Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 3:21 - 3:21

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 3:21 - 3:21

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1Pe_3:21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.

GOD has marked the necessity of holiness no Jess by the dispensations of his providence than by the declarations of his grace. His destroying of the whole world for their iniquity, evinced as strongly as any thing could, that sin should never go unpunished, and that the righteous only should be saved. In this view St. Peter introduces the mention of that well-attested fact, and declares, that the salvation experienced by Noah in the ark, was typical of that which we experience by Christ, and into which we are brought by our baptism. The text is by no means free from difficulties: to render it as intelligible as we can, we shall consider,

I.       The typical salvation here referred to—

God had determined to overwhelm the world with a deluge—

[Though there had been so few generations upon earth, that Noah’s own father (Lamech) had been contemporary with Adam for sixty years, and lived till within five years of the flood, so that Noah, and the people of that generation, had, for no less than six hundred years together, received instruction only at second hand from Adam himself, yet had “all flesh corrupted their way,” insomuch that “God repented that he had made man,” and resolved to destroy him from off the face of the earth.]

But for the preservation of the righteous he instructed Noah to make an ark—

[This vessel was not constructed according to man’s device, but by the special direction of God himself. To the eyes of man it doubtless seemed an absurd attempt: but “the foolishness of God is wiser than man;” and the event justified the hopes and expectations of Noah.]

In the mean time he called the people to repentance by the ministry of Noah—

[God exercised forbearance towards them one hundred and twenty years. But they “received his grace in vain.” And the means used for their salvation only ripened them for destruction.]

When the appointed time was come, he ordered Noah and his family to go into the ark—

[The symptoms of the flood did not yet appear; but these favourites of heaven were to condemn the world, not in word only, but in deed. By manifesting their faith, their fear, and their obedience, they were practically to condemn the world’s unbelief, security, and disobedience [Note: Heb_11:7.]. And, upon their entrance into the ark, “God shut them in” with his own hand, that the door might be secure against the violence of the wind and waves.]

Then the waters, that destroyed all the world besides, bore up them in perfect safety—

[Every other refuge now proved vain. The unbelievers found to their cost the truth of God’s threatenings. Their numbers did not screen them from his judgments. Nor was the fewness of the elect any bar to their acceptance and salvation. They rose, while others sank in the mighty waters. Nor, if any cleaved to the ark, did that avail them. The very builders of the ark perished. They, and they only, who were in the ark, were made the monuments of saving mercy.]

This history being altogether typical, we shall consider,

II.      The correspondent salvation which we enjoy—

Baptism is spoken of in the text as the antitype [Note: Ë ̓ í ô ß ô õ ð ï í .], of which Noah’s flood was the type. But we apprehend the Apostle’s meaning to be, that Noah’s salvation in the ark was typical of our salvation under the Christian dispensation [Note: The relative cannot agree with ê é â ù ô ï , which is feminine, but must agree with ä á ô ï ò , or rather perhaps with the whole sentence; this last construction renders the sense of the passage incomparably more clear; on which account it is here preferred.]. This subject will be best understood, not by drawing the parallel between the flood and baptism, or between the ark and Christ, but by exhibiting the fact of our salvation as corresponding with that of Noah.

God has determined to punish the world with an everlasting destruction—

[His word bears frequent and most undeniable testimony to this solemn truth [Note: Mat_24:37-39. 2Pe_2:5; 2Pe_2:9. Psa_11:6; Psa_9:17.] — — —]

But he has prepared a Saviour for those who repent and turn unto him—

[Human sagacity never could have devised a way of saving sinners consistently with the honour of God’s perfections. But God has sent and qualified his only-begotten Son, that, through him, all who believe might be justified from all things. And though salvation through the death of Christ be “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness,” yet to them that are called to partake of it, it has invariably proved the power of God and the wisdom of God [Note: 1Co_1:23-24.].]

Ever since the method of salvation has been announced to the world, God has been inviting sinners to embrace it—

[The first plank of this ark was laid, if we may so speak, when God promised to Adam a “Seed, who should bruise the serpent’s head.” From that day, it has been erecting visibly in the world, in order that, while men were warned of their danger, they might see their remedy: and now, for nearly six thousand years, has God exercised forbearance towards an impenitent and unbelieving world.]

By “baptism” we embark, as it were, on board this divinely-constructed vessel—

[When we are baptized into the faith of Christ, we profess our persuasion that “there is salvation in no other,” and our desire “to be found in him,” not having our own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith in him [Note: Act_4:12. Php_3:9.]. Thus we come to be in him, as a branch in the vine, as a man-slayer in a city of refuge, as Noah in the ark. Not that this benefit is annexed to the mere outward form of baptism, but to that baptism which is accompanied with “the answer of a good conscience towards God [Note: See the words following the text.].”]

Being then in Christ, we are saved “by his resurrection [Note: ver. 21.]”—

[It should seem, that Noah’s enclosure in the ark for so long a period was a kind of sepulture; and his elevation on the waters, till he afterwards came forth from the ark, was a kind of resurrection, when he took possession of a new world. Thus, according to St. Paul, “we are buried with Christ 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: for if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection [Note: Rom_6:4-5.].” This appears to be intended by St. Peter in the text, and to be, on the whole, the most natural, as well as most beautiful, construction of it: as Noah entered into the ark, and was saved by its elevation above the water-floods, so we, by baptism, enter into Christ, and are, by his resurrection, saved from sin and Satan, death and hell; yea, like Noah too, we are brought safely to the possession of a new and heavenly world [Note: If the opposition between ä é å ó þ è ç ó á í ä ä á ô ï ò and ó ù æ å é ä í á ó ô Ü ó å ù ò be marked, the sense of this difficult passage will be more apparent.].]


1.       How deeply should we reverence the ordinances of God!

[What is said of baptism is true, in a measure, of every other ordinance: yet how shamefully is both that, and every other ordinance, profaned amongst us! Let us remember, that all the institutions of God are intended to help forward our salvation: but, if trifled with, they will fearfully aggravate our condemnation.]

2.       How careful should we be to obtain “the answer of a good conscience!”

[In the Apostles’ days, as well as in ours, they, who applied for baptism, were interrogated with respect to their faith and practice; nor could the mere ablution of the body profit them, if they had not a correspondent purity of soul. Thus it is with us: we shall in vain receive the rite of baptism, or partake of the Lord’s supper, if we cannot declare, as in the presence of God, that it is our desire and endeavour to be holy as God is holy. Let us then not lay an undue stress upon outward observances of any kind; but rather seek a conformity to the Divine image; for it will surely be found true at the last, that “the pure in heart shall see God,” but that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”]