Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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, 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 3:18-22 ESV)
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.(Luke 12:49-53 ESV)
The double-edged sword of the crucifixion of Christ is evident in these passages. Like circumcision in the OT which pointed to Christ, baptism in water points to him also. The function of the type should not be lost. On the one edge it speaks to the promised blessing, on the other, cursing. The demarcation is Christ himself, our circumcision. Or, to put it in Gospel terms, Christ our baptism. For judgment, Christ said, he came into this world. John also says that Christ was given so that the believing ones would be saved and so that the unbelieving one would be condemned.
As can be seen, water baptism confers nothing. Rather, it is Christ’s baptism. As Peter puts it, his resurrection. But he does not leave it at that, rather, he includes Christ’s suffering and death. Many were saved through the sea, but perished on the other side. Many received circumcision only to be destroyed in the various judgments of God. Only eight were saved through the flood. All this to demonstrate that God’s sovereign election in Christ places those who will be saved in Christ through his death. At the same time, his crucifixion was the final judgment of the world even though we await the consummation of all things at his appearing. Such that, his crucifixion places some on the right and others on the left.
Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, baptism or unbaptism is anything. What matters is Christ. Having been in him in his crucifixion, those the Father has given him, are born again through his resurrection. As is true to the fallen human condition, mankind places an idolatrous, superstitious value on the outward rite. Interestingly, circumcision was a hidden thing, buried beneath a covering out of view. Likewise, water baptism cannot be seen once the waters dry. It is so appropriate, then, that Peter emphasized the hidden conscience not the outward washing. As Paul writes:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.(Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)
And the writer of Hebrews:
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.(Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV)
That God swore to himself is our greatest comfort, not our baptism in water. That we have such a high priest who did not derive his origin nor his priesthood from among men, again, speaks of that secret working of the Holy Spirit who causes us to be born again in the inward man not according to the works of the flesh but by the Spirit, and fixes our destiny as an anchor behind the curtain of our heart, it having been circumcised in Christ, the way being made open, sprinkled with his blood, cleansed as it were with pure waters of Spirit baptism which expresses itself in faith. Our declaration of what God has inwardly worked testifies to the great promise made in Genesis- to those upon whom God’s favor rests, a blessing, to those upon whom he is taking vengeance, the expectation of God’s justice. Scripture reveals this dual aspect of the covenant between the Father and the Son in an ever brighter light as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings causing his own to leap with the vigor of youth. In water baptism we proclaim to the world this marvelous reality, that God is saving those appointed to that light. At the same time we proclaim his judgment, an eternal, dark agony for all those who reject the bloody baptism of Christ which cleanses us from sin.