In The Fight Over Water Baptism, The Missing Piece

Anyone who’s been around Christianity for awhile knows that, depending on one’s group affiliation, there are all sorts of views and ideas about water baptism, many of which are conflicting, even mutually exclusive to each other. A quick, off-the-top-of-the-head list, points out the following:

– Necessary for salvation versus can be saved without it
– For the remission of sins versus an outward confession of an inward faith
– In “the name of the Lord Jesus” versus in “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
– Baptismal regeneration versus regeneration by faith (to be followed by water baptism)
– Full immersion versus sprinkling or pouring
– Living water only (i.e. lakes, rivers, the ocean) versus man-made pools (i.e. a baptistry)
– Open baptism versus private baptism
– Accountable believers only (i.e. old enough to understand the Gospel) versus infant baptism
– Sacrament versus non-sacramental
-Administered by clergy (licensed, professional, ordained, etc.) versus performed by anyone of the Christian faith

When looking at the list above, some, quite obviously, have major import. Others seem like nit-picks. But, depending on who you ask and what group that person is apart of, you might very well end up with a big fight on your hands (should you disagree with their position).

I submit that one of the most important things about water baptism is completely missed when the discussion and teaching on the subject is reduced to theological wrangling and soteriological posturing.

And this missing piece, in my opinion, if taught and understood properly, will solve (and even settle) much of the dispute and disagreement. So, without further ado:

The Missing Piece

1 Peter 3:18-22,

18. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
21. 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…
22. Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

In this passage of Scripture, some things ought to stand out. I list them here:

– Christ suffered for sins, that is, He was put to death to pay the penalty required by God to punish human sinfulness

– This death was substitutionary in scope, that is, He took our place (“the just for the unjust“, noting that “for” is the Greek preposition hyper and means in behalf of/for the sake of)

– This death has a direct relationship to the Flood

– Eight souls (i.e. Noah and his family) were saved by water (more on this later)

– The Flood is the antitype of water baptism

– In the same way Noah and his family were saved by the Flood, we also are saved by water baptism

– Water baptism is not a physical washing, i.e. a bath

– Water baptism has a direct relationship to the human conscience, i.e. the conscience of the “unjust

– Water baptism is made efficacious through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (“quickened by the Spirit” from verse 18)

– The resurrected Messiah now sits in heaven at the right hand of God with all power and authority

That’s a nice break-down. But let’s go deeper.

The fact that Christ’s death was intended as an atonement and propitiation is well documented throughout Scripture. Very few, if any serious disciple argues this point. In the Lord’s own terms, His death was meant as a ransom (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), that is, the price required to purchase a slave and thus redeem him or her, i.e. release him or her from captivity (from the Greek word lytron, translated as ransom).

So we know that His death on the cross, as an atonement and propitiation, indicated 1.) that the sins of humanity were thus carried away by the blood of the Lamb of God (See John 1:29) and 2.) the Father, that is, God, was brought into a favorable position to forgive humanity (the very meaning of propitiate) as His Son made intercession for us when He took our place (See Luke 23:34, Hebrews 7:25).

2 Corinthians 5:21,

21. For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin [in our stead], who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (Amendments in brackets added in order to properly exegete the verse).

The next step in solving for the missing equation, if you will, is found in Romans 6:3-8a and Philippians 2:5-8.

Romans 6:3-8a,

3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8. Now if we be dead with Christ…

Water baptism plants us into Christ’s death. Verse 3 is as plain as day. To argue otherwise is to contradict a direct quotation of the Word of God. Now, note: without being planted in the likeness of His death, and so, never being buried with Christ, there is no hope of being raised together with Him in the newness of life. But this isn’t the missing piece. Most people already know this.

Philippians 2:5-8,

5. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The mind that ought to be in all disciples of Jesus Christ is the following: to be of no reputation, to take on the form of a slave, admit to one’s humanity, maintain humility, and perhaps above all, be obedient, even onto death, the very death Christ experienced to both atone for humanity but also propitiate the Father.

Remember, this death is substitutionary, that is, Jesus took our place. It was the death of the Just for the (eternal) life of all the unjust. This is the death we must all be planted into if we hope to be raised with Him in the newness of life. But this isn’t the missing piece, either. Keep reading.

The Flood

What’s this all have to do with the Flood? Simon Peter made it pretty clear that Christ’s death, the just for the unjust, directly relates back to the Flood. Let’s see how.

The Flood was sent by God as a divine act of judgment against human sinfulness. It was God’s wrath materialized in the earth. The Flood killed everything but that which made it onto the ark. Notice! The agent of God’s wrath and judgment (that is, the water) was also the saving agent that delivered Noah and his family from the terrible wickedness that had permeated the human race (See Genesis 6:5). Was the water anything special? No, it was just regular H2O. But it’s intended purpose and reason for inundating the world is what matters. That is, what God’s intended purpose for sending it, that’s what counts (Psst. The same with baptism).

