Water Baptism’s Connection with Salvation
1. (a) How does 1 Peter 3:20, 21 link the carrying of eight human souls through the Flood with Christian baptism? (b) How is the baptism distinguished from the water?
THE relationship of water baptism to salvation is commented upon by the apostle Peter in his first letter, 1 Pe chapter three. After telling of Jesus’ being raised in the spirit and his preaching to the spirits in prison, Peter goes on to say: “The patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water. That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:20, 21, NW; RS; AT; Mo) It is not the water that saves. Baptism is not the baptismal water. Baptism is the passing through the water by immersion therein. Baptism is an act, not water.
2. (a) How does Hebrews 11:7 show the thing that resulted in Noah’s salvation at the flood? (b) Despite Noah’s walking with God before the flood, what decisive step did he have to take in order to be saved?
2 Noah was not saved by the Flood water. How he was saved, Hebrews 11:7 tells: “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” Even before the flood “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.” (Gen. 6:9) But the time came when Noah had to make a big decision. This was when God warned him of things to come in his generation and commanded him to build the huge ark. To do this called for faith and obedience on Noah’s part. The question now was, Would Noah do God’s will? He decided to do this biggest thing in his life. So he committed himself, dedicated himself to doing God’s will. This led to salvation for him and his household. They were saved in that ark.—Compare Hebrews 10:7-9.
3. (a) So what was that lifesaving ark a symbol of respecting Noah and his family? (b) What inward possession did those eight souls gain for their obedience due to their faith?
3 So that ark became a symbol of Noah’s dedication of himself to do God’s will and his doing that divine will with faith and in obedience. This ark, which was a concrete, tangible, practical expression of dedication to do God’s will, was what saved Noah and seven other human souls. The Flood water did not save; it brought death to those outside the ark. Inside the ark, Noah and his household passed through the water and were saved. By dedicating himself to do God’s will as respects the ark and then building it Noah got a good conscience toward God. His household did likewise with him. What righteousness they had up till building the ark would not alone, of itself, have saved them through the Flood. The house in which Noah and his household lived until entering the ark perished.
4. Why, as illustrated in the case of the Jews under the Mosaic Law covenant, is a good conscience a thing that we have to make a request for to God?
4 A thing corresponding to this is what occurs with those who become the baptized disciples of Jesus Christ. A good conscience toward God is not something that we are born with or that we work out for ourselves on our own terms by works of self-righteousness. The Jews tried gaining a good conscience toward Jehovah God by striving for perfection in doing the works commanded in the Mosaic Law covenant with their nation, but they failed. That is why, annually, every Atonement Day (Tishri 10), they had to have propitiatory sacrifices offered for them by Israel’s high priest, to restore their good conscience toward God. Hence a good conscience is something for which we have to make a request to Jehovah God.
5. (a) How do we make request to God for a good conscience, and get it? (b) Up till then, whose will were we working out?
5 That is why Peter, when stating what baptism involves, says: “Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience.” (1 Pet. 3:21) How, then, do we make a request to God for that good conscience? We do this by doing like Noah, dedicating ourselves, before passing through the water. Like Noah we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God to do his will and from then on proceed to do it. And since this has to do with becoming associated with Jehovah’s new covenant of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator, we must do as the people of Israel at Mount Sinai did before being taken into the Mosaic Law covenant, dedicating themselves to God with the words: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Ex. 19:8; 24:7, 8) Up till then we “worked out the will of the nations” and lived “for the desires of men”; but now we dedicate ourselves to live “for God’s will.” (1 Pet. 4:1-3, 19) This results in our getting a good conscience, for when we know that we are doing God’s will we enjoy a good conscience.
6. Since we can do God’s will only imperfectly now, what do we need to be applied in our behalf to retain a good conscience?
6 Of course, we can do God’s will in only an imperfect way, and for that reason we need the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to be applied by God’s High Priest in our behalf, to cleanse us from the stain of sin and imperfection. As Hebrews 9:14 asks: “How much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?”
