From Ge 3 15 onward Scripture contains promises, prophecies and types of Jesus of Nazareth – both as the Messiah (the Christ) and as the ontological (real, actual) Son of God – doing his gracious works on our behalf. Holy Baptism plays such an important part in delivering Christ’s work of Redemption personally to us. As such, the Bible foreshadows and prophesies the ‘washing of regeneration’ (Tt 3 5) that God gives us through his Son.
Christian Baptism is more than a ceremony representing what God did for us in Christ, and being baptized is more than just obeying God’s command with no personal benefit. Baptism is not an afterthought – as if God decided to add a subplot with no real significance or connection to the main story about Jesus. The Bible records that from the very beginning God always intended to join water to his Word in order to create new life in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
When we compare the beginning of Ge 1 and Jn 1, we see that the first three words of both texts are the same – in the beginning. Moses records that while the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters in Ge 1 2, God created our world and everything in it by speaking his Word. See Ge 1 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24 and 26. Cf. Ps 33 6, 9; 148 5 and He 11 3. The evangelist John wrote about God’s Word, the Son of God with the words:
All things were made through human and without him was not any thing made that was made (Jn 1 3). By looking at Ge 1 and Jn 1 together, we see the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – bringing forth new life in connection with water.
Notice that in Creation God did not invoke some fancy incantation or wave some magic wand. Instead, God spoke his Word, and the water and air and the whole of his earth teemed with life. It is the same way with Baptism which itself is not some magical ceremony. In Holy Baptism, just as in Creation, God speaks his Word and brings forth abundant life which is received through saving faith. As the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at Creation, so too the Spirit is present at our baptisms. Cf. both Mt 3 16 and Ac 2 38-39.
Various OT types for Holy Baptism include the following:
the flood of Ge 3
1 Pe 3 20-21
The flood shows God washing away sinners who corrupted his Creation. On the other hand, Peter emphasized the blessing of salvation God provided to Noah and his family because the water lifted them up. God gave them new life.
Circumcision of Ge 17
Co 2 11-12
Paul compared OT circumcision with NT Baptism by which God grants new life.
The Exodus of Ex 14
1 Cor 10 1-2 and Co 2 12-15
The Israelites faced death and every side. We humans are helpless before the onslaught of Satan, the world and our own sinful flesh. Like Israel, however, God gives us deliverance through the water of Holy Baptism. Paul said that we are buried with Christ in Baptism (Co 2 12). In that burial God joined our death to Christ’s death. Our Baptism swallows up death, just as surely as the Red Sea swallowed up Pharaoh’s army.
Ritual cleansing. Cf. Ex 19 22; 24 7-8 and Le 11-15
Mk 7 1-5; He 9 11-14, 19-22 and 10 22
Washing was central to consecration and purity in the OT covenant – the law of Moses. Unclean people faced exclusion from the sanctuary and from their community. Defilement was even punished with death. Cleansing brought people back into the life and holiness of the community. The NT uses the Greek word baptizo to describe such washings. The book of He mingled the blood of the covenant with references to Baptism.
Entering the promised land Js 3
1 Pe 2 2-3, 9-12
With great anticipation, the Israelites stood on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to enter the promised land. God told Joshua to lead the priests into the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant. They would open the way for the people. God called Canaan a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ in Ex 3 8. In contrast with the wilderness, the promised land must have seemed like a ‘dream come true’. But before the Israelites could enter upon their new life, they would need to pass through the water. (Hello. Is anybody listening?!) Early Christians symbolized this new life by drinking from a cup of milk and honey after their baptisms.
New life and the Spirit in Ek 36 25-27
Jn 3 5 and Ac 2 38-39
through Ezekiel the LORD prophesied that he would bive a new heart and his Holy Spirit to those sprinkled in Baptism.
From its opening chapters the Bible points to the main plot in God’s divine drama – his story of salvation history. Over the course of many centuries the Bible tells us of the coming of his one and only Son, Jesus, the Christ, who will live, suffer and die, and rise again to new life for us. God’s Word foreshadows Baptism as an integral part of God’s divine drama intended to personally deliver to us what Christ has done for us.
Because of this we have all that we need in Jesus and what he has done, and continues to do, for us. Through God’s Word – through his name Father, Son and Holy Spirit which is attached to the water of Baptism as we read in Mt 28 19, God created saving faith and brings forth new life. God separates you far from his wrath and punishment. God delivers you from attacks of the sinful nature that would drive you to the brink of destruction. And, God graciously welcomes us into the promised land, allowing us to cross over from death into new life – just as was prefigured typologically in both the crossing of the Red Sea in the old Exodus and just as was in the crossing of the Jordan River with Joshua and Caleb following the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites.
1 Pe 3 commentary
vv 13-22 center on v 17 for it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
This exposition runs as follows:
v 18 by his suffering and death the righteous one, who was and is Christ, saved the unrighteous
vv 19-22 by his resurrection Christ received new life in the Spirit which he communicates to believers through the baptismal bath that cleanses their consciences from sin. Just as Noah’s family was saved through water so also Christians are saved through the waters of their Baptism into Christ.
As such, believers are freed from the fear of sinners, and they should rather rejoice in their suffering because of their hope in Christ.
