Let’s begin with a brief explanation of this scripture. Peter begins with the gospel – Christ died in order that wicked, ungodly people, like us, might be saved. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” Another expression of the gospel is that “Christ DIED for OUR sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Using Peter’s word, Christ was, through an operation of the Holy Spirit, “quickened,” or made alive. With verse 19 Peter begins a little parenthesis. He says that Christ, through the same Spirit, preached to the unbelievers in the days of Noah, when that man was building the ark. And in that ark, Noah and his family were saved from the flood.
With verse 21 Peter says that Noah’s ark is like baptism. Baptism is a figure, or picture, of salvation from sin. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter clearly says that baptism doesn’t put away the filth of the flesh – the sins of the flesh. It is only a figure, a picture, a type or image of true salvation with comes through the suffering of Christ. And now, our Saviour is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, with angels and powers subject unto Him. And I’ll add, Christ is now in heaven from where He intercedes on behalf of the people whom He has saved. The thing I’d like you to notice is in verse 21. Baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
In a few minutes we are going to experience the joy, once again, of the baptism of a child of God. Among other things, I’d like you to know that baptism is the expression of “a good conscience toward God.” Now, let’s add to that thought.
Please turn to Matthew 3 where we read of the baptism of Christ Jesus. Verse 13 – “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him (John the Baptist). But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Tying our two scriptures together, look again at verse 15 – “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”
What was Jesus saying about “fulfilling all righteousness?” Maybe we should ask, why was Jesus baptized? Obviously, it was not to wash away the filth of the flesh. Christ was a sinless, absolutely righteous person. So why was Jesus baptized? It was in order to please His Father in Heaven. That is – He was baptized to do God’s will. As it was in Jesus, baptism has never washed a single sin from a single sinner – ever. So then why do we say that every Christian be baptized after he or she puts faith in the Saviour? Among other things, because it is God’s will. It fulfills that aspect of righteousness which God demands of us. Again, it does not start the process of our deliverance from sin, and it does not cement our salvation either. It is a statement and testimony; it is a confession – “I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. I am now, spiritually, as dead to sin as Christ was dead on the cross. But I have new life in Him, just as Christ arose from the grave.” Baptism is a testimony of a person’s salvation. It is a confession, a profession and expression of that person’s new life in Christ.
There were several differences between Jesus’ baptism and the baptisms of other people at John’s hands. One of them is found in verse 6 of this same chapter. John was ministering in the wilderness, preaching repentance – “for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan and were baptized of him in Jordan, CONFESSING their sins.” The only people, other thanJesus, whom John would consider baptizing were those who expressed a brokenness – a repentance – for their sins. He demanded that they confess their sins. He demanded that they acknowledge themselves to be sinners. Of course John didn’t make that demand of the sinless Son of God. But when some Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to join the crowd, coming to be baptized, John said, “Who hath warned YOU to flee from the wrath come? Bring forth therefore fruit meet for repentance.” Then he added, “and don’t boast about your relationship to Abraham or any other worthy Hebrew saint.” My point is: before John would immerse anyone, he wanted to hear a humble confession of sinfulness.
Have you ever thought about the words “confession” and “profession?” In English to “profess” and “confess” are essentially opposite to one another – one is pro and the other con. Webster’s first definition of “confess” reads, “to own, acknowledge or avow, as a crime, a fault, a charge, a debt or something that is AGAINST one’s interest or reputation.” The prefix “con” almost always means “against,” but the prefix “pro” almost always means “for.” So, as we might expect, Webster’s definition of “profess” says, “to make an open declaration of; to avow or acknowledge. To declare in strong terms.”
When I looked up “profess” and “confess” in my Bible I found two Greek words. But was not at one might expect. One wasn’t translated “profession” and the other “confession.” “Homologeo” – means to say the same thing, and the other “exomolego” means to say the same thing really, really strongly. And, surprising to me, both words are translated either as “confess” or “profess” in our King James Bibles. In the Bible there isn’t any difference between “confess” or “profess” except in the context. So what? What’s the point?
