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Baptism, Ascension, & Mission

One of most common ways in which people try to make sense of suffering is by thinking that they are called to pay for their sins through their suffering. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ says something radically different: Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. You do not suffer in order to pay for your sins; Jesus did that for you.

In 1 Peter 3, Peter affirms that the problem really is our sin. We cannot ascend the hill of the Lord to be brought near to God unless we have clean hands and a pure heart. So how can we be made clean? Not through our suffering, but through Christ’s! Here’s how it works: Peter puts the fears of suffering Christians to rest by assuring them that Christ went through our judgment, and came out alive on the other side. “Remember Noah?” Peter says, “It’s like that. There was an ark by which a few people were spared, not from the waters of judgment but through them. The ark saved Noah and his family. Well, that was the antitype of baptism, which saves you now, instead of an ark.”

How is this possible? What gives baptism this saving power? Peter says that it is the work of resurrection and ascension, and the authority given to Jesus on that basis. The difference between the Old Covenant and New Covenant is that when God’s people washed and sacrificed before Jesus came, they were temporarily spared and told to come back later, but after Jesus rose and ascended, the once for all sacrifice had been made, and perfect cleansing had been accomplished.

So how can your sin be paid for? Verse 18: Christ suffered and died for it! How can you get the clean conscience of verse 21? On the basis of Jesus’ resurrection, baptism washes you clean. How can you be brought to God (verse 18)? Jesus knows the way. He’s already been lifted up to God (verse 22), and in baptism, He joins you to Himself so that He can bring you along with Him.

What does this mean for the mission of the church? It means this: don’t ever try to tell the story or share the gospel without baptism and the ascension. How does baptism relate to mission? It is the mission! Matthew 28: Go therefore, and make disciples, baptizing them! Acts 2:38: repent and be baptized! Gal. 3: as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ! Baptism saves you.

How does the ascension relate to the mission? Ascension is the reason why the mission succeeds. Eph. 1: the ascension is where Jesus was installed as king and given power and authority. Heb. 4: We have access to God because our high priest passed through the heavens. If Christ were not at God’s right hand, we would still be facing a “check back later” sign. Jesus would still be walking around on earth, which sounds good, but we need Jesus to be talking face to face with God more than we need to be able to talk face to face with Jesus. Since Jesus has ascended, He can bring us to God. The ascension saves you.

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who can stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and pure heart. You need to be cleansed, and you need to be lifted up. Baptism cleans you up, and through His ascension, Jesus lifts you up. The mission of the Church is to spread this good news to the ends of the earth.

Posted on Thursday, June 05, 2014 by CJ Bowen