Baptism Now Saves You | William Ames

William Ames
An Analytical Exposition of
Both the Epistles of the Apostle Peter
(1641)

1 Peter 2:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 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: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 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. 21 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: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

The Analysis.

In this part of the chapter, the Apostle urgeth that exhortation which he had before proposed concerning an endeavour to do well, even unto those that wrong us. [1 Peter 2:19-20, “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”] And this he doth persuade them unto:

1. By a comparison which he makes betwixt those which suffer for evil doing: which comparison although it may seem to be of a greater or lesser good, when it is said, “It is better to suffer for well doing,” yet it is indeed a dissimilitude, which is intimated by this μείασιν extenuation, as appears by the 19th and 20th verses of the second chapter. For it is thank-worthy and it will turn to our glory, if we suffer for well-doing; not so, if it be for evil doing.

2. He confirms this by the example of Christ (verse 18). Who though he did most justly, yet suffered unjustly; which example he shows to be of great force, by the end of his suffering; because therefore he suffered, that he might bring us the same way unto God: which that he doth now effectually do, he shows by the cause thereof, to wit, life and glory, which he assumed unto himself by his divine Spirit after his suffering. And to show that that effect, namely, the bringing of men unto God, doth proceed from this cause, to wit, the Spirit of Christ, the Apostle makes a comparison of the like, betwixt those things which the Spirit of Christ did heretofore in the days of Noah, and those things which he doth now since the coming of Christ in the flesh. Heretofore he preached the way of salvation, and patiently waited for the performance of obedience, upon the disobedient he inflicted condign punishment, and a few that were obedient he saved in the Ark: so now also he preacheth the way of salvation, he waits for obedience, and by Baptism, as it were a figure like unto the old Ark, he saves those that are obedient and have a good conscience before God, and that by the glorious life and power which he hath in heaven since the time of his resurrection (vv. 21-22). All which things rend hereunto, that we should hold fast a good conscience, even when we are evil entreated; because it is better as he said before (v. 17), and hath now shown as well by the example of Christ, as by his effectual dispensation throughout all ages, as it is verses 18-19, of which we may sue more, if we look back to 1 Peter 2, verse 21 to the end. All the other things almost are explained in the answer to Bellarmine, about Christ’s descending into Hell.

The Doctrines arising here-hence.

Doctrine 1. It was the Spirit of Christ, which preached heretofore from the beginning of the world by the Prophets and men of God, before that he appeared in the flesh. This is gathered from verse 19.

Reason 1. Because the person of Christ was the same from everlasting in the unity of the Divine Essence, so that whatsoever the Spirit of God did, that also may the Spirit of Christ be truly said to have done.

2. Because Christ was the Mediator of mankind from the beginning of the world, in virtue and force: therefore whatsoever the Spirit did, which belonged to the furtherance of the Churches safety, all that he did by virtue of Christs mediation, and that no less than since his coming in the flesh.

Use 1. This may serve to instruct us in the truth of Christ’s divine nature.

2. To comfort us and strengthen our faith, in that we have the same Teacher, which instructed the Church from the beginning of the world, and brought it to salvation; and consequently we embrace the same religion, as touching the substance of it, that all the faithful embraced from the beginning of the world.

3. To admonish us, never to reject or make light account of those things which are preached unto us out of God’s Word, because it is the Spirit of Christ, which preacheth unto us those things, like as he preached unto others from the beginning of the world.

Doctrine 2. They which do not obey the preaching of Christ’s Spirit, willfully bring upon themselves everlasting damnation. This is gathered from verses 19-20.

Reason 1. Because in neglecting the preaching of the Gospel, they neglect and refuse the only means that can keep them from damnation, and bring them unto salvation.

2. Because they do greatly dishonour Christ and his Spirit.

Use. This may serve to admonish us, always, when we come to the hearing of God’s word, to endeavour to have circumcised ears and hearts, ready and willing to yield all obedience thereunto.

Doctrine 3. God useth much patience and long-suffering towards the disobedient. This is gathered from verse 20.

Reason 1. Because by this means God’s clemency and mercy is manifested.

2. Because by this patience of God all are invited, and many are drawn unto the obedience of faith.

3. Because this patience makes those that are stubbornly disobedient altogether inexcusable, and so justifies God in his just judgements.

Use 1. This may serve to direct us, to give the glory of this patience unto God, when we see sinners to go unpunished for a time.

2. To admonish us not to abuse this patience of God, but to make it a means for the amendment of our lives, and our own salvation (Rom. 2:4).

