"…who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism which now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"
Peter tells us that the story of Noah and the ark is an illustration of how God saves through water. In the days of Noah, God looked down on the earth and was grieved at all the evil he saw upon the world (Genesis 6). God used the waters of the flood to wipe out the old and bring about a new beginning. God “wiped the slate clean” and started all over again.
Many people become confused by this passage and the reference to Noah’s flood correlating to baptism. The phrase, “this water” is a reference to the water of Noah’s flood. The water of Noah’s flood is an illustration of baptism. Before Noah’s flood, the earth was filled with sin and corrupt. God “cleansed” the earth with water and though this water a new beginning came about. Many people misunderstand this passage and think that it teaches baptism is symbolic. But look again carefully at this passage. It does not say baptism is symbolic, to reiterate, it says the water of Noah’s flood is symbolic… of baptism…and baptism SAVES US!
When the apostle Peter wrote this letter he was expecting to die soon. So he wrote the church with some very important points he wanted everyone to remember. And this issue of baptism and salvation was of utmost importance to him and he was sure to address this issue and include it so we would have a written record of it even today.
Understand there is nothing “magical” in the actual water itself. But when we obey God’s command to be immersed in water in order to have our sins forgiven, God is faithful and God cleanses our sins through the blood of Christ at this point of our obedience and faith. In other words, baptism is not a physical cleansing of dirt from our body, but a spiritual cleaning of sin from our souls by God.
“For as many things as have been written in the past have been written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
Here is another similar illustratio; Paul speaks:
"And I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, And were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ."
Paul says he does not want us to be ignorant that the Israelites were baptized into Moses. We know that Egypt is often referred to as the “land of slavery.”
God brought Israel:
out of Egypt (the land of slavery--i.e. sin)
through the sea (water -i.e. baptism)
and into the promised land (Israel--i.e. salvation, redemption)
Baptism is nothing new in God’s plan. It is something He has always used to illustrate the separating of sin from mankind. God has always saved people through water. It was foreshadowed long ago in the Old Testament scriptures.