There are two places in scripture that link baptism to previous events or rituals. Even though you can probably go your entire life attending Gospel Doctrine and never hear of these links, that doesn’t diminish their value. Let’s take a look.
Peter taught that there was a link between baptism and Noah’s flood.
1 Peter 3:18-21
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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 doesn’t go with the obvious immersion link (the earth was immersed so we must be immersed too). It’s a bit difficult to decipher in the King James version, so here’s a modern translation:
Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now that you’ve read the modern version, you can go back and the King James version now makes more sense. Peter teaches that baptism by water doesn’t save us by a removal of dirt, but as a pledge or commitment to God. Was Noah saved because he was a master shipbuilder, or because he had enough faith to do what God asked?
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Looking at the voyage of the Brother of Jared, we can see how Noah and his family were saved:
And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth. And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?
Just as Noah prepared the ark out of faith, we enter the waters of baptism out of faith. Building the ark didn’t save Noah in and of itself, but the ark was part of God’s process to save Noah. Noah had to continue to call on God for deliverance from the waves of the flood. Ultimately it was God that saved Noah (and the Brother of Jared), because the ark by itself wasn’t capable of delivering them.
Baptism itself doesn’t save us, it’s our heartfelt and faithful decision to join God’s winning team that saves us. Just a God delivered the righteous from the wicked in Noah’s time, the resurrection of Jesus will save us from the wicked in eternity. Peter is teaching the same witness doctrine that we’ve covered in previous posts – baptism by water is a witness that we are joining God’s team.
The next post will cover more on the link to the resurrection of Christ.
You’re probably asking yourself, how can baptism be linked to circumcision?
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Paul teaches that baptism is the circumcision of Christ. Think about the parallels. Circumcision was required to become part of Israel, baptism is required to be part of Christ’s church. Plenty of people who were circumcised in the flesh failed to follow God. There was no promise that getting circumcised guaranteed salvation, or even forgiveness of sins. Which is why God wanted circumcised hearts.
6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
Notice here that the Lord circumcises the heart. Man may circumcise the flesh, but God circumcises the heart. Just like with baptism: man can baptize by water, but only God can baptize by fire. God never promised eternal life for being circumcised in the flesh, but he does promise it for being circumcised in the heart. Notice how this verse links uncircumcised hearts to resisting the Holy Ghost.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
If a circumcised heart is the equivalent to baptism by the Holy Ghost, it makes sense to describe the uncircumcised in heart as resisting the Holy Ghost.
2 Nephi 9:33
Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.
If the uncircumcised of heart will be smitten by a knowledge of their iniquities, the circumcised of heart will not be smitten, because they have been forgiven of their iniquities. Just as circumcision in the flesh did not promise a remission of sins, neither does baptism by water. But circumcision in the heart does bring forgiveness of sins, just as baptism by fire does.
With these two concepts reinforcing what we’ve already covered, we now have a foundation to cover Baptism for the Dead in the next post.