Few Thoughts on Baptism: No. 3

1 Peter 3:20‑21  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
We now propose to examine its meaning as a figure, or type, of doctrine in the epistles.
The flood in the days of Noah is spoken of: 4t While the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven," &c. (1 Pet. 3:20, 2120Which 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 by water. 21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3:20‑21).) Now we must admit there is no thought of sacramental grace here, or any inward and spiritual grace, but it is a like figure to the flood. Eight persons passed figuratively through death unto a new existence. There was no sacramental grace in the waters of the flood, but death. It was death to everything behind. The answer of a good conscience is not by any sacramental washing, but by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism, then, is a figure of the believer's death with Him. The thing signified by this figure is stated elsewhere thus: " Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God." (2 Cor. 5:1717Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).) And is not baptism a striking figure of this? We shall see this same figure wherever baptism is spoken of in the epistles. In Gal. 3:22-2922But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:22‑29), in order to prove that the Christian is no longer under law as a schoolmaster, the apostle says, " For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek," &c.
A man that is dead ceases to be under the law, ceases to be Jew or Greek. Therefore baptism, being a figure of death with Christ, the believer could be no longer looked at as alive in the flesh, under law, or a Gentile under idolatry.
In Rom. 6 this truth is largely unfolded. The Holy Spirit’s object here is to show that the believer is not to sin, that grace may abound.
Now, bearing in mind that baptism is a figure, or type, of doctrine, nothing could be more expressive of death than burial in water. " Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death." Dead to sin, dead to law; old things reckoned passed away; all things new, and all of God. The Lord Jesus went through real death for us. Our bodies go through the figure of it in baptism. We are thus identified with Him in death; and if we have thus been planted in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. If, however, we mistake the figure—that is, buried in water—for the reality, that is, association with Christ in death and resurrection by faith, through the operation of the Spirit of God, nothing could be more fatal. We are not born again, or made children of God by baptism. Nowhere do the scriptures thus speak. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." If we say baptism is a figure of that faith, or birth, there is no objection.
Again, we read, a Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." (Col. 2:1212Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12).) The figure is here most striking. Thus baptism should utterly forbid all return to ritualism and ordinances by those who profess to be dead. Believing God, we are justified in His sight. (Rom. 4; 5) In baptism we obey a type of doctrine, which declares us disciples of the dead and risen Christ.
We have not said a word as to John 3, as it is evident the Lord did not refer to baptism, but to the new birth, as foretold in Eze. 36 As has often been said, Nicodemus could not have understood christian baptism. Baptism is used as a figure of death, but that it is not the new birth is most evident. The sure mark of the new birth is this—that he that is born of God cannot sin, or practice' sin. He has a nature which cannot sin. (1 John 3) He that is born of God has put off the old man, is renewed in spirit, and has put on the new man. If born of God, the new nature will, and must, be manifested. But in the great house of Christendom are there not vast numbers of the baptized who distinctly prove, by practicing sin, that they are not born of God? No one can deny it.
In the beginning the house, that is, profession and reality, were identical, but would not the certain men crept in unawares (Jude) all have been baptized? And also, would not those having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Timothy), and the vessels of dishonor in the great house, have all been baptized? No doubt the baptized are in the great house of profession; but let us beware of trusting in the figure, however instructive.
There is another scripture, often quoted as though it meant baptism in water: " Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Titus 3:55Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5).) Now, can this mean either salvation or washing by literal water? is it abundance of water that saves? Let it be observed, the word translated " regeneration" is not the same as the word used for " new birth." It is never so used—indeed it only occurs in one other instance, Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28), and there it cannot mean the new birth. Just as Israel will then pass into that new order of millennial things, so now the believer has passed from the old to the new -all new, and all of God. But this is not by water but by the hearing of the word, and faith in God: who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. It is the application of the word by the Holy Ghost. No doubt the washing of water is a figure of this, and so used—" the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26).) Is it not, then, a fatal error to put the type of baptism in the place of the great antitype—the death of Christ, by which the believer is-reconciled "in the body of his flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight." (Col. 1:2222In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:22).)
What we find in scripture, then, is this—believers were separated from Judaism and heathenism unto Christ. Further, to believers it signified in figure death with Christ; dead to law, sin, the world, and the flesh; and if dead with Christ, risen with Him. Since then, it has been utterly perverted, and made to be the beginning of religious fleshly ritualism. In scripture it is the outward sign of death. As a figure it is most expressive. The Lord grant that we may realize more what it is to be dead with Christ, and alive in Him. Not merely once baptized, and then forgotten not there is one baptism; this is named amongst that which surely continues. (Eph. 4:4-64There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4‑6).) Thus baptism is the continuous figure of that which we reckon ourselves to be. (Rom. 6:3-113Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:3‑11).) C.S.