In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes the sudden upheaval that took place when her husband died unexpectedly. “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” For the Christian, life also changes in an instant. But in this case, it is because of the death of Christ, which is followed by His resurrection.
Baptism signifies our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. It is no accident that Peter’s discussion of the significance of baptism follows his encouragement to those who suffer unjustly to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (v. 15). Baptism is the believers’ first testimony to their faith.
Peter’s comparison of baptism to the waters of Noah have troubled some readers, especially his assertion that this water symbolizes baptism “that now saves you also” (v. 21). But the second half of the verse makes it clear that it is not the water itself that saves but “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It is Christ’s death and resurrection that has the power to cleanse our conscience, not the church’s religious rites. Like those who were saved from the waters of judgment in the ark, Christ rescues us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.
Baptism also celebrates the change in our lives as a result of what Christ has done and our Spirit-empowered ability to live a new life (see Rom. 6:1–14). This does not mean that we no longer have the capacity to sin or that all our rough edges are suddenly smoothed over. But it does mean that we are granted a new capacity to obey that we did not have previously.
Josue Villa and his team—Danielle Kerschhackl, Effie Rolfe, and Gerson García—oversee digital programming channels for Moody Radio’s five internet stations. They thank God in prayer for the opportunity to share God’s Word and His love with listeners.