James Stipp - I Peter 3:18-21

It has been good for me to meditate in I Peter 3:18-21 again, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit by which also He went (By/In the Spirit) and preached unto the spirits in prison which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." When did Christ go in the Spirit and preach to the spirits in prison? Who are the spirits in prison mentioned here? When were they put in prison? And why were they put in prison? What prison? Here it is talking about the spirits of men who lived in the days of Noah. The men who lived in the days of Noah had a special opportunity of listening to the Spirit of Christ in Noah (II Peter 2:5 - Noah a preacher of righteousness and I Peter 1:10-11 - the prophets who prophesied the Spirit of Christ which was in them and in Noah) preaching to them the word of God but they refused to obey and as a result they all died in the flood (except Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives) and their spirits were put in prison (put in hell where they are waiting the day of judgment). Christ didn't go to hell to preach to them as some teach, rather the Spirit of Christ was in Noah preaching to them when they were still alive upon the earth in the days of Noah and because of their disobedience, they died in the flood and then their spirits were cast into prison/hell to wait for the day of judgment.

"Saved by water" - here it doesn't say "saved from water" but rather it says "saved by water." The water was not the enemy. The enemy was the evil and the wickedness that existed upon the face of the earth at that time. The water cleansed the earth by removing/burying all the evil and wickedness that existed at that time. Thus the water saved Noah and his family by burying the enemy or the evil that existed on the earth at that time. By passing through the experience of the flood (water) all the old life with all its sin was buried by water and Noah and his family began a new life. For us baptism corresponds to the same - the old life with its sin is buried by water and then being resurrected with Christ we began to walk in newness of life with Christ (Romans 6:4).

"Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh." Baptism does not change our flesh, the flesh is always evil and will always be our enemy. There isn't any salvation for the flesh. It will return to the dust. I Corinthians 15:15, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Romans 7:18, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Romans 7:25, "With the flesh, I serve the law of sin." Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Galatians 5:17, "The flesh lusteth against the spirit." Maybe Jesus was thinking about His flesh when He said (Matthew 19:17), "Why callest thou Me good?" Christ Himself realized that His flesh was evil just like the flesh of everyone else. Therefore He overcame it and kept it in complete subjection to the spirit. Christ, the overcomer, helps us overcome our flesh and keep it in subjection to our spirit.

"But the answer of a good conscience toward God." This concerns the new desire and the new purpose of our spirit. The spirit can change. It can be improved. It can be perfected. Hebrews 12:23, "Spirits of just men made perfect." In baptism, we (both flesh and spirit) were buried with Christ and resurrected with Him. The flesh with all its filthiness entered into the water and it came out of the water the same as it entered the water (no change in its evil desires) with the purpose of living and doing just as it did before baptism. The spirit entered into the water with the purpose of leaving it buried in the water all the sins of the past and the old way of life and to come out of the water (resurrected) to live a new life with Christ. Thus baptism resulted in a big change for our spirit. Our spirit came out of the water (resurrected with Christ) cleansed from sin and with the new desire and new purpose to no longer live in sin but to overcome the flesh and sin and to follow Jesus in newness of life with the result (answer) of having a good conscience towards God.

Thus baptism doesn't change the flesh (doesn't take away the filth of the flesh) but it does signify a great change in our spirit. A new desire and a new purpose have been borne in our spirit to follow Jesus and to overcome our flesh and sin with the result (answers) of having a good conscience towards God. May the Lord help us fulfill this new desire and new purpose day by until we finish this life in victory.

** James Stipp labours in Argentina