By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: [W]ho formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 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.
The Twist: This is an analogy to water baptism that shows we are saved through baptism.
Were Noah and his family saved through water baptism? Is that what these verses suggest? That they had been baptized and saved through water? No, that’s not what these verses teach; they are talking specifically about being saved in the ark. Noah built the ark, his family got on board, and God protected them from His wrath through the ark. And now, Jesus Christ is our “ark” that protects us from the wrath of God. That’s the analogy.
Those of us who through faith and repentance have placed our trust in Jesus Christ have the glorious assurance that Jesus is the ark that protects us from the wrath of God to come. The worldwide flood in Genesis demonstrates God’s wrath. He was pouring out His wrath on sinners and destroying everyone, except for the eight who were in the ark.
The eight were saved through water, meaning saved through the water of the flood by the ark. So, are we saved now through baptism? Is that what 1 Peter 3:20-21 means? If we examine the passage carefully, we’ll see that is not what Peter intends. He says, “There is also an antitype which now saves us” so we need to ask, “What is an ‘antitype’?”
An antitype is an earthly description of a spiritual fact. The antitype here is not baptism, “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The antitype is Christ.
This scripture cannot be rightly understood to support the idea that we are saved through baptism. It teaches salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter is clearly teaching that it is not baptism in water that saves us. It is not ceremonial cleansing or any similar act. It is spiritual baptism through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We see this same thing taught in Romans 6:3-6:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
So, this is spiritual talk from Paul. And it fits right alongside what we see in 1 Peter 3:20-21. We spiritually died with Christ, and we were spiritually resurrected with Christ—if we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and repented of our sins.
These are extremely important passages to understand because so many people believe baptism saves, yet it does not. Should you be baptized as a believer? Yes! Does it save you? No! To be saved, you repent of your sins, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, receive the Holy Spirit, and then you’re baptized. And yes, you should be baptized as a public proclamation of your faith in Christ.
A Christian enters the waters of baptism out of obedience and as public proclamation of conversion. The believer is also professing before men and the New Testament church that he or she is now a slave to Christ and has been bought with a price. Being baptized is important in that we are commanded to be baptized as believers, but it is not the act of baptism that saves.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.