"(21) Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (22) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:21–22, NASB95)
In Noah, it might be said that God has given us physical example of a spiritual truth. The events of the flood are historical truth. It really did happen, and Noah and his family (all eight of them) were safely brought through to dry land on the other end while the rest of mankind died. Because of their great sin, God brought physical death to all of the inhabitants of the world except for these eight who He preserved.
“These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:9–13, NASB95) … ““Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. “And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. “Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. “As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.” Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” (Genesis 6:17–22, NASB95)
And, of course, reading through the rest of the flood account in Genesis we know that God did exactly what He told Noah He would do. God safely delivered Noah and his family, delivering them on dry ground along with all of the inhabitants (animals) of the ark.
Looking to Jesus, every single one of us was up to one point lost in sin. We were like all of those who died in the flood and who are now awaiting final judgment. There is not one person who was/is immune except for what Jesus did for us. Because He laid down His life, was buried, and then took it back up again through His resurrection we receive His forgiveness and are granted eternal life. Just as with Noah, if he and his family had not had been delivered safely through the flood, so would it be with us if Christ had not risen from the dead. His resurrection is that important. In 1 Corinthians we read,
“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19, NASB95)
We can never clean ourselves of our sins. We can’t scrub them off and we can’t do penance. There is no physical act we can do that can bring us salvation. All of those who died in the flood died physically and are awaiting judgment. What brought Noah through was his trusting God to place himself in the ark. For us to go under water physically through baptism the reality is that unless we come back up we will die physically as well. Apart from salvation in Christ, baptism is nothing more than a quick dunk in the water. Water baptism does not save anyone. Who saves us is Christ as we respond in belief and trust Him Who gave Himself for us. These bodies we have will all pass away. We are saved when we place our trust in the Jesus Christ who gives us life. It is in Him that we are completely forgiven and made alive with God.
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (Titus 3:5–6, NASB95)
The resurrection of Christ in the same way that the ark being brought to dry ground is physical proof that God has the power to do exactly what He said He would do. Because He lives, we live also. Because He made Himself known to men after the resurrection we have the physical evidence that He indeed did rise. Both stand as historical proofs of God’s power to deliver—one physical and the other eternal. It is our risen Lord who sits as the Son at the right hand of the Father. He has been given all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10), and He is our constant intercessor and advocate. He will bring us safely home.
“who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:34–39, NASB95)
And today, when we do go under water in baptism it serves as a both a reminder and a testimony as to what Christ has done for us. Water baptism is the outward sign of an inward reality that we have indeed be regenerated or made spiritually alive in Christ. We have been made new creations in Him. And going under the physical water symbolizes that the old has passed away and that we have become new. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins and are now made alive in Christ. Everything has changed because He has safely brought us through by His death, burial and resurrection.
Knowing this we then face the realities of everyday and the trails in them knowing that just as God kept Noah safe so will He do for us.