Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
NOAH’S ARK A TYPE OF CHRIST
"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."
We see from the context that the Apostle Peter has in mind the great Deluge. He reminds his readers that all mankind perished in the Flood save eight souls, who were preserved from a watery grave by means of the Ark which God provided them. That Ark, though submerged in water, was their salvation. St. Peter declares that this is a "like figure to baptism." We are to notice that those who were saved in the Deluge were not saved from eternal torment, and that a like figure of salvation would not indicate that the Church is saved from eternal torment by their baptism into Christ. Noah and his family were saved from death; and the Church of Christ are likewise saved from death through their baptism.
As the whole world perished in the great Flood, so the entire world of mankind now is a dead world, a perishing world. The Church class were of that world until they got out of it through Christ. As Noah and his family were saved from death by coming into the Ark in obedience to God, so the Church of Christ are saved from Adamic death by obedience to God, by accepting His offer of salvation. (
#Joh 17:16; 15:19
.) Noah’s Ark represented Christ. Whoever comes into Christ comes into safety and salvation, out of danger and destruction. All who come into this relationship to God in Christ are said to have "passed from death unto life."—
Only a very limited number come into Christ and fulfil this picture. It does not include those who merely say, "I wish to live a better life." To do this is commendable; but it does not constitute a coming into Christ; for as the
Apostle says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a New Creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (
.) Just how much is comprehended in the words "a New Creature" even true Christians come to see only gradually. A New Creature is one who has died to his human nature, who has new hopes, new ambitions, new affections, who has the precious promises of God and the prospect of a spiritual existence in the future instead of a human existence. He is an exception to others in that he has been begotten of the Holy Spirit. From the Divine standpoint he is no longer a human being; a new life has begun in him.
This New Creature is at first a babe, and must take spiritual nourishment and grow up into Christ more and more. God has provided the "exceeding great and precious promises" of His Word, that this class might be stimulated, strengthened, developed, thereby becoming more firm for righteousness and in opposition to whatever is sinful. The Church is indeed a New Creation, as the Apostle says.—
TWO LIKE FIGURES OF CHURCH’S SALVATION
Coming back to our text: We notice that St. Peter says, "The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us." Salvation through the Ark was one figure of the salvation of the Church through baptism into Christ; baptism in water is another. There is a correspondence between these two figures. Noah and his family were submerged in literal water. Candidates for baptism are also submerged in literal water. But in neither case was it the water that saved. Nor is it the outward baptism that saves us, except in a figure. It represents the real.
But the figure is not in washing away the filth of the flesh (the body) in water. And the filth of our flesh as New Creatures can be washed away only by the grace of God in Christ, "by the washing of water by the Word"; it is a gradual process after we become New Creatures. So neither of these is what is prefigured in water baptism.
Our text is pointing out to us a peculiar baptism, not a baptism that washes the flesh clean, either literally or figuratively, but "the answer [the response] of a good conscience toward God." What has God said to which we should respond? We reply that our Heavenly Father has called us, invited us, to a wonderful Heavenly inheritance, and we respond by accepting His proposition. He has invited us to be a separate people. Just exactly as God said to Noah and his family that they should be saved by gathering into the Ark, so He says to all who are invited during this Gospel Age, "Gather My saints together unto Me, those who have made a Covenant with Me by Sacrifice."—
Let us notice to whom we are to be gathered. Serious mistakes have been made here. Some have thought that we were to be gathered to Luther; some to Calvin; some to Wesley, etc. Not so! "Gather My saints together unto
saith Jehovah. He did not tell us to gather together into the Church of Rome, into the Church of England, into the Lutheran Church, into the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, or any other man-made organization. Millions are gathered into these various denominations whose lives manifest that they know not God, neither seek to know him.
THE COVENANT OF SACRIFICE
Only a very few have made this Covenant of Sacrifice with God, have presented their bodies a living sacrifice with Christ, in response to God’s special Call during the Gospel Age. God is not trying to attract the world now.
He tells us that they are blind and deaf. As Jesus said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Again, He said to His disciples, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear!" (
#Mt 11:15; 13:16
.) We thank God on behalf of those who have the seeing eye and the hearing ear. It is a great privilege to hear and see.
The Apostle Paul tells us why the great majority of mankind cannot hear the glorious Gospel Message. He
says, "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." (
.) Satan is this god.
He is in violent opposition to every feature of God’s great Plan. He has been God’s adversary ever since his deflection from righteousness. He does all in his power to thwart Jehovah’s arrangements. He knows that if men could once see the light of God’s goodness and hear the glad Message of God’s grace, it would have such an attraction that the great majority would surely respond.
Hence he tries to keep them from seeing and hearing.
He has multitudinous devices for blinding men. Fair earthly prospects, ambitions to be some great one, selfish schemes for gaining advantage over their fellows—all these and many other things of like nature are held up to keep them blinded to the things of real and lasting value.
Those who are hungering for God Satan endeavors to draw away into various reform movements, such as socialism, woman suffrage, prohibition of the liquor traffic, etc. This he does to keep them from hearing God’s special Call. These are all, perhaps, good for the worldly. These movements are probably more or less awakening thought and developing sentiment along lines of restitution for the next Age. But none of these is the work for the saints of God on this side of the veil. Satan would delight to deceive these, however, and entice them into some of these movements to prevent them from seeing and doing the real work of the Church of Christ, and thus to prevent them from making their calling and election sure.
The real Gospel is the most wonderful Story in all the world! There is nothing like it—that God is now inviting a certain class to become heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, "to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in Heaven" for the Lord’s faithful, an inheritance "that fadeth not away"! (
.) Truly, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him."—
"THE ANSWER OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE"
Our surrender to the Lord was "the answer of a good conscience toward God." When God invited us to become living sacrifices through Christ, to be saints and follow Jesus, the answer of our conscience was, "Lord, we respond, we accept Thy gracious invitation." Was not that the answer of a good conscience? It was indeed.