Now, regarding “eight souls saved by water“. The Greek phrase for “by water” is di’ hudatos. It means to be saved through water, that is, the water was the channel of the act, or the agent by which Noah and his family were saved by God. So, while the water acted as a terrible, final judgment against sinful humanity, to Noah and his family, it was their salvation.

To conclude, we might very well say the Flood = the Cross.

This isn’t the missing piece, though. Let’s keep moving.

The Antitype

If the Flood is the antitype to water baptism (1 Peter 3:21), and water baptism is the means whereby we are planted into the likeness of Christ’s death (Romans 6:3), and that death was carried out by way of crucifixion (1 Peter 2:24 and others), and that crucifixion was the atonement whereby the Savior’s blood was poured out onto redemption (Romans 5:8-12), and that blood is for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28), then it’s obvious that by being (water) baptized into Christ’s death, we are immersed into His blood, that is, the agent which was offered by the Son in order to propitiate His Father (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10).

Hebrews 10:19-22,

19. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21. And having an high priest over the house of God;
22. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

But this isn’t the missing piece (though it’s probably the next closest thing).

The Missing Piece

The missing piece, dear reader, has to do with us.

The Flood is the antitype or foreshadow of water baptism. The Flood was, 1.) the destroying agent that killed all life on planet earth. Through this widespread death, Noah and his family were 2.) saved from the terrible world of human wickedness and the penalty that that wickedness incurred, i.e. divine wrath. We see therefore, that the Flood was both the Destroyer and the Savior, if you will, if I may personify it for a moment.

And if water baptism is the fulfillment of the antitype, that which the Flood foreshadows, then water baptism is likewise both the Destroyer and Savior (again applying personification for illustration purposes only).

Water baptism, like the Flood, destroys the old man and the body of sins (Romans 6:6). But water baptism also saves us (1 Peter 3:21). That is, it’s the agent, like the Flood, provided by God, to take us out of the decadent world of sin and the evil imagination of the human heart, just as the Flood did for Noah and his family.

Almost there.

What about us? What are we doing when we get water baptized?

When Jesus died on the cross, the Father made Him to become sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). If you need it, let me put it to you this way: Jesus died the death of a lost sinner under God’s eternal condemnation. That is the death you are being planted into when you are water baptized. You are being planted into the death of a lost sinner under eternal condemnation. That’s how He could “taste death for every man“, because every man’s death (without salvation) is, you guessed it, the death of a lost sinner under eternal condemnation, leading into the Second Death and the Lake of Fire (See Hebrews 2:9 and Revelation 20:6-15).

When you are water baptized, you are, whether you realize it or not, confessing that you are a sinner, that you are lost, that you are under divine eternal condemnation, and that you deserve nothing more than the Flood of God, that is, His wrath poured out on you as retributive punishment for your sins. You are going to the cross to die with Christ, to die just like Christ: broken, bleeding to death, on the verge of cardiac arrest, alone, without hope but for the promise of the resurrection (See Psalm 16:8-11 with Acts 2:25-29).

So, you’re not just getting buried by baptism into Christ’s death as a cute little doxology leveraged for your statement of faith to show how spiritually orthodox you are.

You are being supernaturally destroyed, admitting to yourself, to the Church, to the world, and even to God Himself that you know you deserve eternal judgment, that you don’t belong on the ark, and that you deserve to be washed away by the Flood, never to rise again. Your water baptism is you, hanging by your hands and feet, crying out in agony for forgiveness. It’s you bleeding to death, on the verge of spiritual cardiac arrest, traumatized by the sins of your world.

It’s you, being of no reputation, admitting to your fallen humanity, humbly, obediently submitting yourself onto death. You are, as the unjust, finding your way back to the Just, and taking your rightful place with Him on the tree.

Disciple of Christ, your water baptism is the confession that the cross actually belonged to you in the first place, and not to Jesus. NEVER to Jesus.

And that is the missing piece.


~ by votivesoul on 06/04/2013.

2 Responses to “In The Fight Over Water Baptism, The Missing Piece”

  1. I enjoy reading and studying on this has enlighten me more.thank you so much.i am posting this to my 2 sons that are pastors and a son also in the ministry to enlighten them more,,,on this great subject…

    • Hello, Sister. Thank you for responding with you comments. I’m glad you are enjoying the subjects written about here at the blog. I hope your sons like the articles and are blessed. Grace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, to you and yours, Sincerely, Aaron

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Mark Showalter's Blog

Always seeking to know God more

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings

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