There is also an antitype which now saves us—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. (1 Peter 3:21)In the days of Noah, a worldwide flood destroyed all but a few because God was judging them. In the final days, the judgment of God will also be upon everyone who are not in His ark of safety, that ark being Jesus Christ. Being in Him is like being in the ark that took Noah safely through the storm of judgment.
Baptism literally means “immersed” or “put into.” Taken in that way, the baptism Peter is talking about is not water baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh), but that “being put into” that gives a person a good conscience toward God. This can only be that baptism whereby God puts people into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our union with Him, we participate in His death, burial and resurrection, and all believers are said to be “in Christ.”
Think of Noah’s ark as a tomb. The eight people in this big boat died to their world when they entered it. Then when the left the ark, they entered a new world. Peter says this experience is analogous to my experience. God put me in Christ and I died to the world I came from. He also gave me new life in the spiritual realm and the assurance that one day my body will be resurrected and live in another world.
How is this information practical for me today? The verse speaks of a good conscience toward God. Those without it have no idea of the freedom that brings. Because I am “in Christ” I know I can stand before God without condemnation. I am a sinner, but Christ paid the full penalty for my sin. I am free of the guilt that would otherwise be my condemnation and bring me into eternal judgment. I walk lightly because this is true.
Also, because Jesus died and rose again, both will be my experience. Death isn’t all that exciting — my to-do list is too long :-) — but I know that death is not the end. I will rise to eternal life and be with Christ forever. This too brings great freedom. The fear of dying is no threat and I know that this life is not all there is. Christ has taken care of all the important questions and issues.
I’m reminded of Romans 8:31-32 which asks these rhetorical questions, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
In Christ my enemies are not a threat and God offers me all that I need, both for this life and the next. God’s man Noah sent out a dove to make sure it was safe to venture forth, but I don’t need to do that. My assurance is in the promises of God and the saving power of Jesus Christ.