“The 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.”
Baptism, according to this text, has a figurative import, and as a figure of our salvation, Peter classifies it with the figure of the temporal salvation of Noah and his family in the ark; the former figure is like the latter figure. Hence we understand that both figures refer to and set forth a spiritual reality in reference to the manner of the everlasting salvation of the church of God. The Spirit of Christ was in Noah as in other patriarchs and prophets of the Lord. And Noah, as a patriarch, a preacher of righteousness, the representative of a family and progeny to be saved from the deluge, and as a builder of the ark which was to contain all that God had ordained to that temporal salvation, was an eminent type of Christ. Christ is the builder of the spiritual ark, the church, which contains all that God has from the beginning chosen to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. He is also their spiritual progenitor, and they are accounted to him for a generation. And with him, in the church, they shall outride all the storms and floods, which shall sweep away the ungodly, and rest forever on the mount of God. Salvation by grace was clearly set forth in the figure of Noah’s deliverance. And as also is the ordinance of christian baptism an expressive figure of the same salvation of the people of God. It is not, like the Jewish purifications, designed for the putting away the filth of the flesh, but it is the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian baptism, as instituted by our Lord, and practiced by the primitive saints, sets forth a death, burial and resurrection, and is applicable to, first, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; second, to the experience of saints, who are slain by the law, and raised up from condemnation and wrath by the application of the blood and righteousness of the now risen and glorified Redeemer; and third, it sets forth the dissolution, burial and ultimate resurrection of the bodies of all the saints of God.
1. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is called a baptism. “I have,” said he, “a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” The sons of Zebedee were to be baptized also with that baptism wherewith Christ was to be baptized. Paul says the saints addressed in his epistle to the Romans, were also buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so they should walk in newness of life. Hence it is our understanding that the whole church of God was represented in Christ, as to her spiritual identity, when he died on the cross, slumbered in the tomb, and when he arose from the dead, and ascended up on high. When he died for all, then were all dead, and they were quickened together with him, raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In this baptism we are truly saved. “The law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth.” Romans viii. 1. Christ as the embodiment of the church, takes our law place, and that lawfully, not making void the law, but establishing it; for in him the law finds the church, and makes its stern demand. He asks for no abatement of the demand, but promptly meets and completely cancels it. The sword awakes against the fellow of the Lord of Hosts. Deep waters come into his soul, and all the billows pass over him. Immersed in death, the law can ask no more; the dreadful debt is paid. The yawning grave receives the slaughtered body, and closes its doors upon him, recognizing in his person all for whom he died. This is baptism, but it is not all. His flesh must see no corruption. ~The pains of death cannot hold him long. As in baptism the body is immersed but also raised up to make the figure complete, so Christ must arise from the dead, and bring immortality into light in his resurrection. Under the law he dies, but quickened by the Spirit he rises, and brings up from the dead all his sheaves with him. As except a corn of wheat falleth into the earth and dieth, it abideth alone, and the germ of its production remaineth undeveloped, but if it die it will bring forth much fruit, simply by developing that which was in it,so in the death and resurrection of Christ, his people are buried with him by baptism into death, wherein the extreme penalty of the law being executed, the law can henceforth have no more dominion over them. Now, quickened by the Spirit, they arise, not to a legal bondage state again, but they arise to walk in newness of life, and are married to, and become one with him who is raised from the dead, and are no more under the law, but under grace. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” - Romans vii. 4.
2. Christian baptism sets forth the experience of the saints. When the commandment comes, sin revives, and they die. They are slain, and all their legal hopes are cast off, and they are buried from their former element, and raised up from the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Dead to, and buried from, the rudiments of the law, and the beggarly elements of the world, they are crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to them; they are raised up to participate in all the privileges of the church of God.
3. The ultimate, resurrection of our bodies from their graves, and ascension to glory, is also embraced in the figurative import of gospel baptism. One of the strong arguments of Paul, in proving the final resurrection of the bodies of the saints, is presented in these words: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” - 1 Cor. xv. 29. Baptism was evidently designed to signify a resurrection, and would be divested of its doctrinal import if there is to be no final resurrection of the bodies of the saints from the dead.
Middletown, N. Y.
April 1, 1856.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 317 - 319