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
Peter’s hearers were to remember how Jesus not only suffered for sins once (v 18) but also how he was raised from the dead in power. Using traditions found in apocalyptic literature such a 1 Enoch, Peter symbolically expressed the conviction that the resurrection was not simply an event concerning the person Jesus but that it had cosmic consequences. In the spirit Jesus went to the spirits in prison to preach the good news (vv 19-22). This dramatic announcement was the basis for the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed which says that Jesus descended into hell. This means that God’s power to save reaches everywhere, even to the farthest reaches of human sin and alienation.
put to death in the flesh affirms that Jesus truly died as a human being. He was truly dead.
made alive in the spirit means being raised from the dead, both body and soul, by the Spirit. The resurrected body is given new life by the Spirit.
Translation of pneuma in the NT can be difficult because there is such a range of meanings. The rule of thumb is that most of the time in the NT, far more than our translations usually let on, pneuma and its related adjectives refer to the Holy Spirit.
All three of the following explanations hold good as theological truths about the resurrection, about being made alive in the spirit .
Elsewhere the resurrection was attributed to Father as in Ac 2 32, Ga 1 1 and Ep 1 20 or to the Son as in Jn 10 17-18. Here it was being attributed to the Spirit. So the Holy Spirit empowered Christ’s resurrection.
Christ’s human spirit and body which were separated in death were now reunited in his resurrection.
In his new and transformed existence Christ has been freed from the limitations and weaknesses of natural human life. Christ’s risen body is no longer subject to the limitations of mortality or death, but his risen body has those “limitations” which belong to the essence of the physical body the risen body of Christ is circumscribed, has specific dimensions, takes up space, can only be locally present in one place at a time, etc.
However, exegetically, the point of 1 Pe 3 18 is that the resurrection of Christ was the work of the Spirit. Other passages as well attest to Christ’s resurrection as the work of the Spirit (e.g. Ro 1 34; 1 Cor 15 4549; 1 Ti 3 16). This should not be surprising, for the resurrection of Christ is a work and mystery of the Holy Trinity.
And the preposition in 1 Pe 3 18 is probably locative, indicating not only that Christ’s risen body was given life, but is even now enlivened, not by his human soul, but by the Spirit of God. (Christ’s resurrection was not a work of his humanity, but entirely a work of his divinity.)
Further, it is through Christ’s resurrection that we receive the new life of the Spirit, which will culminate in the resurrection of our bodies by the power of the same Spirit (see Ro 8 911; 1 Pe 1 3; Re 1 1718; Ga 6 78; Co 1 27, with 3 34). And our bodies will be made like Christ’s glorious body (Pp 3 21), enlivened not by the soul, but by the Spirit. That is what Paul was referring to when he said we will have a “body given life by the Spirit” (1 Cor 15 4458).
19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
Christ in his glorified body “went and preached to the spirits in prison (hell)” to declare his victory over death and all evil forces (and not to offer them a second chance) especially to those further described.
“It is enough if we know that Christ descended into hell, destroyed hell for all believers, and delivered them from the power of death and of the devil, from eternal condemnation and the jaws of hell. We will save our questions (and curiously investigate) about how this happened until the other world. Then not only this mystery but others also will be revealed that we simply believe here and cannot grasp with our blind response” (Formula of Concord Epitome IX 4).
It’s not entirely clear exactly who these spirits were. Compare 1 Pe 3 22; Ge 6 4; Enoch 6-36, especially 21 6; and 2 Enoch 7 1-5. Still, the absence of an article before “disobeyed” (v 20) indicates that the spirits who refused to heed Noah’s warning were among the spirits in prison, but were not the only ones to whom Christ preached. They are the prime example of the unbelievers of all times. The point is that the cosmic LORD was victorious over all the disobedient as noted in v 22.
See notes Ep 4 9!!!
20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
Noah had preached to these unbelievers who had failed to hear and believe God’s Word. Except for eight of them, all the rest perished and currently remain in hell until Christ’s second coming and his final judgment.
21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves younot as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Peter’s immediate point is that through Baptism Christians are given the same power. They need not fear human slander for the power of God is at work in them.
“Baptism is a greater flood than was that of Noah. … Baptism drowns out all sorts of men throughout the world, from the birth of Christ even until the day of judgment. … Noah’s flood was a flood of wrath while Baptism is a flood of grace.” Luther AE 35:32
Appeal to God: this could also be translated “pledge,” that is, a promise on the part of Christians to live with a good conscience before God, or a pledge from God of forgiveness and therefore a good conscience for us.
An appeal to God for a good conscience affirms that we are forgiven and made holy because of Christ whose forgiveness is applied to us in Christian Baptism. See also He 10 22.
So the flood was a foreshadow of Christian Baptism to come. In other words, just as water saved Noah, so also water saves Christians. The world was cleansed when Noah and his family were lifted up by the flood, and Christians are when baptized. The water that spoke of judgment in the flood with the death of the wicked and in Baptism with the death of Christ and the believer … that water is also the water that saves as we read in Ro 6 4. Baptism cleanses us and raises us to new life. Baptism is a means of salvation, a means through which the Holy Spirit produces faith as a gift of God because God’s grace as we read in Ep 5 26 and Tt 3 5.
through the resurrection affirms that the life we are given in Holy Baptism was earned through Jesus by his resurrection. See Ro 6 4.