Old Testament Stories Involving Water:
Micah 7:19 "...You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." (ESV)
In Micah 7:15 the story line turns to the children of Israel leaving Egypt. Shortly after the exodus of Israel from Egypt, Pharaoh pursues them with hostile intent. At the Red Sea, however, God casts Pharaoh and his army into the sea (See Exodus 15:4). Here Micah records God's intent to deal decisively with sin and uses the metaphor of the sea depths to illustrate. Consider the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 4:4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. (ESV)
Isaiah speaks of a time when the branch of the Lord reigns that cleansing will also come. There are many stories in the Old Testament involving water which Peter could have employed in this letter. As a Hebrew he would be familiar with the story of the Israelites passing over the river Jordan in Joshua 5:6-9 or the cleansing of Naaman in that same river in II Kings 5. The tabernacle furniture of wandering Israel also contained the brazen laver or basin which contained water for the purifying of the priesthood. Even the Israelite deliverance from Egypt involved the waters of the Red Sea.
In this passage Peter weaves the ancient story of Noah and the ark, one which precedes all others in time. God was patient with man in the days of Noah but eventually destroyed them by flood (See Genesis 6-7). As Peter tells us, however, Noah and his family are brought "safely" through water. In the day of Noah the water was part of judgment but for New Testament believers it is vital to Christian initiation and salvation.
Does Baptism Save? Does Water Wash Away My Sins?
There can be no doubt that something is or should be effected spiritually when a person is baptized while having the Name of the Lord invoked over them. Titus 3:5 refers to a "washing of regeneration" and Ananias, in Acts 22:16, connects baptism with washing away of sins.
Even while the flood killed the inhabitants of that land this same water bore up Noah and his family keeping them separated from those who died. David K. Bernard, who also rejects baptismal regeneration, has rightly noted, "the ark floated on the water."(1) This water was no mere symbolic act, but part of the very means by which Noah's family of eight were also saved. While we attempt to understand what Scripture teaches about our salvation we must always remember how vitally connected water baptism is to that salvation.
Anton Huba, who left Slovakia due to persecution, answered those questions this way, "it was not Noah that saved himself and his family; it was not the water that saved them; it was not the ark--but it was God that saved them through the obedience to God's revealed Word."(2) As Oneness Pentecostals would agree, H20 is incapable of saving one soul. Yet, the fact remains that only those who obeyed God's word to enter the ark were saved. Salvation could not have been conceived of without their entering into the ark.
H20 passing over our bodies does not constitute a saving act. Removal of dirt by use of water is of no value here as Peter makes clear (vs. 21). Baptism saves us as an expression of faith, because of the inward faith, as evidenced by our appeal to God.
Formerly, water only affected the flesh and not the conscience of man. All could become clean by ritual washing's and baths but now water baptism is part of cleansing us spiritually. Water baptism now brings spiritual cleansing and a clean conscience.
When Christians refer to water baptism it is something previously and inseparably enjoined with faith and repentance. Forgiveness/remission of sins comes through faith, repentance and water baptism together. While different theological events they do not operate independently or in isolated parts from the whole.
"through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"
Romans 6:4-5 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (ESV)
In Romans 6:4-5, Paul likens our baptism with Christ as our burial. Baptism is an open acknowledgment of our death with Christ. Death to sin and to self. But, the death and burial of Christ points to a resurrection in the Spirit--a newness of life. Water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit then are closely connected.
The saving power which is effected in faith, repentance or baptism could not come to man without the necessary realities that the resurrection of Christ brought. 1 Peter 3:21 ends with "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," connecting baptism with Christ's resurrection. Baptism also saves because it is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We consider it nothing in comparison to the faithfulness of Christ, who was truly dead and buried. In our baptism we identify with Him in His death. We simply bow our knee to Scripture. Let those who have not--go--to the waters of baptism. Calling on the name of Jesus.
2) Huba, Elder Anton Apostolic Baptism (1943) The RedCraft Press: Foxborough, MA.