“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)
There are many questions which people have about baptism. Some believe baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Others believe that it does. Others believe it is not necessary for salvation but is required to obey God. To delve deeper into this subject, let’s examine what the apostle Peter wrote about baptism in 1 Peter 3:21.
I find it interesting that Peter goes out of his way to show that baptism is inherently linked to salvation, but not because of the water itself. That’s why he emphasized that by correlating salvation with baptism, he wasn’t referring to “the removal of the filth of the flesh.” Rather, he was linking baptism to salvation “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The apostle Paul made it very clear that we have no hope of without the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). He specifically cited the resurrection as the reason that those who are baptized now “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-5). He told the Colossians that they were “buried with Him in baptism,” and that it was in that burial that they were then “raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12-13).
Peter’s reference to baptism as “the answer of a good conscience” is worth a look. The English Standard Version puts it this way: “as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” This lets us know one of the purposes behind baptism. Peter was basically saying that people are baptized because they want a clear conscience. What would bring about a clear conscience? Knowing that one’s sins were forgiven, of course! Peter knew this. He was the one who had indicted the Jews at Pentecost as guilty of crucifying the One whom God had made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). When he told the Jews this, “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (v. 37). To which Peter replied: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins…” (v. 38). It was Peter who had first preached that repentance and baptism resulted in one’s sins being forgiven. No wonder he now cites baptism as “the answer of a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21)!
Notice that he also calls baptism an “antitype.” That comes from the Greek word antitupon, “a thing formed after some pattern; that which corresponds to a type.” Contextually, Peter had been talking about the flood in Noah’s day (v. 20). He said that “eight souls” – Noah and his family – “were saved through water.” By then stating that baptism was the antitype to that, he was saying that baptism was similar. Baptism in water is the “antitype which now saves us” (v. 21), just as Noah was saved by the waters of the flood.
This does not in any way negate the need for God’s grace. Look again at the comparison to Noah. The Bible says that he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). Grace played a part in his salvation. So did faith. The writer of Hebrews wrote that Noah built that ark and thus saved his family “by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). So grace and faith played a vital role in Noah’s salvation…and so did water (1 Peter 3:20). Corresponding to that, grace and faith play a vital role in our salvation too. Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Yet the waters of baptism also play a vital role in our salvation. As Peter wrote, baptism is the “antitype which now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21).
So we see that baptism is in fact inherently linked to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). Have you been saved by being baptized? If not, I would like to meet you and study more with you about this. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.