite this strange command of God, and the persecution that Noah and his family likely endured, Genesis 6:27 records, “Noah did this, and did all that God commanded him.”

As a side note: If you haven’t seen the “Sight and Sound Theatre” production of Noah, I encourage you to see it. We can find it on the computer or sometimes TBN shows it.

True to his word, God sent a flood upon the earth by causing it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Noah, his family, and the animals came through the waters in the safety of the ark and were saved. In our passage this morning God makes a covenant with Noah that he will never again destroy the earth by water, and he gave a visible symbol as a sign of this covenant. He places a bow in the clouds as a sign and symbol of the covenant. Some translations use the word rainbow, but that isn’t the word in the Hebrew. The word is bow and it refers to an archer’s bow which was a weapon of war.

Psalm 18:13–14 reads,

The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

The Psalmist presents the Lord as an archer who takes his bow and sends lightning bolts as his arrows. Here in Genesis 9, the warrior's bow is hanging up pointing away from the earth, a sign of peace. The relaxed bow stretches from horizon to horizon reminding God of his covenant commitment. The transcendent God who has acquiesced to come down and deal with his creation, is deliberately choosing to reflect upon the beauty and color of the bow instead of the evil of humanity. It was God who took the initiative to make peace after pouring out his wrath upon those who chose to reject their creator and live contrary to his character and nature. Because Noah was a righteous man and chose obedience to the command of God, he and his family were saved from the destruction of the flood and came safely through the water. Noah and his family were redeemed from the flood and granted a stable creation where they, like Adam, could be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth. However, they would also be required to observe God’s moral requirements or suffer the judgment of death.

The evidence that God had chosen the path of peace is still today seen in the symbol of the rainbow, but it is most clearly seen in the coming of the Son of God to earth. In our gospel reading from Mark 1, Jesus begins the ministry that he had been born for. Even though he has no reason to repent of sin he still submits himself to the waters of baptism as a means of declaring that he will be faithful to the will of His Father in Heaven and follow through with his plan for the reconciliation between God and man.

The Father's response to the Son’s obedience is to send the Holy Spirit to rest upon the Son and the Father declares publicly that Jesus is beloved and pleasing to Him. Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by Satan for 40 days. During this time, he was helpless, vulnerable, and alone with the wild animals and without food or water. Mark records that the angels were there to minister to Jesus just like they had done for Israel during the Exodus from Egypt. God is always there for his people during times of temptation and testing.

Jesus’ willingness to submit to the will of God through baptism and temptation prepared him to make the journey that would ultimately lead him to the cross, but he did not go alone. As he came up out of the water, the power of the Spirit came upon him and enabled him in his humanity to accomplish what the Father had sent him to do.

As we reflect upon the journey of Jesus throughout the gospels, we always find that his focus was upon the will of the Father and the certainty of the cross. This model is to be ours as we commit to the journey of the cross during this season. Like Jesus, our focus should be on the proclamation that he made to begin his ministry in Mark 1:15, 

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 This is to be our message too as we make our journey focusing on the cross and what it means to submit to the will of the Father.

Let’s now turn our focus to I Peter 3:18–22 and begin with verses 18–20,

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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 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.

Peter shows us that though Jesus was willing to suffer terribly and allow himself to be put to death in the flesh, his obedience on the cross caused him to come alive in the Spirit. It was in the Spirit that he went and proclaimed, like a herald, to the spirits in prison, who in the time of Noah had refused to listen and repent at Noah’s preaching to them that judgment was coming through the water.

Peter points out that God had patiently waited for them to repent as Genesis 6 indicates. From the time that God told Noah to build the ark until it was finished was 120 years, certainly time enough to turn from their wickedness.