The interesting part of the study is WHAT GOD EXPECTS or COMMANDS us to CONFESS.
Depending on the context, sometime the word is used positively. For example there is Matthew 10:32 – Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall CONFESS me before me, him will I CONFESS also before my Father which is in Heaven.” The Lord Jesus, man’s mediator and intercessor in Heaven, expresses a willingness to mention our names to the almighty God. There is no higher court or palace where I’d like my name to be mentioned than the court of God. But, Jesus says there is one prerequisite to His positive use of our name: it is our confession of Him. The Bible reiterates this in Luke 12:8 – “Also I say unto you, Whoso ever shall CONFESS me before men, him shall the Son of man also CONFESS before the angels of God.” Have you ever confessed before men that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour? Stephen, told his father John Gano, “Shout it from the house tops, Stephen Gano has been saved.” A similar verse is found in one of Christ’s letters to His churches in Revelation 3:5 – “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will CONFESS his name before my Father, and before his angels.” This is a positive confession, in fact it is the word which expresses a really strong positive profession. With these verses in mind, if you would like to have your name uttered before God by the Saviour, then you must confess Christ before men, and live a life of faith and service for the Lord.
After that there is an extremely important statement found in Roman 10:9-10 – “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him for the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Sinners are saved when they put their heart-felt trust on Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. They “BELIEVE unto righteousness.” Confession with the mouth is the verbal act of expressing inward faith. I don’t know the man, but I read a statement by someone named Morison who said, “Confession is just faith turned from its obverse side to its reverse … (Confession is) when faith comes forth from its silence to announce itself, and to proclaim the glory and the grace of the Lord, (faith’s) voice is confession.” It is by faith that sinners are saved, but saving faith cannot be silent; it will explode out of the soul like hot lava. Confession is the announcement to the world that God’s grace has saved that soul. So in this way confession is like baptism. Baptism is a pictorial profession declaring, “My faith for salvation is in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ my Saviour.”
Not only does the Bible reveal the positive side of “confession,” there is an important negative side as well. For example, there are the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not every one that SAITH unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the WILL of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I PROFESS unto them, I NEVER knew you: DEPART from me, ye that work iniquity.” There will be millions of people who will eventually stand before Christ Jesus, expecting to enter heaven, but the Saviour will confess or profess, “I NEVER knew you: DEPART from me, ye that work iniquity.” There are millions of people who claim to be serving God, sometimes doing many wonderful works, but who never began at the proper beginning of that service. They haven’t begun where John the Baptist exhorted them to begin – “repenting before God” and “confessing their sins.” They have been trusting their personal righteousness instead of trusting the righteous of Christ. Rather than repenting of their sins and self-righteousness, trusting Christ’s shed blood, they are either just expecting to go to heaven or striving to enter heaven in other own works or personal character. “Then will (Christ Jesus) profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Oh, how I pray that you are not among that number. That is the ultimate negative confession.
But there is another negative confession, in the Bible, which separates the men from the boys so to speak. John 9:22 says – “The Jews had agreed already that if any man did CONFESS that (Jesus) was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” Four chapters later in John 12:42 there are the very sad words – “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did NOT confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” In that day and in that society, to be put out of the Jewish synagogue meant to be outside their religion. It was to be, in effect, treated like a heathen dog with no hope and with no connection to the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and David. To be put out of the synagogue was to those religiously confused people, an eternal death sentence. But the man who sparked that Jewish declaration in John 9:22, freely said, while looking into the face of the Lord Jesus with his miraculously restored eyesight, “I believe that you are the Son of God.” “And He worshipped Christ Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.” The man didn’t care what the Jews said about being kicked from the synagogue, because He had a mediator in Heaven on his behalf.
Now, let us go back to the subject of baptism
Again, what is the Biblical ordinance of baptism? It is an act by which new Christians, confess their sins, and like the blind man of John 9, profess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is their Lord and Saviour. First, it points a finger to the death, burial and resurrection of the Saviour for the believer’s sins. And then, symbolically for that new Christian, it says that he has died to sin; he has buried his old sinful life, and he has been resurrected to a new life in Christ. It is the expression, or confession, of “a good conscience toward God.” It is an act of obedience to the command of God, and thus, it is a fulfillment of one aspect of righteousness. On the greatest Pentecost in Jewish history, a multitude of people were under conviction for their sins, from which they cried out to the apostles of the Lord, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Baptism is the expression of “a good conscience toward God” and it is the first step in the service of Christ.