What could a good conscience toward God say except to be glad to do the Heavenly Father’s will? He made a most wonderful proposition to us, providing a Redeemer to open up the way to all this glory and honor with Christ.
The only answer of a good conscience could be, "Here, Lord, I give my little all to Thee!" That is what baptism means; and it is surely our "reasonable service," as the Apostle says. (
.) It is the most reasonable thing that could be imagined. Therefore we should carry out our covenant of consecration even unto death.
If our Lord Jesus, after He had made this Covenant of Sacrifice with God and had begun the work of carrying it out, had said, "Father, I know that I came to earth to do Thy will; but I find that so many of the people misunderstand Me and speak evil of Me that I cannot go on in this way. They misrepresent all the good I try to do; and I cannot accomplish anything." What would the Father have replied? His answer would have been, "If you prefer the approval of men to My approval, take your choice.
I cannot give You the glorious reward which I have offered to You unless You meet the conditions. You must love My will more than all else or I cannot accept You."
So it is with the followers of Jesus. We receive the same tests that He did. The Father does not permit the trials to press us too hard, and He supplies His grace for every time of need; but we must have a heart that fully responds to the will of God or we cannot be acceptable; we shall lose the prize, and be accounted unfaithful servants.
We are to be willing that loyalty to God shall cost us something, yea, even the loss of all earthly prospects.
The heart-attitude that says, "So long as right is as easy as wrong I will choose the right, but if wrong is easier than right I will choose the easier way," is disloyal to God. Such a heart would be unworthy of the glorious High Calling. Indeed, it would make even an unworthy human being. We are to be loyal to the very core, or God will reject us. The Lord Jesus puts the matter in just this light when He says, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
.) Jesus would be ashamed to have such a one in His Kingdom.—
#Ps 51:6; 66:18
The Father and the Son are watching to see how true we are. If we are faithful—under present unfavorable conditions—when loyalty to the Truth brings much reproach, when people point the finger of scorn at us, then the Lord will say, "These are the ones that shall reign in My Kingdom. Those who so delight in My love and approval as to serve Me through evil report, misunderstandings, persecutions and sufferings, will be true when exalted to positions of glory."
DEATH WITH CHRIST THE GATE TO GLORY
Such dear, faithful children of God "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." To these the Lord Jesus will say, "I take pleasure in saying to you, Sit down with Me in My Throne." (
#Re 2:26,27; 3:12,21
the Apostle says, "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ [into the Body of which Christ is the Head] were baptized into His death?"
These become with Jesus The Christ of God, The Anointed of God; for the word Christ means The Anointed. God has never counted any in as members of the Church of Christ except those who have fully surrendered their wills to Him and become dead to the world.
This is our baptism into death as human beings and into life as spiritual beings. Our spirit nature is only
begotten as yet, but we shall be born spirit beings at our "change" in the First Resurrection. We are now raised, as New Creatures, "to walk in newness of life," but not yet raised in the complete sense. We have not yet received our new bodies. Our new mind is in process of development.
We have said that we gave
to God. If we continue in this attitude and fulfil our covenant faithfully, we shall abide in His love and in due time be associates of His Son in glory. The giving up of our will in consecration is only the beginning of the matter. Day by day, week by week, month by month, we are to carry out the terms of our covenant. We are to have no thought of turning back. Having put our hands to the plow, we are not even to look back. "He that looketh back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."—
When Jesus was here in the flesh, on a certain occasion He made some very strong statements (
); and it is written, "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him." They said, "This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?" Then said Jesus to The Twelve, "Will ye also go away?" Simon Peter—impulsive, noble Peter—answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
There is no other Message of eternal life open during the present Age than the Call to joint-heirship with Christ, suffering unto death with Him that we may share His glory hereafter. This is the only way by which we can get into the Ark and be preserved from the general death all around us. Jesus is our Ark of Safety. "By the resurrection of Jesus Christ" our baptism is made possible, as our text declares.
It is this same Simon Peter who tells us in our text that the Ark of Noah was a symbol of saving power, a likeness or figure of our being saved now through baptism into Christ. What a refuge is this Ark of Safety!
As Noah and his family were in the world but not of the world, and were carried in safety through the engulfing
waters in which the whole world were dying, so it is with those who are in Christ. Everybody around us is in death, as the Bible says: "The whole world lieth in the Wicked One." (
, Diaglott.) The Church alone have escaped the condemnation upon the world.
We who were children of wrath even as others, were sentenced to death with the rest of the world. But the Lord our God has graciously brought us into the relationship of sons, through our faith in Christ and obedience to the Divine arrangement in Him. And as Noah and his family, after their deliverance, started the world afresh, so Christ and His Bride will by and by give life anew to all of the race of mankind who will accept the gracious provision for them in Christ.
The dead world are soon to have a resuscitation, with the opportunity to fully live again. Christ is to be the Everlasting Father of the race (
), and the Church will be the mother. Grand and glorious as are the blessings in reservation for the world of mankind when they shall have learned their lesson of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, far greater and grander still will be the reward of the faithful Church, who so love the Lord as to be willing and glad to obey and follow Jesus under the trying and painful conditions of the present time.
Salvation! let the tidings fly The sin-cursed earth around!
Raise the triumphant notes on high, And let your songs abound.
Salvation! O ye weary souls, It brings you life and peace— Eternal life, eternal health, And joys which ne’er shall cease.
Salvation! O the blessed theme Shall fill the world with joy!
When all its mighty work is seen, Praise shall all tongues employ.