Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 3:21-22 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Baptism corresponds to the flood in Noah’s day. The Deluge prefigures Christian baptism in that the flood saved Noah and his family. The idea of type-antitype occurs elsewhere in the New Testament. “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14). In speaking of earthly priests, the author of Hebrews said, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb 8:5). “Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself” (Heb 9:24).
Baptism now saves. The flood saved Noah and his family “then;” baptism saves us “now.”
Baptism does actually save. Based upon this text, there can be no doubt but that baptism is absolutely essential to salvation. The text does say “baptism now saves you.”
Throughout the New Testament, we are taught that one must be baptized in order to be saved. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “And now why do you wait?” Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).
The statement that “baptism saves” is a provisional statement. Only God saves, baptism in and of itself has no saving power. Baptism is the way that one comes to God to receive salvation.
There are texts in the New Testament which apply other acts to the salvation process.
- Faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
- Repentance: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
- Confession: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10).
- Faithful living: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
What are we to make of all this? No one of these acts by itself will save anyone. When we put all these acts together, we come to God and receive salvation.
Baptism does not save by removing filth from the body. Many object to the biblical view of baptism. They hear us saying that all one needs to do is be immersed in water and he will be forgiven. This passage clearly refutes that idea. If being immersed was all that was necessary, we could immerse everyone and save everyone. This statement makes clear that the water has nothing to do with the salvation connected with baptism.
Baptism does save as an appeal to God for a clear conscience. We have here a dichotomy between outward cleansing and inner cleansing. Although one is bodily immersed in water when he is baptized, the outward cleansing has nothing to do with his salvation. The water does not save. Although in a different context, Hebrews 10:22 also creates this dichotomy between outward and inner cleansing: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience. In being baptized, we ask God to remove our sins and give us a pure heart. “Pure conscience” is here like “pure heart.” “Good conscience” is connected with “faith” in 1 Timothy 1:9.
Baptism saves through the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is what gives baptism its power—immersion in water, in and of itself, has no power. Had Jesus never been raised from the dead, baptism would not save. “If Christ has not been raised, hour faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). “by his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Jesus now reigns. Peter shows that Jesus really has the power to save by showing that Jesus reigns over all creation.
Jesus has gone into heaven. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. The apostles watched Jesus ascend into heaven (Acts 1:10). The New Testament often speaks of the fact that Jesus has ascended into heaven. “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” (Heb 4:14). “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:20). Jesus is “exalted above the heavens” (Heb 7:26).
The ascension is probably mentioned here for two reasons.
- After mentioning the resurrection, New Testament writers often mentioned the ascension.
- The ascension shows that Jesus has triumphantly passed through the sphere of principalities and powers over which he now reigns. Peter is going to make abundantly clear that Jesus stands above all power. In ascending, Jesus passed through these regions to a place that is far above them.
Jesus is at the right hand of God. Jesus’s sitting at God’s right hand is significant. The fact that Jesus is now at God’s right hand shows his power and his royal authority. This shows that Jesus really is the Messiah, for this is the fulfillment of prophecy. This shows that God is pleased with Jesus’s work (Phil 2:9).
The idea of Jesus’s being at God’s right hand come from Psalm 110:1: “The LORD said to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’” The Jews viewed this psalm as a reference to the Messiah. Since Jesus is the Messiah, he rightly sits at God’s right hand.
The New Testament often speaks of Jesus’s being at God’s right hand.
- “Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” (Rom 8:34).
- “David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet’” (Acts 2:34-35).
- “God exalted him at his right hand as leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
- “He accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:20).
- “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
- “But to what angel has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet?’” (Heb 1:13).
- “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb 8:1).
- “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12).
- “Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).
Jesus has angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. Angels, authorities, and powers appear to be different levels of spiritual forces.
- “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor 15:24).
- Christ has been made to sit “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (Eph 1:21).
- “You have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col 2:10).
- “That through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10).
- “In him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities and authorities” (Col 1:16).
- “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them” (Col 2:15).
- “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers” (Rom 8:38).
As with the previous idea, this truth also comes from the Old Testament—Psalm 8:6b: “Thou hast put all things under his feet.”
In several cases the New Testament quotes this Old Testament idea and even interprets it. Each time an interpretation is added with the quote the author emphasizes the word “all.”
- “He has put all things under his feed and has made him the head over all things for the church” (Eph 1:22—quotes but does not interpret).
- “‘For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection under him,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him” (1 Cor 15:27).
- “‘Putting everything in subjection under his feet.’ No when putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb 2:8).
- The point is that every created thing is under the subjection of Jesus Christ.
Baptism saves because Jesus has been raised from the dead and is now at God’s right hand.
This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.