There are a lot of professing Christians in these last days who say that baptism isn’t important. How can they possibly say or even think that? Only through ignorance or rebellion. Jesus thought it was important enough to walk for a couple of days in order to be immersed by John. And God the Father said that it was important by publically praising Christ at His baptism. Ananias thought it was important enough to tell the new Christian, Saul of Tarsus, “Why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized…” Paul thought it was important enough to bring up the subject in several of his letters. And Peter thought it was important enough to include it in his answer to the Jews who asked, “What shall we do? … Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
Baptism is not a part of salvation from sin, as if there was a process and this was one of the steps to be taken. But the man who knows the command of God to be baptized, and still refuses is not truly repentant, and certainly he is not surrendered to the Saviour. There is reason to wonder whether most of those people are children of God. Baptism is a testimony and visual confession of someone’s new life in Christ. And please remember in that regard: Matthew 10:32 – “Whosoever therefore shall CONFESS me before me, HIM will I CONFESS also before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall DENY me before men, him will I ALSO DENY before my father which is in heaven.” Someone’s refusal to confess Christ through baptism, seems to bring about Christ’s denial of that person before the Almighty God.
Early in the history of Christianity, believers and followers of Christ were severely persecuted. It fell on them the moment of their profession of the Saviour at baptism. First, it came from the Jews, and then it came from the Romans and other heathen. Then true followers of Christ were persecuted by false believers – professing believers. First, there were hundreds of men and women who lost their lives, because they refused to sacrifice their testimony of faith in Christ. Then the hundreds reached into the thousands and hundreds of thousands. And often the act which separated the true believers from the false and shallow, was their willingness to be immersed confessing Christ.
Those who gave their lives for the Saviour, were known as “martyrs” – a word coming from the Greek word “martus” which meant “a witness.” For those “martyrs” their witness – their confession of Christ – often ended in death. And there was a period of time, when those martyrs were also called “confessors.” A “confessor” was a Christian who openly and publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ but with a special twist. Here is Webster’s second definition of “confessor.” He, or she, is “One who makes a profession of his faith in the Christian religion. The word is appropriately used to denote one who avows his religion in the face of danger, and adheres to it, in defiance of persecution and torture. It was formerly used as synonymous with martyr; afterwards it was applied to those who, having been persecuted and tortured, were permitted to die in peace.”
It has been true throughout history, and it is still true in some parts of the world today, that to confess Christ through baptism, means persecution and even death. When our loving Saviour, tackles a sinner, saving his soul and giving him a life worth living in this world, there should be a reciprocal desire to glorify that Saviour with a willingness to confess Him. And it shouldn’t matter to that person what the world, or his family, has to say about it. That believer has become a citizen of a better world, and is a part of the family of God. When, like the blind man of John 9, he is born again, he will not be silent. He will confess and that publically, “Jesus is the Christ; He is may Saviour; I love Him and give to Him my life. Therefore I will be baptized, displaying my death, burial and resurrection in Him.”
Are you a confessor? Have you confessed Christ through the illustration of baptism? Are you actively serving the Saviour? No? Then do you have any right to claim to be a child of God? In the face of scripture to the contrary, do you think that Christ will confess you before His Father, when you refuse to confess Him before men in something which the Bible clearly commands? Are you “fulfilling all righteousness,” as Jesus was in His baptism – Matthew 3:15? If it is not to baptism, to what do you point as the answer of “your good conscience toward God” – I Peter 3:21?
If you are indeed a child of God, and you have hope of eternal life in the presence of God and the Saviour, then you need to be obedient to the Lord’s commands. And one of them – the first of them all after repentance is “to be baptized.” Would you be willing to confess Christ as your Lord and Saviour today through baptism?