matter of man’s action towards God, or God acting upon man for man’s
benefit? Let’s look at the larger context of the passage – verses
18-22 and see who is the subject of the active verbs and the passive
The active verbs
Verse 18. Christ suffered…
… that He might bring us…
Verse 19. He went….
They (the spirits in prison) did not obey
God’s patience waited…
Verse 21, Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves
Verse 22, Who [Jesus] has gone into heaven…
Who [Jesus] is at the right hand.
Now the Passive Verbs
Verse 18 [us] being put to death in the flesh…
[us] being made alive in the Spirit
Verse 20 the ark was being prepared
Verse 22 with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to
In this whole passage, it is God is who actively doing the verbs. The
only exception is when people do not believe. And likewise, we see
things happening to man – being put to death, being made alive in the
Spirit. So suddenly look at the idea of a “pledge” and suddenly say
that *we* must be the ones making the pledge seems to go against the
grain of how everything else is working in this passage.
Now, as to the idea of the pledge (or “appeal” in the ESV) – in this
we ought remember that Christ is the One who gathers His lost sheep,
He is the one who cleanses us, He is the one who is our intercessor to
the Father, the One who appeals to God on our behalf. Indeed in the
verse this pledge, this appeal doesn’t come *through* our conscience,
but rather through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is for us, it
is for a good conscience (that we might have a clean conscience on
account of Christ).
The argument that Baptism is primarily an act of man doesn’t really
mesh with how this passage treats the idea.
Rev. Eric J. Brown
Zion Lutheran Church – Lahoma, OK