Lesson 31—Baptized with Christ
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:21-22
Lesson Goal: To better understand the true believer’s identification with Jesus.
Today we conclude chapter three of 1 Peter by looking at verses twenty-one and twenty-two. To gain a proper understanding of these verses, we must look back to verse twenty which speaks of Noah, the flood and the ark. Peter wants his readers to understand that salvation is in, and by, Jesus Christ. “It is only Christ who can save through His death and resurrection, not the baptismal water and its administration” (Stibbs).
In verse 21, baptism is presented as an “antitype” (Greek word antitupos). Antitype means a copy or figure pointing to. In the New Testament, it means a description of an earthly expression of a heavenly reality—a symbol or analogy of a spiritual truth.
There has been much misinterpretation of the word baptism in verse twenty-one, but Peter himself makes it very clear what baptism refers to by adding: “baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter hastens to explain that baptism is the occasion and sign of transition from an old way of life to a new way of life. Salvation does not come by, or occur by, the means of any rite including water baptism. Peter wants his readers to understand fully that there is no such thinking or concept for infant baptism. He also wants them to understand that baptismal regeneration is an untruth imported into Christianity by some and passed on to others. He insists on truth, and the truth is the blood saves, not water.
Read Colossians 1:20; I John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:9.
“Baptism does not wash away the filth of the flesh either in a literal sense, as a bath of the body, or in a metaphorical sense of the filth of the soul. No ceremonies really affect the conscience (Hebrews 9:13ff). A person is saved having repented and turned to God in faith and makes public proclamation by means of baptism” (A. T. Roberson). Alan Stibbs says, “Peter deliberately adds two statements in parenthesis in order to make unmistakably plain that it is not…the outward form of baptism that saves. It is only Christ who can save through His death and resurrection, not the baptismal water and its administration.”
In verse twenty-one, baptism is viewed as a type or a picture. To understand this correctly, we must see the typical meaning of the ark and the flood. The ark is a picture of Jesus Christ; the floodwater depicts the judgment of God. The ark was the only safety and refuge from the floodwaters. When the flood came, only those inside the ark were saved, so when the flood (judgment) comes, those who are positioned “in Christ,” and only those who are “in Christ,” are saved. As the ark bore the fury of the flood, Jesus Christ bore the fury of God’s judgment. He died for our sins; then on the third day, He was victoriously raised to new life. The ark carried those positioned in it safely and securely through the floodwaters of death and judgment to a new life. Christ is the only way of salvation.
Now let us look at some very practical truths concerning baptism. What does baptism mean and what it does not mean? I shall borrow from the words of William McDonald in the Believer’s Bible Commentary.
Read Luke 12:50. The baptism spoke of in this verse was not a baptism in water, but a baptism that took place at Calvary. Christ’s death was a baptism. He was baptized in waves and billows of God’s wrath, and this baptism is the basis of our salvation. Just as Noah and his family had to enter the ark to be saved, so we must commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ as our only Savior. When we do this, we become identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. We then have been crucified with Him (read Galatians 2:20); we have been buried with Him, and we have been brought from death to life with Him (read Romans 6:4). All of this is pictured in the believer’s baptism. Baptism is an outward expression of what has happened spiritually. We have been baptized into Christ’s death. As we go under the water of baptism, we have been buried with Him, and as we come out of the water, we show we have risen with Him and want to walk in newness of life.
(Verse 21) “an antitype that now saves us”—the antitype refers to Christ’s baptism unto death on the cross and our identification with Him in this baptism, represented by our water baptism.
Practical truth: This verse cannot mean that we are saved by ritual baptism.
That would make water the Savior, instead of Jesus Christ (read John 14:6).
It would imply that Christ died in vain. If people can be saved by water, why did He die?
“the answer of a good conscience toward God”—only a personal relationship with Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection can do that. Our clear conscience toward God is inseparably linked with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The risen Christ is our absolute assurance that God’s claims against our sins have been fully met.
Let us remember:
At Calvary, Christ was baptized unto death for us.
When we, in faith, trust Him as Lord and Savior, we are spiritually united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Through knowledge of the fact that Jesus has risen, our conscience can be clear because of what He did for us.
In water baptism, we give visible expression to the spiritual deliverance we have expressed.
(Verse 22) Peter concluded this section with a glorious final note concerning Jesus Christ’s triumphant return to heaven.
Let us remember again the time of Peter’s writing and those to whom he wrote. Christ suffered but His suffering was followed by glory. This was the lesson Peter wanted his readers to learn. They should be encouraged that Christ suffered and they too would suffer. Peter wanted them to find comfort in the fact that if they suffer with Him, they would see and experience the glory that follows suffering.
Read Romans 8:17-18 and 2 Corinthians 4:17.
We must understand that water baptism (immersion) is an important part of our Christian life, and this importance should not be minimized or diminished. For the early church, there was never a question of should we be baptized. As followers of Jesus Christ, they accepted baptism as the natural response of obedience. Baptism is still the natural response of obedience for followers of Jesus Christ. Through baptism, we identify and give testimony to the world of our new life in Christ.
Questions for Life Focus
How does a Christian (true believer) identify with Christ?
How can knowing that glory follows suffering make a difference in the way we, as true believers, live our lives?
Why is baptism important?
How can you encourage someone who is being persecuted today because of their faith?