1 Peter 3:21-22
An Appeal to God
At this point in the letter, it seems that the Spirit carries Peter into more sublime thought borne by even deeper words. But first we must discuss what some might call a literary tool but is really something much more…well, real. In Scripture across the Old and New Testaments, is something called “typology.” Typology in the Bible is when something in the Old Testament foreshadows something in the new. The types will share something in common which relates the two images or events together. The more obvious types are the sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant foreshadowing our Lord sacrifice, and most especially in the event of the Passover. Circumcision of the flesh under the old covenant foreshadows circumcision of the heart in the new. Melchizedek serves as a type of Christ (Hebrews 7). But as I said above, these are not just literary types in the Bible but realities prefigured and fulfilled.
So now Peter speaks of baptism by alluding to the ark passing safely through the waters during the flood. He believes that the ancient flood prefigures baptism in that we must also pass through saving waters. But the Apostle is not so crass as to believe that a mere dunking under water makes one acceptable before God; hence, he says, “Baptism…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.” Thus, we see that the outward washing is meaningless if it is unaccompanied by the inward washing of the conscience which is the regenerating event made possible through our Lord’s death and resurrection.
The Apostle closes this passage with words bordering on the doxological. In other words, he closes with words expressing the preeminence of Christ over all things. And why is he preeminent? Because he is seated at the right hand of the Father, the place of all-surpassing honor and praise with the highest creatures of all creation subject unto him: angels, authorities, and powers. From that place he rules, he intercedes, and teaches us through the presence of his Spirit whom the Father has sent in his name. In other words, from that place, he fills his offices of prophet, priest, and king on our behalf, waiting for the time when his Father says, “Enough! Gather my elect from the four corners of the world.” In the meantime, let us keep our consciences pure and undefiled by sin. We have been reborn of the Spirit and womb of the Church through those holy waters; let us not pollute the sacred fount through which we came but sanctify Christ Jesus in our hearts.