7. (a) What, then, does our dedication to God through Christ really represent, in the language of 1 Peter 3:21? (b) To keep this good conscience, to what do we need to have continual recourse?
7 Thus the dedication of ourselves to God to do his will is really a “request made to God for a good conscience.” The good conscience results, not from doing our own works of self-righteousness, which are “dead works,” but from doing God’s prescribed works, God’s will. This is what we dedicate ourselves to Him to do. In order to keep this good conscience from when we first received it, we need to have recourse continually to the benefits of the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the propitiatory sacrifice of the great antitypical Atonement Day. As Hebrews 9:22 reminds us, “unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” On this account we, who are forgiven through Christ, “have no consciousness of sins anymore.”—Heb. 10:1, 2.
8. (a) Because of our repenting and being converted and dedicating ourselves, what does God apply in our behalf, and with what result to us? (b) So what may our water baptism be said to symbolize? (c) What scriptures indicate whether it is water baptism alone that saves us?
8 Thus our dedication of ourselves to God through Christ constitutes a “request made to God for a good conscience.” Why so? Because of ourselves, in our imperfect, sinful condition, we are not acceptable to God. So, because we repent of sin and turn around or get converted and dedicate ourselves to God through Christ, Jehovah applies the cleansing blood of Christ’s atoning sacrifice to us, thereby relieving us of the condemnation of sin and giving us a good conscience toward Him. It may therefore be said that our baptism in water, our obediently passing through the baptismal water, symbolizes our dedication of ourselves to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. Noah’s obediently undertaking to do God’s will by building the ark saved him and his household, and our dedicating ourselves to God to do his will and then faithfully carrying it out “is also now saving” us. In this connection we are calling upon the name of Jehovah to be saved. (Heb. 13:15, RS) We are believing on the Lord Jesus to be saved. (Acts 4:12) We are making open confession or public declaration with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” and are believing in our hearts that “God raised him up from the dead,” in order for us to be saved.
9. What can one who has taken those positive steps not say later on respecting his “request made to God for a good conscience”?
9 On that account no one taking such positive steps as repentance, conversion and dedication has grounds for saying later on that his “request made to God for a good conscience” was never answered and God never gave him a good conscience and so his dedication did not count and was not now binding upon him.
10. (a) In order that we might be saved, for what must we present ourselves? (b) Why is it “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” that such baptism is also now saving us?
10 Consequently we can now appreciate that if we want to be saved we must present ourselves for water baptism, in imitation of Jesus Christ and in obedience to his command. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Nothing could be more plainly stated, in 1 Peter 3:21, namely: “That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” We must believe with our hearts that God resurrected him from the dead. A resurrected Jesus Christ is necessary to our salvation, for only a resurrected Son of God could act as God’s High Priest in offering to God in heaven the value of his lifeblood that was poured out for us to get forgiveness of sins and a resulting good conscience. He is necessary to God’s giving us a good conscience in answer to our request.—1 Pet. 3:22.
OUR MESSIANIC LEADER
11. Washing their robes in the Lamb’s blood results in what to the “great crowd,” and what good reason is there for them to hail this Lamb of God?
11 Even the “great crowd” that is today being gathered out from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ and thereby get a good conscience toward God. Good reason this is for them to be standing before the throne of God and to be waving palm branches and crying out loudly: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9-14) They are thus hailing Jehovah’s Chief Agent of divine rulership. This one they follow as their Shepherd and Leader.
12. By whom on earth must the Chief Agent of Divine Rulership be followed, and what will their doing this mean for them?
12 All who become dedicated, baptized disciples of that Chief Agent of divine rulership must follow him. In order to do this, they need to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1, 2) Our lovingly doing this will mean our everlasting salvation to the everlasting praise of the great Divine Ruler, Jehovah God.