Doctrine 4. In the destruction of the disobedient, God hath a special eye over the faithful; to save them from the destruction. This is gathered from verse 20.

Reason 1. Because he disposeth his judgments according to his certain and perfect counsel, not rashly or confusedly, therefore he passeth over whom he pleaseth.

2. Because the punishments of sin should not fall alike upon the godly and wicked, for then he would not be a just disposer of them.

3. Because it stands upon God’s glory to save those that fly unto him, as he promised them in his covenant.

Use. This may serve to comfort us, in the time of public calamities, wherein God revengeth the wickedness of men.

Doctrine 5. God doth often times preserve those that are his, partly by the same means whereby he destroyeth others. For it is said that the Ark saved Noah and those seven souls in the waters and by the waters. The same water that drowned others, by lifting up the Ark on high, was the means of their preservation. So Jeremiah was delivered by the Babylonians, by whom the Jews were oppressed. 

Reason. Because God can use the same instrument to produce divers and contrary effects, and when he doth this, his glory is the more manifested; because thereby it appears that the effect doth not depend upon the instrument, but upon God: nor doth this come to pass rashly, or by chance, but is ordered and directed by Gods certain counsel.

Use. This may serve to direct us, in the time of danger, not to look so much upon the means which God useth, as to depend upon God himself, who can turn any means unto the good of those that are his.

Doctrine 6. Baptism is such a means of our spiritual salvation, as the water of the flood together with the Ark, was heretofore of the corporal safety of Noah and his family.

This is gathered from verse 21. It is called the Antitype of that water, not because the water was the type of Baptism, and Baptism the exemplar of it, but because there is a typical representative similitude betwixt these two waters. And the similitude consists herein, that as the water of the flood lifted up the Ark and saved Noah and his family in the destruction of the rest, so baptism strengthening our faith, and lifting up our souls unto God reconciled in Christ, saves us in the mortification of our sins.

Reason. Because it is God’s institution.

Use 1. This may serve to reprove those, which make little esteem of baptism.

2. To direct us, to seek this right and proper use of Baptism together with it and by it, and to apply it unto ourselves to our comfort.

Doctrine 7. The outward baptism doth not save us of itself, but the inward.

This is gathered from verse 21, “Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience.

Reason 1. Because outward baptism is common to the hypocrites as well as to the faithful.

2. Because it comes not unto the soul.

3. Because it hath no saving power in itself.

Use. This may serve to admonish us, not to put too much trust and confidence in the outward Sacraments, or to rely thereupon, that we are baptized and partake of the Lord’s Supper, but  always to seek the spiritual grace of the Sacraments. 

Doctrine 8. A singular effect and sign of the inward baptism and effectual grace, is the answer of a good conscience toward God.

For when the Apostle meant to oppose inward Baptism unto outward, instead of the inward he puts the answer of a good conscience, as the proper effect thereof, by which it may be perceived and known. Now by the answer of a good conscience is meant all that confidence which we have before God of his reconciliation, which chiefly appears in our prayers, and in a pious confession of the faith, and a holy care of obedience.

Reason 1. Because then are we properly said to be saved, at least according to our apprehension, when our consciences are freed from the guilt and bondage of sin.

2. Because the peace of a good conscience is part of our glorification.

3. Because such a conscience makes us to go on constantly in the way of salvation.

Use. This may serve to direct us, to make it our chiefest care to keep a good conscience toward God.

Doctrine 9. Such a conscience and our salvation doth in a special manner depend upon Christ’s resurrection.

Reason 1. Because in the resurrection of Christ, God’s sentence was declared, absolving us in him from all sin and death (Rom. 4.25).

2. Because Christ being raised from the dead, did powerfully accomplish that, which he merited by his death (Rom. 8.34).

3. Because our consciences are lifted upwards unto Christ sitting in heaven.

Use. This may serve to direct us, to fix the eyes of our faith upon Christ, as he was raised from the dead.

Doctrine 10. Since the time of Christ’s resurrection, great is his glory and power in heaven. This is gathered from the last verse. 

Reason 1. Because the time of his humiliation and emptying of himself was finished before.

2. Because it was fit, that he which in singular obedience was mightily humbled, should afterwards be exalted unto great glory.

3. Because this glory and power is necessarily required, that Christ might finish all things, which belong to the salvation of the Church.

Use. This may serve to comfort us, against all dangers and fears, seeing we have such a Saviour in heaven.

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