Baptism (Part The Second)

Wow! What a can of worms I opened. As a response of my first message on Baptism, someone shot back at me, and quoted I Peter 3:21:

Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life

Wow! Well it certainly appears that Baptism saves us, doesn’t it? Hmm. But wait it a minute. Does it really say that we must be baptized in water in order to be saved? Well I found and excellent response to that from the , Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. They stated that you have to look the verse in context:

Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. His body was put to death, but he was brought to life through his spirit. In it he also went to proclaim his victory to the spirits kept in prison. They are like those who disobeyed long ago in the days of Noah when God waited patiently while Noah built the ship. In this ship a few people—eight in all—were saved by water. Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life. Now Christ has gone to heaven where he holds the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the throne. Angels, rulers, and powers have been placed under his authority (I Peter 3:18-22)

That was taken from God’s Word Translation, which is one of my more favorite translations. CARM used the New American Standard Bible:

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And 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, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (I Peter 3:18-22)

Hmm, slightly different. I prefer verse 21 from God’s Word Translation: “Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you.” The key word that is used “is like,” in Greek is antitupos. Again turning to E.W. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words it means “copy,” “type,” “pointing to the present time, not ‘then present,’,” “a thing resembling another,” “its counterpart.” If you read the verse from the New International Version, you read, “symbolizes.” The point is that Baptism, is a representation, a copy, a type of something else.

I know that sounds like gobbledygook, but what it is saying is that the baptism Noah and his family experienced did not bring their salvation. Their salvation did not come from the flood. Their salvation came through the Ark. Noah built and entered the ark by faith, and he was saved. Isn’t that what the author of the letter to the Hebrew church told us?

Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith (Hebrews 11:7)

Peter consistently referred to the flood waters as the means of destruction, of judgment (II Peter 2:5; 3:6) — but it did not bring the salvation of Noah and his family. The Ark is what saved them — the ark that Noah entered by faith.

Aah, but the Ark is a type, a symbol of Jesus Himself — not the waters which may be why the rest of the verse says, “Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience.” That certainly agrees with what Paul taught in Colossians 2:11-12 where he equates baptism with your heart being circumcised. In other words, Peter clarifies that it isn’t the water baptism that saves but the appeal to the heart.

There all kinds of verses that tell us that our justification comes through our faith (Romans 5:1), salvation comes by faith (Ephesians 2:8). It is not justification “by faith and baptism” or salvation “by faith and baptism.”

As we saw, the  experience of the flood was for Noah a type of baptism even as the passage through the Red Sea was a type of baptism for the Israelites.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that all our ancestors who left Egypt were under the cloud, and they all went through the sea. They were all united with Moses by baptism in the cloud and in the sea. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual rock that went with them, and that rock was Christ (I Corinthians 10:1-4).

The “baptisms” of both Noah and the Israelites served as types of a transition; that is, they moved people from the old world to the new — from the old covenant to the new covenant. It is not the water that saves but the spiritual thing associated with that water that saves. For both Noah and Moses it was faith in God.

But some may say that the work of the Holy Spirit and the act of baptism are simultaneous — that the Holy Spirit works in and through baptism to bring regeneration. But that cannot be true, because many times the Bible tells us that salvation is by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8). Besides, we have several examples in scripture where people were saved before their baptism.

There is no magical power in the water used in our baptism. Any more than when we drink wine or eat bread. They are symbolic elements that refer to a much grander reality. Our baptism is simply showing us that the water symbolizes a spiritual cleansing through the power of the Holy Spirit which we gained through Christ’s victory over death.  It is our appeal to our God that saves the soul — not the washing of water on our body.


(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.

The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.

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