Daily Reformation, 1 Peter 3:18-22
From the Reformer
Very different is the doctrine of Augustine concerning the sacramental word. “Let the word be added to the element, and it will become a sacrament. For whence can there be so much virtue in water as to touch the body and cleanse the heart, unless by the agency of the word, and this not because it is said, but because it is believed? For even in the word the transient sound is one thing, the permanent power another. This is the word of faith which we preach says the Apostle” (Rm 10:8). Hence, in the Acts of the Apostles, we have the expression, “Purify their hearts by faith” (AC 15:9). And the Apostle Peter says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience)” (1Pt 3:21). “This is the word of faith which we preach: by which word doubtless baptism also, in order that it may be able to cleanse, is consecrated” (August. Hom. in Joann. 13). You see how he requires preaching to the production of faith. And we need not labour to prove this, since there is not the least room for doubt as to what Christ did, and commanded us to do, as to what the apostles followed, and a purer Church observed. Nay, it is known that, from the very beginning of the world, whenever God offered any sign to the holy Patriarchs, it was inseparably attached to doctrine, without which our senses would gaze bewildered on an unmeaning object. Therefore, when we hear mention made of the sacramental word, let us understand the promise which, proclaimed aloud by the minister, leads the people by the hand to that to which the sign tends and directs us.
—John Calvin, Institutes
Pulling It Together
You have heard the old saying, “I am waiting for my ship to come in.” Are you waiting for your ship or are you already sailing? Many believers keep waiting for that ship—whether it be miracles or prayers of power or supernatural gifts or additional works of grace—only to find that the next one docked in the harbor does not carry them any further than the boat they were on last. They are putting their faith in the boat instead of the One who carries them through the water. The disciples of old were like this; they kept their faith in the storm-tossed boat instead of the One who would walk them across the waves.
Was Noah’s faith in the ark or the One who told him to build it? Is your faith in the sacrament or the word that fills it? Is your faith in the Church or Her Savior, the Living Word of God? An ark alone would not have saved the world nor did the floods cleanse it; water cannot cleanse your evil heart; the next best church will not save you nor will any other boat in the bay.
There is One who calmly bids you to step outside the boat you are relying on and walk with him on the flood, saved from it by his grace and power and care. Are you waiting for your ship to come in or are you already sailing with him?
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers