I'll just jot a few of the thoughts I had on this passage. I may be changing some plans and preaching on it soon. Oh, and I should also say that I haven't done any close study of what comes before and after these verses, which is important, too. I'll have to do some more work here! But here are my initial thoughts today:
- This must be one of the passages that has been interpreted to say that Christ descended to the dead, which I think is a pretty cool idea, but many of us leave that line out of the Apostles' Creed. This passage gives a narrative about the "spirits in prison," that is also pretty telling: that they were disobedient, but then Christ came and preached to them. It's interesting that the narrative about Noah goes straight into a discussion of baptism, not into detail about what happened when Jesus preached to these spirits. Do we assume that they received baptism, or salvation, or something else? (Perhaps I should look into this more--I haven't studied 1 Peter very closely, that I can recall.)
- This passage also gives a very specific understanding of baptism, and I see how people come to strikingly different conclusions about the nature of baptism, from verse 21, specifically. It makes me think of the time that I was trying to explain the practice of infant baptism to people who were familiar with believer's baptism, and the question was posed to me, "So, do you believe that all of those babies who are baptized are saved?" Of course, the answer to that question is way more complicated than I'll go into here, but I understand from this verse better than I have before, where that question comes from.
- So, the first part of verse 21 kind of muddies some waters, but oh, the second part of that verse--"Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..."--how wonderful! So often, we focus on the cross and the crucifixion, to the detriment of celebrating the resurrection. I've heard of Easter Sunday services that are more about the cross than about the empty tomb, and it makes me so sad. "Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." Yay! Both of them--the crucifixion and the resurrection--matter to our salvation. What would it look like if we preached and sang and talked as if both events matter to us? Would that change what people think of Christianity? Maybe...maybe not...what do you think?