“Does Baptism ‘Save’?” (1 Peter 3:21)

noahsarkDr. Scott Clark has a post that caught my attention because he explains the meaning of “baptism… now saves you” in 1 Peter 3:21. Here’s an excerpt:

The analogy of baptism and the flood helps explain why he says that baptismal waters themselves don’t make anything happen any more than the flood did. Humanity has two distinct relations to the waters. Either the flood waters/baptism waters are a judgment, i.e. they signal condemnation (for those who are not identified with Christ) or they signal salvation for those who are identified with Christ, who are in the ark. Contra Rome and the FV [Federal Vision], baptism doesn’t work ex opere (automatically)… Jesus went through the greatest flood/death/judgment and his resurrection signals that he was righteous and survived the ordeal. Baptism is a sign of our union with him… an outward identification with his flood-ordeal. The tomb didn’t save Jesus. He was delivered from the tomb. His righteousness saved him. His resurrection was a vindication of his righteousness. Jesus is the ark. He is the Savior. The flood waters aren’t the Savior.

I also have a couple of posts where I used 1 Peter 3:21: one about baptism, “What 1 Corinthians 10:2 means”; another one about Christ’s descent into hell, “‘Christ in hell is a little wormy spirit,’ and other heresies.”

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4 thoughts on ““Does Baptism ‘Save’?” (1 Peter 3:21)”

  1. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXVII, Section iii)
    The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time. (WCF, XXVIII, ix)

    1. Thanks, Joel, for reminding us what WCF says. Another Reformation document, the Belgin Confession, also says this about baptism:

      For that reason He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with plain water, into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). By this He signifies to us that as water washes away the dirt of the body when poured on us, and as water is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled on him, so the blood of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, does the same thing internally to the soul. It washes and cleanses our soul from sin and regenerates us from children of wrath into children of God. This is not brought about by the water as such but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, which is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and enter into the spiritual land of Canaan. – BC Article 34

  2. Good analogy between baptism and the flood. Indeed Baptism doesn’t save the people but the process of being one with the Lord, being immersed in His presence will. The ceremony is then to declare what had happened. Jesus did show forth as well when he ascended to Heaven with 500 witnesses.

    1. Baptism is indeed a “declaration” or signification of what had happened: God has cleansed the one being baptized of sin. Not a declaration of what he has done, i.e., accepting Jesus into his heart or whatever thing evangelicals do today. It is a sign and seal of what God has done, not our own “declaration.”

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