BAPTISM 'SAVES' US -- BUT FROM WHAT? - GracEmail - Edward Fudge

The following review defends Peter's statement connecting baptism and salvation. The review is of Edward Fudge's GracEmail.

Responding to one of these recent columns, someone wrote: "In good conscience, what do you do with I Peter 3:21, where the Apostle compares the Noah story to baptism, "which also now saves you"?

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I take this Petrine (Peter) text very seriously -- but I urge that we look very carefully at what it actually says. The apostle does NOT say that "baptism saves you" in the abstract. He says that baptism saves us in the same way that the Flood water saved Noah's family.
No New Testament fact can be taught in the abstract. In one way or another Christ came to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies and types. The meaning to us is determined by how the inspired writers interpreted the types such as the flood.

We do not have to worry about future floods or crossing of the Red Sea. These were physical types. Baptism is the spiritual antitype or fulfullment of the type.

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 clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21RSV
By removing the parenthetic expression Peter said: "Baptism now saves you" because it is the time and place where you call upon or appeal to God for a clear conscience. It is not real sharp thinking to make all fulfilled types mean exactly to what the type or prophecy pictured. In the same way, the ark was the time and place where God saved Noah and his family and restored the earth.
Baptism is not the work of our own hands. Undergoing the "antitype" of which the flood was a sign or type is that which frees us from our own labor. Those who reject baptism often go through life with the Calvinistic doubt as to whether God has predestinated them for salvation. Therefore, they seek signs through ceremonial legalism. Peter said that Baptism is the place where God gives us a clear conscience and we can trust our souls into the hands of God:
And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. Genesis 5:29
Nuwach (h5117)noo'-akh; a prim. root; to rest, i. e. settle down; used in a great variety of applications, lit. and fig., intrans., trans. and causat. (to dwell, stay, let fall, place, let alone, withdraw, give comfort, etc.): - cease, be confederate, lay, let down, (be) quiet, remain, (cause to, be at, give, have, make to) rest, set down. Comp. 3241.
The Noah event, at some level, was to destroy the old earth of "emptiness and chaos" and regenerate it as the wind (spirit) hovered or blew over the waters. After the flood we get the clear piture that the survivors moved into the fertile crescent which became the seat of the greatest secular society and food producer the world had ever known. Indeed, putting themselves into the hands of God in the Ark and in the water moved them into a quite-literally new heavens and new earth.
Which raises an interesting question. From what did the water save Noah's family? From sin? No. For the Scripture says that Noah, by faith, was righteous, blameless and walked with God -- before he ever caught sight of the water (Gen. 6:9:Heb. 11:6-7). But faith-righteous Noah was out of place in a wicked world of unbelievers. Yet there he lived -- right in the middle of that crowd with which, spiritually, he had nothing in common.
Sin was personified by the drowned people who made sinning into an art. Therefore, before the flood, Noah and his entire family was under the constant force of sin. In the same way, baptism moves one out of the zone of sin because the "body is dead" but the spirit has its citizenship transferred into a new heaven.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became (future tense) heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Hebrews 11:7

But the water "saved" Noah from his wicked generation. It clearly distinguished him (as a believer who had right relationship with God) from the rest of that world.
The final evil generation will be destroyed by fire rather than water. Noah's obedience to God's will showed that he had faith. However, if he had not obeyed God and built the ark -- as a form of the church -- would he have floated and been separated from the sinners who drowned? We think not. In the same way, it is water which kills off the "old man of sin" and separates one from the present evil generation. Those who do not "have their citizenship transferred to heaven" will we not burn with the earth?
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9

Caddiyq (h6662) tsad-deek'; from 6663; just: - just, lawful, righteous (man).

Cadaq (h6663) tsaw-dak'; a prim. root; to be (causat. make) right (in a moral or forensic sense): - cleanse, clear self, (be, do) just (- ice, -ify, -ify self), (be, turn to) righteous (-ness).

