OK, we are looking at passages that people use to support the belief that water baptism is a means by which we can or must receive salvation. We have already studied several in Part 4a and Part 4b, and we’ll see one more here. This last one is the most technical, so hang on.
In the New American Standard Bible, we read
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 3:21 (NASB)
As always, the first order of business is to look at the context. It is foolish to try to make any entire doctrine out of just one verse.
Here is the paragraph in which we find our verse in question:
For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.
Because Christ also suffered once for sins,
the just for the unjust,
to bring you to God,
by being put to death in the flesh
but by being made alive in the spirit.
In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
after they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed. In the ark a few, that is eight souls, were delivered through water. And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you – not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:13-22
First of all, the context has to do with how to demostrate to the people around you that you are a Christ-follower, especially during periods of trials and persecution.
According to 1:1-5, Peter’s letter was addressed primarily to Jewish Christians, though much of it applies to Christians in general. The readers were already saved through their faith in Christ and were experiencing a lot of trouble for it. The overall topic of the letter has to do with the suffering that these believers were experiencing.
They were not being saved by water baptism – physically or spiritually. In fact, those who chose to be baptized and identify with Christ were being persecuted all the more because of their public stance.
Secondly, the key here is the Greek word antitupos, translated as “prefigured” (NET) or “corresponding to” (NASB). It is the same as our English word antitype, which means “something that is foreshadowed by a type or symbol” (dictionary.com).
It’s important to understand that an antitype doesn’t actually do anything – it just represents the real thing. The writer of Hebrews uses this word to explain that after his resurrection
Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuary – but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. Hebrews 9:24
The old Jewish temples and our modern church buildings are just antitypes, representations, of the real gathering place before God’s throne in heaven. That’s where Jesus went, and one day we’ll worship there, too. But for now we just have places to represent the real one.
In Peter’s example, Noah’s ark and flood were the type or “symbol” to the matching antitype or “representation” of water baptism. In other words, according to Peter’s own words, water baptism represents someone’s deliverance from destruction.
OK, so we find that when we insist on taking the Bible for what it actually says – not reading our own meanings into it – there is not one passage that supports the teaching that salvation comes through, or even can come through, water baptism.
In fact, every single writer uses baptism as a physical, visible symbol of the real salvation that comes only through humble and repentant faith in Jesus Christ.
So we have two questions as we wrap up this part of our baptism series:
- Have you come to come in humble repentance, asking him to forgive and save you through Jesus’ death in your place?
- Have you publicly identified with Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf by being baptized in water to illustrate your salvation and new life?
If your answer to either question is “No”, contact me today so you can take these very important steps.
We’ll conclude this series in Part 5 by answering the questions, “So who should be baptized and when”?