The Covenant Framework of Noah's Baptism
Having drawn a relationship between creation, Noah and Christ’s baptism, this story of Noah concludes with an application to New Testament hermeneutics. But before that the covenant framework contained in the simple idea “God remembered” (Gen 8:1) must be address. From a grammatical perspective, this is a powerful word in the book of Genesis and Exodus. It is used in respect to covenants (Gen 9:15-16; Exo 2:24; 6:5) but it is also used for deliverance from trials (Gen 19:29; 30:22). In the story of Noah both of these concepts are pertinent and permissible understandings of God’s remembrance. It is a covenant remembrance with a purpose to deliver. The world is being judged and God’s “remembrance” delivers Noah and his family through the work of the Holy Spirit. Outside of the story of Noah, no other place in the Old Testament combines these concepts more clearly than the prelude to the exodus from Egypt,
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. - Exodus 2:23-25
Everything pertinent to interpreting this word "remember" (H2142) in its theological context is contained here. There is a need for deliverance and there is a remembrance of a covenant. Since God is omniscient and does not actually forget, it should be clear that this word is drawing together a pertinent truth. God is focused on implementing a covenant action. These are actions based on the covenant status of His people. Thus God's "remembrance" is another way to say that He has decided to save His people.
This concept stands at the start of this important passage with Noah. God has remembered His covenant man and his covenant family. God has decided to move in His Spirit to save His covenant people through the emergence of new land and new life. He will establish them upon a new rock of meeting. All of this is tied together in a way very similar to the exodus. There is salvation through the Holy Spirit and water at the Red Sea. There is a meeting at a rock. These are parallels of covenant redemption. There is then a salvation in baptism. It is a historical saving and it is a deeply personal saving. Against this background only can Peter’s link Noah and baptism be interpreted,
20 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. 21 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 - 1 Peter 3:20-21
It is the overriding concepts of salvation from trials contained in this epistle that drives Peter to this story of deliverance found in Noah (1 Pet 2:12, 19-21; 3:8-19). Baptism, which was portrayed in the flood and realized in Christ, points to this type deliverance and new creation. Peter is using this theological concept to assure those who are suffering. Through this typology his audience would be aware of the faithful being saved from the filth of the world. Even more symbolically, the story of Noah is embedded the Jewish concept of 40 days to represent purification. This is Peter’s conclusion. Water from God washes away the sinfulness of the world. But Peter has to make sure that the church doesn't fall into the mistake of presuming its only water.
As the story of Noah has shown it was the deliverance found in the union of Spirit and water. The story of Noah was water and Holy Spirit moving to reveal new creation (Gen 8:1) and so it is here in 1 Peter. Baptism saves but not as just water. Baptism truly saves because of its inherent relationship to the Holy Spirit in applying the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the church. Peter cannot be read to make a separation of water and Spirit. The water was necessary for the flooding of the world. It’s the entire basis for the typology to the narrative of Noah. But the Spirit was necessary for the deliverance of ark. Water and Spirit remain distinct from each other but they cannot be separated from each other. Christian baptism is Spirit and water in unison administered once.