1 Peter 3:21
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. NKJV
“A first reading of the verse appears to suggest that baptism either saves men or at least contributes to their salvation. Thus the verse has been cited for generations as a proof text by the various advocates of baptismal regeneration. But the verse in no sense advocated any saving significance for baptism.
Baptism is called a figure (antitupos). The word means literally ‘type’ or ‘antitype.’ When a key is struck on a typewriter, it leaves a letter, such as ‘z,’ on the page. No, actually the letter ‘z’ is still on the metal or plastic element which struck the page. What is on the page is a type or antitype which corresponds almost identically to the ‘z’ on the metal or plastic element. In the same fashion, baptism saves us. It is not salvation, but it is a figure, an antitype, a picture of that salvation. Baptism is the public demonstration in which on pictures the spiritual transformation that has already occurred.
Peter continues by explaining precisely what he intended. Baptism never cleanses the filth of the flesh. However, since Christ commanded it, baptism must be accepted as the answer of a good conscience toward God. That good or cleansed conscience has come about as a result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In other words, anyone who has been saved, receiving a good conscience toward God, will answer by submitting to baptism as Jesus mandated. While baptism does not save, it is unthinkable that one who has been saved would reject baptism. To do so is to reject the command of Christ.” -Paige Patterson, A Pilgrim Priesthood: An Exposition of First Peter, Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1982. Patterson has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastor, evangelist, educator.
Robert L. Sumner
“In this passage in 1 Peter 3, there are three important observations to note. First, baptism is a figure. The record says, ‘the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us.’
When I was baptized, my baptism was a figure – a picture, if you please – of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It was my testimony of my faith in His death, His burial and His resurrection for my eternal salvation. Baptism is a figure of what saves us.
Second – and this is what those who teach salvation by water baptism like to omit – ‘Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.’ You see, baptism does not put away our sins. No, no! It cannot do that, the Bible says. The ‘filth of the flesh’ is not washed away in or by any baptismal water.
Then, third, note that baptism is described as ‘the answer of a good conscience toward God.’ Baptism is the answer of a good conscience! The only way a man can have a good conscience is to be saved. Hebrews 9:14 tells us that a conscience is purged from dead works by ‘the blood of Christ.’ If a man has a good conscience, it is only because he has been cleansed from his sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. First Peter 3:21 is simply saying that if one has been saved by the blood of Christ, he ought to be baptized, setting forth in a figure the ground of his salvation: the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. -Robert L. Sumner, Does the Bible Teach That Water Baptism Is a Necessary Requirement for Salvation?, Biblical Evangelism Press; 1970. This is also in a chapter in Biblical Essays by Robert L. Sumner, Biblical Evangelism; 2013.
John R. Rice
“All difficulty about this passage disappears when you take the first plain statement in the verse that this is a ‘figure.’ The ark was a figure and picture of salvation, and the ark was certainly a type of Christ. Baptism is a ‘like figure’; and Romans 6:5 states that it is a ‘likeness’ of the death and a ‘likeness’ of the resurrection of Christ. Peter then continues that baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh and says that it is ‘the answer of a good conscience toward God.’ Baptism, then, is only a picture, or figure, of salvation; and the man who is baptized should already have a ‘good conscience.’ In Hebrews 9:14 we are told how the conscience is to be purged by the blood of Christ. Then, after that conscience is purged ‘from dead works to serve the living God’ and one has a ‘good conscience,’ he has a right to be baptized.
One who is baptized professes to have a good conscience toward God, with his sins forgiven. If that is not true, he has no right to be baptized, and baptism is a lie and an empty pretense. Baptism is only for saved people, the answer of a conscience cleansed and forgiven.” -John R. Rice, Bible Baptism, Sword of the Lord; 1943, 1971.
Warren W. Wiersbe
“When Peter wrote that Noah and his family were ‘saved by water,’ he was careful to explain that this illustration does not imply salvation by baptism. Baptism is a ‘figure’ of that which does save us, namely, ‘the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 3:21). Water on the body, or the body placed in water, cannot remove the stains of sin. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that (1 John 1:7-2:2). However, baptism does save us from one thing: a bad conscience. Peter had already told his readers that a good conscience was important to a successful witness (see 1 Peter 3:16), and a part of that ‘good conscience’ is being faithful to our commitment to Christ as expressed in baptism.”
-Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, David C. Cook; 2003, 2007.
B. H. Carroll
“On I Peter 3:21 I make this point on the picture of baptism: "Baptism doth now save us." Baptism doth now save us in a figure; baptism doth now save us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is the figure, but baptism does not put away the impurity of the carnal nature – does not put away the filth of the flesh. These are the four points: (1) Baptism saves us in a figure. (2) That figure is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (3) Paul says, "You have been planted in the likeness of his death, so ye shall be in the likeness of his resurrection." Wherever you see a baptism you see a burial and a resurrection. This is not a real salvation, but a pictorial one – a figure of salvation, and baptism does save us that way, and nobody will deny it. (4) The injury of a good conscience toward God. And the force of this last is: (a) The conscience is bad before it is cleansed, (b) How made good? Hebrew 9:14: "By the blood of Christ." (c) The place of a good conscience – 1Timothy 1:5 explains.” -B. H. Carroll (AD 1843-1914), An Interpretation of the English Bible, Broadman Press; 1948.
J. B. Jeter
“In the same [symbolic] sense in which the broken loaf in the Lord’s Supper is a sign of the crucified body of Jesus, is the water of baptism a sign of the cleansing efficacy of the blood, or atonement of Christ. In like manner as we eat the body of Christ in the supper, do we wash away our sins in baptism.” -J. B. Jeter, Campbellism Examined, Sheldon, Lamport, & Blakeman; 1855. Jeter (AD 1802-1880) was a Baptist Pastor, author, and editor of the Religious Herald, Virginia.
Faith alone, in Christ alone, is what truly saves us. Baptism is a picture of that salvation. Never forget or neglect the many, many Bible passages that teach us to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him
will receive remission of sins. -Peter; Acts 10:43 NKJV
-David R. Brumbelow, gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com, June 12, AD 2021.
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