Principal Fairbairn speaks of the connection between Noah’s Flood and Christian baptism:
In the personal experience of believers, as symbolized in that ordinance, there is a re-enacting substantially of what took place in the outward theatre of the world by means of the deluge. “The like figure whereunto (literally, the antitype to which, viz., Noah’s salvation by water in the ark) 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.” (1 Pet. iii. 21) Like the Apostle’s delineations generally, the passage briefly indicates, rather than explicitly unfolds, the truths connected with the subject. Yet, on a slight consideration of it, we readily perceive, that, with profound discernment, it elicits from the ordinance of baptism, as spiritually understood and applied, the same fundamental elements, discovers there the same twofold process, which appeared so strikingly in the case of Noah. Here also there is a salvation reaching its accomplishment by means of a destruction “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” not so superficial a riddance of evil, but one of a more important and vital character, bringing “the answer of a good conscience,” or the deliverance of the soul from the guilt and power of iniquity. The water of baptism let the subject be plunged in it ever so deep, or sprinkled ever so much can no more of itself save him than the water of the deluge could have saved Noah, apart from the faith he possessed, and the preparation it led him to make in constructing and entering into the ark. It was because he held and exercised such faith, that the deluge brought salvation to Noah, while it overwhelmed others in destruction. So is it in baptism, when received in a spirit of faith. There is in this also the putting off of the old man of corruption crucifying it together with Christ, and at the same time a rising through the resurrection of Christ to the new and heavenly life, which satisfies the demands of a pure and enlightened conscience. So that the really baptized soul is one in which there has been a killing and a making alive, a breaking up and destroying of the root of corrupt nature, and planting in its stead the seed of a divine nature, to spring, and grow, and bring forth fruit to perfection. In the microcosm of the individual believer, there is the perishing of an old world of sin and death, and the establishment of a new world of righteousness and life everlasting.
Such is the proper idea of Christian baptism, and such would be the practical result were the idea fully realized in the experience of the baptized. But this is so far from being the case, that even the idea is apt to suffer in people’s minds from the conscious imperfections of their experience. And it might help to check such a tendency; it might, at least, be of service in enabling them to keep themselves well informed as to what should be, if they looked occasionally to what actually was, in the outward pattern of these spiritual things, given in the times of Noah. Are you disinclined, we might say to them, to have the axe so unsparingly applied to the old man of corruption? Think, for your warning, how God spared not the old world, but sent its mass of impurity headlong into the gulph of perdition. Seems it a task too formidable, and likely to prove hopeless in the accomplishment, to maintain your ground against the powers of evil in the world? Think again, for your encouragement, how impotent the giants of wickedness were of old to defeat the counsels of God, or prevail over those who held fast their confidence in His word; with all their numbers and their might, they sunk like lead in the waters, while the little household of faith rode secure in the midst of them. Or does it appear strange, at times perhaps incredible, to your mind, that you should be made the subject of a work which requires for its accomplishment the peculiar perfections of Godhead, while others are left entire strangers to it, and even find the word of God, the chosen instrument for effecting it, the occasion of wrath and condemnation to their souls? Remember “the few, the eight souls” of Noah’s family, alone preserved amid the wreck and desolation of a whole world: preserved, too, by faith in a word of God, which carried in its bosom the doom of myriads of their fellow-creatures, and so, finding that which was to others a minister of condemnation, a source of peace and safety to them. Rest assured, that as God Himself remains the same through all generations, so His work for the good of men is essentially the same also ; and it ever must be His design and purpose, that Noah’s faith and salvation should be perpetually renewing themselves in the hidden life and experience of those who are preparing for the habitations of glory.