“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: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)
How can we be so sure of the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work for our salvation that we can publicly pledge our possession of a good conscience toward God? According to Peter, such certainty can be ours thanks to “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” If God the Father had not been satisfied with His Son’s work for our salvation, He would have never raised Christ from the dead. The fact that He did, and that Christ has now ascended “into heaven, and is on the right hand of God,” serves as God the Father’s stamp of approval on the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world.
As the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 4:25, Christ’s resurrection proves the possibility of our “justification.” We can be made right with God by placing our faith in the resurrected Christ. Once we do, Christ becomes “our righteousness” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and we become acceptable to God in Christ (Ephesians 1:6). Therefore, all who trust Christ to justify them before God can be assured of “a good conscience toward God” by the fact that “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1) is now seated “on the right hand of God.”
How is Christ righteousness appropriated in our lives? Is it not by our identification with the resurrected and ascended Christ? It is our identification with Christ by faith that makes us right with God; not to mention the fact that it is our identification with Christ that is pictured in our baptism as proof of our “good conscience toward God.” Thus, our justification is not a product of us being baptized in obedience to Christ, but of us identifying with the resurrected and ascended Christ. Baptism simply serves as “photo” evidence that this conscience cleansing identification has taken place.
“Shall be more sweet than all the joys
Amongst us mortal men.
Then shalt thou find but one refuge
Which comfort can retain;
A guiltless conscience pure and clear
From touch of sinful stain.”