Jesus, alive in the Spirit, preached a message of judgment and condemnation in light of his finished work on the cross to those who rejected God’s entreaty. The Bible doesn’t reveal what Jesus said to them, but I suspect he was announcing his triumph over evil, which was bad news for them but good news for Peter’s readers. While his body lay dead in the tomb, Jesus in the Spirit went into Hades and proclaimed victory over the enemy of God. Satan thought he had won at the cross, but he could not have been more mistaken. Let’s look at the final verses of 1 Peter 3 beginning at verse 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. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Peter is pointing his readers to an image that they could understand from the story of Noah and his family. In the same way that Noah’s obedience brought salvation from the judgment of God through the water, the Christian's salvation is seen through the water of baptism.

Some have wrongly assumed that this means that salvation comes through baptism, which is referred to as “Baptismal regeneration,” but that is not true and is certainly not the point here. The water of the flood washed away the sin and wickedness and brought a new world with a fresh start before God. Peter taught that submitting to the water of baptism is a result of “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

Again, Jesus is our model here. He entered into the waters of baptism because he first chose obedience to the Father. It was through the water that Jesus was making a visible and public declaration that he would indeed follow the Father's will. When we follow this example of intentional obedience to the will of the Father then we enter the water of Baptism as a public proclamation that we intend to follow the will of God. We should expect the same result as Jesus experienced—the assurance of the Father’s delight, and the Holy Spirit descending upon us like a dove.

Baptism, being the sign and the symbol, points us to the reality of what we have done when we surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Peter points this out by declaring that baptism reminds us that in Christ all things have been made new and there is now a clean conscience towards God for those who have come by faith to the waters of baptism.

Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes upon us and then goes with us into a life of temptation and trials. We are never alone and there is one last promise that Peter points to in verse 22,

Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Jesus’ work was complete, and he was exalted to the right hand of the Father. The result being that all angels, authorities, all powers, and all created things were made subject to his power and will. Jesus went into Heaven, and though we long to see him face to face, it is better for us that he is there for now.

The famous 19th-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon related this to how the high priest, ministering for Israel on the Day of Atonement, disappeared from the people and went behind the veil,

Though he was not with them, he was with God, which was better for them. The high priest was more useful to them within the veil than outside of it; he was doing for them out of sight what he could not accomplish in their view. I delight to think that my Lord is with the Father. Sometimes I cannot get to God, my access seems blocked by my infirmity; but he is always with God to plead for me.

Just like with Noah and his family, it is God the Father, through Jesus Christ who took the initiative to provide a way to peace with God, though it came at a great cost. To reject the offer is to find ourselves at enmity with God, just as those that Jesus preached to in Hades found out. This season is the perfect time to come for the first time to Jesus Christ by faith in repentance of sins or to re-focus on the cross and the promises of it.

This leads us back to the question, how do we focus on the cross and deal with our sins on the Lenten journey? There are two things that I would like each of us to focus on daily during this season of Lent.

Our Lord is a God of covenants and we have made a covenant with him through repentance of sin and the water of baptism.

  1. Is this relationship with the Lord the primary focus of your life?
  2. If not, what has taken his place?

When Jesus came up out of the water of baptism, he both heard and experienced the delight of the Father and the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit. Are you experiencing that as you live your life? If not ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about this.

This season we must be like Jesus and be very intentional about the journey. Though it is full of difficulty and trials the reward is joy and peace with God in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is a counterfeit and will only lead to judgment and death. Instead, become consciously faithful to the will of God.

The times that we are living in are reminiscent of the times of the early church and the present times for many Christians around the world. The enemy is seeking to discourage God’s people from being a public witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and there is even the threat of our testimony and response of the truth of God’s word to the immorality and perversions of our culture, being labeled as “hate speech”.

The Psalmist reminds us of why we should be faithful to the Lord in Psalm 25:3–5; 10–12.

3Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
        they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; 
       teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
        for you are the God of my salvation;
        for you I wait all the day long.
6Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, 
        for they have been from of old….

10All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, 
        for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11For your name's sake, O Lord, 
        pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12Who is the man who fears the Lord?
        Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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