18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him… 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 3:18-22 – 4:10 – NKJV)
As we embark on this message just know the subject cannot be thoroughly covered in one short writing. The subject we hope to understand is baptism. This one word encompasses the entire genesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all believers. This may take a few messages to completely explain.
Before we dive into (no pun intended) the various doctrines among Christians for who should be baptized, when, where and how… I chose this specific scripture to try to convey a simple first point… baptism is a symbol. And most critical to understand is baptism is a symbolic act which taken in right context substantially effects the participant in a supernatural way.
Above I have emboldened three key statements. First, we should know and understand that baptism whatever it is and does has been made primarily effective by the A) the single action of Jesus Christ. Baptism the symbol, as we will learn, echoes the death burial and resurrection of Christ. Therefore to B) bring people to God in and through the continued work of The Holy Spirit. So, in perspective we know first this is God doing the something we merely participate in – Christ suffered once that He might bring us to God.
Second, we should understand our actions are symbolic in nature but this same action affects our very salvation. In verse 21 the word translated is “antitupon” – which means symbol, a representation, or a like figure of something. But notice Peter states clearly “which now saves us…” One thing most Christian denominations do all agree on is this symbolic action on our part does really and substantially convey the Grace of God unto salvation. There is a great deal more to it than this but when taken in right context, that is by faith in this primary first action of Christ, the participant is saved.
Finally, this same real and total salvation conveyed is a gift. (we already know something about God’s gifts…) The text here is the Greek word “charisma”. Now the context in which Peter speaks about this he is talking to adult, born again believers. Peter is writing to Christians who are trying to walk out their faith during a time of significant suffering and persecution. That begins to speak as well about the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. But regardless of the context there is no mistaking the clear language used as defining what we received in baptism. This word charisma or gift blends the two concepts of incredible joy and delight with the concept of unmerited or undeserved favor. The “charis” in this term is also the word “Grace”; the unmerited favor of almighty God. It is this incredible joyous delightful free gift of God’s unmerited favor; now conveyed through a symbolic action; a Grace effective unto salvation; this is baptism.