Honest Reading of Scripture Shows That Salvation is in Christ -- Not in Baptism
"... 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 (through) 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." (I Peter 3:20-21.)
Verse 21 can be more accurately translated and punctuated as follows: "With reference to which also an antitype—baptism—now saves us: not a putting off of the filth of the flesh, but an asking of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
THE TYPE — FLOOD WATER "Water" is the antecedent of "which" at the beginning of this verse — or the antecedent of "whereunto," as we have it in the King James version. A glance at the Greek text is enough to establish this fact with anyone who knows Greek. That is, Peter is comparing New Testament baptism to the water of the flood "in the days of Noah." But did the water of the flood save souls? Figuratively speaking, the answer is yes: " . . . the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein [literally, into which] few, that is, eight souls were saved by [better, through] water." SAVED THROUGH WATER How did the water of the flood save the lives of Noah and his family? If they had trusted in the water itself, they must have perished along with the ungodly who would not believe that the judgment of God was about to fall upon them. Belief that the water itself would have saving power must have been at least as fatal to their salvation as refusal to believe that the water would come. But -- "Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood." (Gen. 7:7.) The water of which God warned him drove Noah and his family into the ark, and so through water they were saved into the ark. No great intelligence is needed to see that actually these lives were saved in and by virtue of the ark, and not in or by virtue of the water — from which, in fact, the ark saved them while others drowned in that same water. Moreover, the same water which overwhelmed and destroyed the wicked be-came the means of lifting up the ark as the true refuge and savior of these who trusted not in the water but in the ark as God's appointed means of their deliverance. THE LIKE FIGURE Now, that water of Noah's day was the type of which baptism is an antitype, or "the like figure," as King James has it. If the type or likeness is perfect, we must suppose that baptism does not really or literally save anyone, any more than did the water of the flood, but only symbolically or figuratively. And our supposition becomes certainty when Peter hastens to declare that baptism is "not a putting off of the filth of the flesh." Obviously "the filth of the flesh" means sin, not merely physical dirt, since physical dirt can be washed off in baptism. But only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin, and the merits of this blood are obtained through faith, not through baptism. John 3:16 should be sufficient evidence on this point. A GOOD CONSCIENCE For readers who think that the King James version is inspired, I would say that I have rather liked the word "answer" in our text and might have kept it if honesty permitted. But accurate translation tells us that Baptism is "an asking of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Either way, baptism appears as a Christian duty, whether as an answer or an asking of a good conscience toward God. The believer in Christ who neglects or refuses to be baptized cannot possibly have a good conscience toward God on this point. If his conscience does not condemn him, then his conscience is as bad as his conduct. THROUGH THE RESURRECTION With the parentheses of the King James version we are made to read, "Baptism doth also now save us . . . by [through] the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This must mean simply that when we witness scriptural baptism we are reminded of the death, burial, and (especially) resurrection of Christ our Savior, through Whose resurrection we are saved, since He "was raised again for our justification." (Rom. 4:25.) Baptism which points us to Christ does not any more really save us than did the water of the flood save Noah and his family when it drove them into the ark for salvation. (Gen. 7:7.) It is possible, and I think preferable, to connect the phrase "through the resurrection" with the noun "asking." Thus we read that baptism is "an asking of a good conscience toward God through the resurection of Jesus Christ." "Because I live," said Jesus, "ye shall live also." (John 14:19.) So the born-again believer, already passed out of death into life (John 5:24), now in the "figure" or antitype of baptism draws a picture in this physical act of spiritual truth already spiritually received. So through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, living the life of his risen Savior, in this act of obedience he asks for a good conscience toward God — a good conscience such as is unknown to disobedient Christians. ==============
[From AAB, November 1, 1968, pp. 1, 3. -- jrd]
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