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Hebrews 11:7

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eigth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2 Peter 2:5

Diasozo (h1295) dee-as-odze'-o; from 1223 and 4982; to save thoroughly, i.e. (by impl. or anal.) to cure, preserve, rescue, etc.: - bring safe, escape (safe), heal, make perfectly whole, save.

The like figure (antitupon) whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer (appeal to God for) of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 2 Peter 3:21

The type was of a literal, physical destruction of "the old body of sin" from which Noah was separated from or freed from only after he came out of the ark. The antitype is literal water but the effect is upon the inner being as one appeals to God for a clear conscience having burried the old body.
Noah and his family were saved by the pure grace of God. There was no way for them to be saved from the flood. However, God's grace was in the form of instructions about how to build the ark, get inside and be saved. It was through the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11) that Noah was taught the gospel of salvation from the flood. Peter wrote:
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved (preserved, cured) by (through) water. 1 Peter 3:20
  1. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer (seeking) of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:21KJV
  2. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21NAS
  3. 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 clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21RSV
The implication is clear: those who did not believe Noah or did not get on the ark drowned.
IN THIS SAME WAY, says the apostle Peter, baptism "now saves you" -- from a wicked generation, marking out the believer as different from his/her unbelieving and unbaptized contemporaries.
If we teach that baptism is important only after we are saved by faith only, we still have Peter saying that baptism saves us. The total overwhelming of Noah and his family by the waters of the flood was their "coffin" showing that they were already dead to the old world. Only God could give them life and a resurrection as the returning birds symbolized that a new "land" had been prepared for them. Peter said that water baptism was God's simple method of saving us in the Spiritual sense.

The population of the world represented sin. They were put to death; Noah and His family were made alive by the rescuing power of God. Without the physical ark God would not have saved the new spiritual father of the human race.

In the same way, our salvation has both a physical and a spiritual element. It involves both body and spirit. Peter noted that the physical element in baptism was not to remove the outward, physical dirt. Rather, physical baptism was the actual request to God for a clear conscience. Therefore, baptism in literal water is the assurance or the maturing of faith. This is the "faith only" which saves. Those who do not submit to baptism or minimize its power in the mind of God who gave it may not have the faith which Scripture says saves.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having (past tense) our
  1. hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our
  2. bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22


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It is not surprising, therefore, that the same Apostle Peter who talks about Noah and baptism, concludes his remarks to the Pentecost audience in the same terms -- "save yourselves from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40).
However, this same Peter told those who wanted to be saved from the consequences of their sins:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38
This was not just salvation from the destruction of Jerusalem:
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. James 5:20
Scripture shows that the new believers literally became "the way" or a new citizenship and the old people of sin had less influence upon their lives.
Like those before the flood, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to be destroyed -- a million strong. Those who were "safe in the arms of Jesus" obeyed Him and got out of the evil environment. Those who rejected Him suffered physically and spiritually.
Noah was reviled by his contemporaries but God vindicated his faith by bringing him safely through the water to a new world. Jesus was condemned by his generation, but God vindicated his trust by bringing him back from the dead.
The believers to whom Peter wrote his first epistle were reviled by their generation also, but Peter assures them that God, who raised Jesus, will vindicate their confidence in God as well -- and that God has already marked them out as his believing people by bringing them through the water of baptism. Every time they think of their baptism, they may remember faithful Noah and faithful Jesus -- and, ultimately, remember God who is always faithful to those who put their trust in him.
Let us not misuse 1 Peter 3:21 to say that baptism "saves" in any sense other than that which Peter specifies in the context and in the passage itself. And let us not be embarrassed -- in an age when many professing Christians seem to go to great lengths to avoid even mentioning this gospel ordinance commanded by Jesus himself -- to say eveything about baptism that this text (and any other) does actually say.
What do you suppose Jesus meant? Did he not speak of salvation in eternity?
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16 Baptism had no real effect upon their being saved from the evil people: they could just get up and go to another country. Therefore, Baptism is connected to spiritual life because that is where Jesus put it. Salvation from the physical generation was a result of their spiritual salvation or "good spiritual health."
Kenneth Sublett




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