In another era, 1 Peter 3:18-22 would be a fairly straight forward matter with everyone present adding a joyful amen to the visible inclusion of someone into the visible body of Christ. But, we live in confusing times and things are no longer so straight forward.
And so, when we hear Peter say that Noah’s flood was a type of baptism and that, “this baptism now saves you…” many of us begin to twitch. We shy away from this kind of biblical language. We wish Peter hadn’t been so reckless.
There is a thing called baptism and we should be concerned that the ideas and thoughts that go into that word belong there. (Water, for example, should be there. But the amount of water and the location should not).
We should also be concerned about the word itself. We can’t cross out the label “Baptism” and start calling it something else. Like “Optional Extras” or, “A jolly good christening”.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)
Let’s have a brief look at baptism in the bible.
- Jesus refers to His death by crucifixion as a baptism (Mark 10:38)
- He refers to the outpouring of the Spirit as a baptism of fire that empowers disciples
- Paul says the Hebrews were baptised into Moses and the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2) in which the salient point was that no Hebrew got wet
- Peter, refers to the flood as a baptism that translated Noah from the old world to the new (without getting wet)
- And Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:27, refers to baptism as the means by which we, who were outside the body of Christ, were grafted into the body of Christ
Clearly, baptism is not foremost about getting wet, dipped, dunked, sprinkled or set alight. What all these occasions have in common is the idea of transition from one state to another.
As a visible sign, Hebrews went from slave to free, Jesus went from death to life, Noah went from old world to new and we go from outside of Christ to in Christ.
Why the Devil Hates it
The Devil hates public displays of Christ and His Lordship. He is okay if you “pray the prayer” – just don’t go public.
Water baptism is the public entry of a person into the visible community of Gods people (Galatians 3:27) and includes separation from the world of ungodliness (1 Peter 3:21).
When Peter says that this baptism now saves you he is saying that, by analogy, what was going on for Noah is going on for those of us who are baptised into Christ.
It is one of the two things commanded in the Great Commission that make a Disciple.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
“Into the Name of” means, “into the Service of”, or, “into the ownership or possession of”.
In baptism, a change in ownership is publicly sealed. It is, as Paul says in Romans 6:3, the joining of our lives to Christ in His death and resurrection.
This is what baptism points to and why Peter can say it saves. Baptism by water, into the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, is a man being placed under the Lordship of Jesus. And that is why the Devil hates it.
Why it Matters
- Because Jesus Commands it
- Because the Apostles viewed it as the ordinary sign of inclusion in the New Covenant
- Because good works always follow faith and in Acts the first testing point of obedience is baptism
- Because baptism is the visible sign and seal on earth of what God has declared from Heaven
Finally, it matters because baptism is not, in the first instance, mankind speaking to God but God speaking to all mankind about His Son.
In baptism, God testifies to the perfect work of His only begotten Son as that which alone can save. In baptism, God is declaring the Lordship of Jesus over you with the words, “You are Mine”.
In baptism, we pray that the symbol which signifies our inclusion in the body of Christ will act as a lesson throughout our life. Namely, that in baptism we are welcomed, not on account of works which we have done, but like Noah through the flood, on account of a promise made by God Himself and guaranteed by His Son, Jesus.
Promises we believe.
And when we, believing these promises, welcome one another into the church through the sign and seal of baptism which points to Christ, we are welcoming Christ Himself.