I Peter 3:21 is not water baptism

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I Peter 3:21 is not water baptism

Post by email » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:22 am

True Baptists believe that water baptism only gets them wet and that baptism of the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the baptism that saves and seals them. The later baptism happens when a person trusts Christ, long before he’s immersed in the baptistery.

But I believe that for a long time we Baptists have made a Campbellite error in our interpretation of a pivotal verse. Indeed, it is a verse that Campbellite’s use to support their doctrine, but I have never heard it satisfactorily explained by any Bible believer. And among Baptists explanations are varied. But while they all arrive at the correct conclusion (water doesn’t save), they also all do damage to the words of the text.

Because of my recent discussion with a Campbellite, I believe I have found the explanation that leaves the text as it is and explains it accurately.

While baptizing in water, John the Baptist prophesied of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Jesus confirmed it.

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Cornelius was a specific example.

Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

And Paul taught it as Church Age doctrine.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Now when Campbellites read Paul, they have H2O on the brain and read "water" every time a text says baptism; thus they believe that I Cor. 12:13 requires a baptistery. The words themselves say otherwise.

But I believe that we Baptists have done the same thing with one of the Campbellite so-called proof texts. I don’t believe this verse has any water in it.

1 Peter 3:21 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:

Recently, I Campbellite told me that just as water saved Noah, it also saves believers. So once more I looked at those verses. But this time I saw something that was there all the time, but that I had never noticed before. (Isn’t that always the case?) Let’s look at the context.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

This verse says that Jesus was quickened (made alive again) by the Spirit.

19. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

By that Spirit he preached to the spirits in prison in the underworld. Peter explains who these spirits are in his second epistle.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Those spirits were the angels that sinned in Noah’s time, probably those who had children with the daughters of men (Gen. 6).

I Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, 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 water.

In his first epistle Peter says that Noah was saved by water. In his second epistle he explains how.

2 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Noah never gets wet! The Campbellites say Noah was saved by water but don’t understand how. The water drowned everyone else while he rose up safe and dry in the ark. If what happened to Noah is a figure of a baptism, it can’t be water baptism because he remained high and dry!

Now comes that pivotal verse.

21 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:

. . . eight souls were saved by water. The like figure . . . A figure is a "person, thing, or action, representative of another." So then Noah’s salvation is a figurative representation of another kind of salvation. The first thing we notice about his salvation is that he didn’t get wet to achieve it.

. . . whereunto even baptism doth also now save us . . . It has already been shown that spiritual salvation requires a spiritual baptism into the Body of Christ. That is the baptism that saves a person’s soul. And it is a dry baptism.

. . . (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, . . . But even that spiritual baptism doesn’t cleanse our flesh.

Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:

. . . but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) . . . Only believers can have a good conscience.

1 Timothy 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

So then a believer in Christ is spiritually baptized into his Body because he believes. He believes and God "answers" that "good conscience" belief with spiritual baptism into Christ. Of course, it happens simultaneously and much more quickly than I typed this sentence.

. . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: And here is another area where the Campbellites get it wrong. Spiritual baptism and resurrection are closely connected. Here is the verse we started with.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Although believers have been baptized into Christ’s body we are still waiting for the rapture (resurrection) of our bodies.

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

Notice the future tense "shall." The redemption of the sinful fleshly body has yet to happen. And once more, the Campbellites read water when they read baptism. Well, there isn’t water in these verses but there is a baptism – Spirit baptism.

So then, I Peter 3:21 is not about water baptism, but rather about spiritual baptism – as are many other verses in the Bible. If someone else has also come to this conclusion, I have never read it. Even the Baptists make the Campbellite mistake of assuming I Peter 3:21 is about water. And because they start from this false premise, they must manipulate the text to proof that water doesn’t save. It seems to me that scripture with scripture there can be no doubt that the baptism of I Peter 3:21 is water free, spiritual baptism.
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Post by JSM17 » Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:34 am

It is universally conceded that the “Great Commission,” as set forth by Mark (16:15-16), finds a counterpart at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel narrative (Matthew 28:18-20). A discussion of these parallels may be found in numerous works (e.g., D.A. Mackinnon in: Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, James Hastings, ed., Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1906, Vol. I, pp. 347-349; Everett Harrison in: Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology, Everett Harrison, Geoffrey Bromiley, and Carl Henry, eds., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999, pp. 130-131).
This matter conceded, it is imperative that the Bible student analyzes carefully the language of Matthew’s version of the Commission. The Lord instructed his apostles to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). The participle, “baptizing them,” explains “the manner in which the given action was performed” (Samuel Green, Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament, London: Religious Tract Society, 1907, p. 332).

The “baptizing” is to be done by the ones who are “going” into all the world. This makes it very clear that the administrators of this baptism are those who are proclaiming the gospel. The baptism of the text, therefore, is not some mystical, invisible baptism; rather, it is the water baptism commonly referred to in the New Testament record, that was administered by men.

In fact, unless it can be demonstrated that “baptize” is used in a metaphorical sense (as in Matthew 3:11b; Luke 12:50; John 1:33b; Acts 1:5; 11:16b), it must be concluded that water baptism is in view in most New Testament passages that mention the term (cf. Matthew 3:6; John 1:28; 3:23; etc.).

Since the “baptism” of Mark 16:16, as predicated upon faith, was to result in salvation, if it can be shown that elsewhere in the New Testament salvation is joined to water baptism, it will have been established that the baptism of Mark’s record is, in fact, an immersion in water.
The connection between “water” and “salvation” is simply too obvious to miss—unless one’s mind is clouded with a misguided presupposition. For example, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of the state of being “cleansed” (the equivalent of being “saved”) by means of “the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Additionally, Peter alludes to those souls who were “saved through water,” adding, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Finally, virtually the entire world of biblical scholarship acknowledges that the baptism of Mark 16:16 is that which involves water (see: J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, p. 94; Danker, et al., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000, p. 164).

The truth is, this issue is so clear, and so settled, that it is not even a matter of discussion, much less controversy, among biblical scholars.
...in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...

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