1 Peter 3:21

Thursday, 28 November 2019

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21

Peter just referred to “the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” He says that this is an “antitype.” The Greek word, antitupos, is found only here and in Hebrews 9:24. In this case, it refers to something which is represented by a symbol.

The ark of the covenant, for example, is a type which anticipates the Person of Jesus Christ. He, then, is the Antitype. Peter is saying that what happened to Noah and his family in the ark was given by God as a type of that “which now saves us.”

In other words, the process of salvation was being hinted at in the flood narrative, just as it is in many other shadowy pictures from the Old Testament Scriptures. The account of Noah is the type; “baptism” is the antitype.

This is now the last time that the word baptisma, or “baptism,” is used in Scripture. It comes from baptizó, the act of baptizing. The idea of baptism means “fully wet” or “submerged.” The reason it is not translated as such, but is rather transliterated, is surely because the practice of infant sprinkling became an accepted practice as the church got corrupted. When the Bible was translated into English, all kinds of theological quarreling would have arisen if the word was properly translated. To avoid this, the word (which conveys the idea of full submersion) was simply transliterated.

However, it is not the act of water baptism that Peter is now referring to. Rather, he explains – very clearly so that the point is not missed – that this “baptism” is “not the removal of the filth of the flesh.”

In other words, he is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not water baptism. Water baptism, which would wash the flesh, is given to simply picture what occurs in the life of the believer. It is an “after the fact” public proclamation of a change that took place in a person. Further, it is an act of obedience to the command of the Lord. But it is not what is being referred to now by Peter.

What occurred in the flood of Noah is that a family was brought through the waters of purification. The filth of the world was purged away in the destruction of the flood, but the man of righteousness and his family were carried through that cleansing flood and brought into a new world.

Here, Peter uses a word, rhupos, which is translated as “filth,” and which is found only here in Scripture. It speaks of a state of being unclean which results from doing that which is morally improper. It is unacceptable conduct based on a moral dirtiness. The world, which had become morally perverse, was washed away and its “filth” was purged.

Peter says that this moral filth of the flesh (as if it could be washed away with mere water) is not what he is speaking of for the believer. Rather, the baptism which saves is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”

Here is another word used for the last time in Scripture, suneidésis, or “conscience.” It is a word used frequently by Paul that signifies, “properly, joint-knowing, i.e. conscience which joins moral and spiritual consciousness as part of being created in the divine image. Accordingly, all people have this God-given capacity to know right from wrong because each is a free moral agent” (HELPS Word Studies).

This “conscience” is described by Peter with a word unique in Scripture. It is an eperótéma – a demand, a question. The conscience, in essence, demands of God, “Am I right before you?” One can have a seared conscience and not care. Or one can have a conscience which is aware of the Creator and always looking to be pleasing to Him.

In the flood of Noah, there were two actions going in opposite directions. There was Noah, the preacher of righteousness being saved, and there was the world of filth and moral depravity which was purged. Noah did not purge the world of its filth, the flood – sent forth from God – did. Noah’s salvation came through his conscience towards God. His conduct “demanded” or “questioned” of God, and God responded. “Is my conscience concerning You appropriate?” “Yes, I have found it acceptable.”

The act of water baptism, that of being “fully submerged,” pictures a theological truth. Nobody is “partly cleansed of the impurity of the world. Rather, they are fully cleansed. In this, they are set apart from the world which will be purged of its filth. The idea is that there is salvation and there is condemnation. These are the only two states which exist.

Peter then finishes the thought concerning that which saves. It is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” In other words, these words are tied to “which saves” in the first clause. The baptism is a result of the resurrection of Christ, but only in that there is the conscience which accepts that premise.

As man is a free moral agent, and as his conscience must work out an acceptable faith in the work of Christ – a work which culminated in His resurrection – then it shows that man is not regenerated in order to believe as Calvinism states. Rather, man’s free will must actively reason out his state before God, see that he is lost in a world of filth (meaning moral unrighteousness), and come into the Ark of Safety which is the Person and work of Christ, and thus be saved.

The faith in Christ leads to the “baptism” which is the demand, or question put forth: “Am I right before God?” God’s answer is, “Yes.” It is Christ which allows this to occur.

Here, Peter makes the connection between baptism and the flood of Noah where eight people were saved through the water. Paul makes a similar connection in 1 Corinthians 10 where those who went through the Red Sea were all “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Like Paul, though, Peter says that it isn’t the water which saves. Rather, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what sanctifies. The filth of the world is purged away because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the one who believes.

The point of the entire passage is that Noah remained righteous and he was saved because of his good conscience towards God. The waters of the flood washed away the filth, but Noah survived the ordeal in his being carried through the flood. This was his answer because of his good conscience towards God. And, it is also applicable to us, as evidenced by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Life application: Too often people focus on the externals, but they fail to complete the verse or paragraph to see that what is being said is exactly the opposite of what they originally thought. Thus, the entire context is necessary to understand the meaning. Jesus said in Mark 16:16 –

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The words, “he who believes and is baptized,” leads some to believe that water baptism is somehow required for salvation, but this is not what is meant. Rather, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what is being referred to. There is an a/b connection being made –

1) a (belief) and b (baptism) = salvation
2) no a (belief) = no salvation
Therefore, b (baptism) is a result of a (belief). One occurs based on the other.

Paul says that the moment a person believes, he receives the deposit of the Holy Spirit. This is the “baptism” being referred to here. It is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The words of Mark 16:16 show this. “He who believes and is baptized” is a united event – when you believe, you receive.

Salvation comes from trusting in Jesus Christ and His resurrection (see Romans 10:9), and it is the “answer of a good conscience toward God.” Too often denominations separate these actions or mandate what is simply not implied (such as water baptism) because of a confused understanding of these passages.

Remember that 1) salvation comes from calling on Jesus; 2) the moment you call on Jesus you are sealed or “baptized” with the Holy Spirit; and 3) repeated filling of the Holy Spirit comes with obedience, prayer, living a holy life, and etc.

Thank You Lord for the simplicity of Your gospel. Thank You that we are saved by grace through faith and that, the moment we believe, we are eternally sealed with Your Holy Spirit. What a wonderfully glorious God You are to lavish such favor upon us. Thank You Lord for the blessings found in Christ. Amen.




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