In it, only a few, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism what now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who had gone into heaven and who is at God’s right hand, with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him. (1 Peter 3: 17b-20)

Is Peter really teaching that baptism saves? What does this obscure passage mean?

We cannot make a doctrine out of these verses alone. We have to read this passage in the context of other Scriptures.  When we put Paul’s teachings together with Peter’s, they are definitely not teaching that baptism is the way to salvation as some denominations insist.

Let’s look at the story of the flood, since Peter used Noah and the ark to illustrate the meaning of baptism.

Noah and his family did not escape the flood. The deluge of rain fell on them as well as on all the wicked people God wanted to destroy. The difference was that Noah and his family were protected by the ark. It was the ark in the water that saved them from drowning. They were also a part of the judgment that fell on the earth and on all the people who perished, but in the ark they were safe. They reappeared after the earth had been purged of all the wicked people as though they had risen from the dead.

How does this compare with salvation? Although Peter does not specifically mention that those who believe in Jesus are ‘in Christ’, this is the reality that has taken place. Just as Noah was ‘in’ the ark and safe from God’s judgement, so those who are ‘in’ Christ are safe from the judgment that fell on Him. He took the rap for our sins and ‘in Him’ we died to sin and to our old sinful lives and emerged from the judgment alive and cleansed just as He emerged from the grave alive and free from sin’s power to touch Him.

Jesus was God’s perfect Son and spotless Lamb, but as long as He was a human being before His death, He had the potential to sin because He had the nature of Adam before the Fall, innocent but not righteous. Through the course of His earthly life, He had to earn His righteous status before God by being perfectly submissive and obedient to the Father’s will. How did Jesus achieve righteousness? Through suffering.

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him. (Heb. 5: 8, 9)

He did not learn obedience through trial and error because any little thought or act of rebellion or independence against the Father would have plunged Him into the same condemnation as every other human being. He learned obedience by obeying the Father’s every desire. There is not another person who has ever lived who could have thrown out the challenge He did to His opponents:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? (John 8:46a)

Just as Noah and his family were secure within the ark, so those who are in Christ are secure in Him. Noah built the ark according to God’s instructions and God Himself shut them in. No one could open the door until God have the word. In the same way, God Himself made the plan and gave His Son the instructions on how to carry it out. Jesus became the ark of safety from all those who put their trust in and obey Him.

It was through the very water that destroyed unbelievers that Noah and his family were saved. The water buoyed the ark up against the wind and rain and carried them to safety when the water receded. Jesus carries us to the Father on the very waves of God’s judgment against sin on the earth.

We have a place of refuge in Jesus, through our faith in Him, and we have the reassurance that, when He comes again to judge the earth, those who have trusted Him will be safe forever because He ever lives to make intercession for us.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5: 9)

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Luella Campbell

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