Baptism

Baptism, which corresponds to [the flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

– 1 Peter 3:21

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ

– Phil. 3:20

 

A Biblical Theological Perspective

Following the water…

The Spirit and the Word are sent out, accomplishing the work of bringing something out from the midst of the waters and, often, burying something else in their midst.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

  1. Heaven – an expanse in the midst of the waters
    1. The presence of the Spirit (Genesis 1:2b) hovering over the face of the waters…
    2. God speaks, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters…”[1]
    3. Genesis 1:7-8a – the expanse is made (by the Spirit’s work, who is here called God?) and named, “Heaven.”
  2. Dry Ground – the waters under heaven are gathered together
    1. God speaks, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place and let the dry ground appear…”[2]
    2. The Spirit? And it was so, assumes His activity though (as is so often the case) he goes unmentioned.
    3. Dry land is called Earth or (as in the ESV note) land, the Hebrew is אֶרֶץ.
  3. The Ark and dry ground – the waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth (Gen. 7:17).
    1. God speaks, I have determined to make an end of all flesh… (Gen. 6:13, 17; see also 7:1; 8:16-17)
    2. The divided waters reunited in judgment (v. 7:11)
    3. The Spirit at work (unseen yet ubiquitous/omnipresent)
  4. In Noah (v. 6:22; 7:5)
    1. Extinguishing and preserving; the breath of life, רוּחַ חַיִּים (v. 6:17; 7:15).
      1. Causing the waters to subside (8:1)
    2. The dove searching for dry round or earth (see v. 8:8-13)[3]
    3. The ark and the dry ground are associated both logically (it is the only dry place for 150 days) and symbolically in that it came to rest on the mountains of Ararat – the two thus touch and become one.[4]
  5. Red Sea – the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD…
    1. God speaks, Tell the people of Israel…
      1. In preparation: Exodus 14:1-2
      2. In execution: Ex. 14:15-18
    2. The Spirit works:
      1. The strong east wind (or “strong ancient Spirit”) divides the waters and produces dry ground, see verse 14:21-22
      2. The waters reunite in judgment upon the Egyptians (at the removal of the wind?), see 14:26-29.[5]
      3. Moses’ continual obedience, Moses stretched out his hand…
    3. There is an exchange
      1. The people are associated with the dry ground, just as Noah was associated with the ark.
      2. The Egyptians are associated with the water (15:5). Yet, strangely, the event is done for the Egyptians that they might gain knowledge (14:4, 18)
  6. The Jordan River – Take up the Ark of the Covenant and pass on before the people…
    1. God speaks, The LORD said to Joshua… (Josh. 3:7-8; 4:1-2)
    2. Waters divide, dry ground appears in association with the priests, ark, and people (3:17)
    3. The witness of the twelve stones (an exchange).
      1. Deliverance: 4:3-7 (from the wet to the dry)
      2. Judgment: 4:9 (from the land to the water)
    4. The Spirit?
      1. Joshua’s obedience
      2. The ark and the priests (who come up out with the people, verse 17-19) and the water piling up (verses 22-24).
  7. Jesus – it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness… (Matt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34)
    1. God speaks
    2. The Spirit descends (probably a vision of John the Baptist which he shared, see John 1:33-34).
      1. Heavens are opened (after the baptism itself while Jesus prayed, Lk. 3:22)
      2. Finds true dry ground and the 2nd Adam, etc.
    3. There is in this one a connecting of heaven and earth/dry land (Son of God and Son of Man). Not to mention the bringing together of all this imagery. He is the fount.
    4. Interestingly he also unites the water and the dry ground in as much as he goes down to the river and comes back up from it (Like the priests and the ark only he gets wet).

 

  1. This is the reality into which we are baptized by Water, Word, and Spirit.

 

[1] This is, of course, the second speech act of God. It is the second time his word is made visible in creation. It is first light, then firmament, and so on… There is, perhaps, something of His intention to become incarnate here in as much as his word is manifested in the creative work progressively building in fullness with each day until the climax with the formation of man.

[2] The plural heavens is not present in the original which is suggestively double (הַשָּׁמַיִם). The KJV is more uniform in its translation using the singular heaven for both verse 8 and all following references.

[3] On a side note, it is interesting that the raven precedes the dove just as the waters are gathered into one place before the land appears; the fish and beasts appear before the man; and just as the tares are gathered and burned first (see Matt. 13:30).

[4] Perhaps, even three for not only land and boat but a mountain is included as well. This may point, although obscurely, to the consummation.

[5] Fesko, Word, Water, Spirit, 54; quotes Luther (LW 2.153) who writes – “The Red Sea is truly a baptism, this death and the wrath of God… similarly the flood is truly death and the wrath of God… The Flood that Noah experienced was not different from the one which the world experienced. The Red Sea which Pharaoh and Israel entered, was not different…”