Baptism - 1 Peter 3:21
1 Peter 3:21
In the Days Of Noah
"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" (1 Peter 3:18-20).
A common denominational view of Jesus’ preaching in the above passage, is that some time after His death, but before His ascension, Jesus preached to those who were in hell or torment. Points To Note: 1. But other passages make it clear that when He died, Jesus went to the area in Hades which is labeled "paradise" (Acts 2:27,31; Luke 23:43). Unfortunately, the King James Version rendered "Hades" in Acts 2, with the English word "hell". When this translation was made, the word "hell" simply meant the "unseen". 2. Peter tells us "when" Jesus actually preached to Noah’s generation, it was "when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah" (3:20). As Jesus preached through the prophets (1 Peter 1:11) and the apostles (1 Corinthians 14:37), Jesus also preached through Noah, to his own generation (2 Peter 2:5). 3. Various problems naturally arise over the interpretation that Jesus preached to people who were suffering in torment: A. Why preach to people after their fate is sealed? (Luke 16:26). B. Why preach exclusively to this generation and not any other? C. If such preaching gave them a second chance, why didn’t anyone in torment want out? (3:19; 2 Peter 2:9).
- The only warning this generation received was through the means of preaching. God didn’t send them some sort of internal feelings nor did He coerce them to respond. The same is true in our time (Romans 10:13-17). 2. Only eight people responded! Therefore, results accomplished is a very inaccurate measurement of what is right and true. Noah would caution us against buying into the argument that the truth, or way to eternal life cannot be as narrow as the Bible makes it out to be, because that would mean that half a percent (etc..) of the world’s population is going to heaven. What percentage of the world’s population was saved in Noah’s time? (Matthew 7:13-14). 3. People also try to downplay the importance of the gospel message by trying to make excuses for those who supposedly have never heard. But did everyone hear during Noah’s time? At the very most, Noah would have preached for 120 years (Genesis 6:3). The average life span today is around seventy years. In that many years, don’t you think that a person should think about God, their destiny, what is after death, etc…at least once? What are the chances of a person living that many years and never being confronted with eternal realities? (Romans 10:18)
Holy Spirit Baptism?
Obviously this passage is teaching that baptism is essential to salvation. But most denominations don’t teach that, hence in order to circumvent the necessity of water baptism, some are arguing that passages such as 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, are referring to Holy Spirit baptism and not water baptism. Points To Note: 1. So why would Peter parallel Holy Spirit baptism to an event which used more water than any other event in human history? Is God trying to confuse us? The salvation in the context is clearly connected with water. 2. Verse 20 ends with the statement, "were brought safely through the water", and verse 21 says, "And corresponding to that (the deliverance of Noah and his family by water), baptism now saves you". Clearly, the reference is to a baptism in water. And why would Peter have to caution his readers that the baptism in this verse isn’t a bath or some type of ceremonial washing, if it was Holy Spirit baptism, "not the removal of dirt from the flesh"? 2. Holy Spirit baptism doesn’t save a person. Cornelius and his family were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44; 11:15-16), and yet Peter didn’t say, "Oh well, they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, that makes water baptism unnecessary in this case". Rather, Peter still commanded them to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48). It needs to be noted that Cornelius wasn’t baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to convince him that he needed to be saved, nor did such an act make water baptism unnecessary (Acts 10:1-4, 31-33). Rather the Holy Spirit came upon this Gentile soldier and his family and friends in order to convince Peter and his fellow Christians that uncircumcised Gentiles could be saved, without first being circumcised (Acts 10:9-20, 28-29, 47 "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"; 11:1-3, 16-18). In reading the previous passages, we are forced to conclude that Holy Spirit baptism here was for the purpose of convincing Christians from a Jewish background that it was all right to preach to and baptize believing Gentiles who had not been circumcised. 3. Acts 2:38 and 22:16 can’t refer to Holy Spirit baptism, for how can you command a person to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? 4. The baptism preached in Acts 8:36-38 was water baptism. 5. Seeing that not all Christians in the First Century had miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-30), yet all had been baptized to become a Christian (Mark 16:16), but one baptized in the Holy Spirit could perform the miraculous (Acts 2,10), it is clear that the baptism of the Great Commission and the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism. 6. If someone tries to argue that Cornelius was saved prior to water baptism, because he had the Holy Spirit, one needs to remember that having contact with the miraculous power of God doesn’t mean that one is automatically purged of their sins. Saul of Tarsus actually saw the resurrected Jesus and was blinded, but he still had his sins up to the time that he submitted to baptism(Acts 22:16).
"And corresponding to that" (1 Peter 3:21): "The like figure" (KJV); "The water prefigured the water of baptism" (NEB); "And baptism, which this foreshadowed" (TCNT). The Greek word rendered "corresponding" or "like figure", is the word ANTITUPOS. Literally it means a striking back, echoing, a thing resembling another, its counterpart, corresponding to something that has gone before. The antitype is the die, mold, or pattern that makes an impression. For example, the cookie is the type, the cookie-cutter is the antitype, the words on the paper are the type, the impressions on the keys of the typewriter are the antitype. The type is the copy and the antitype is the original. Points To Note: 1. The tabernacle in the Old Testament was the type, the Church and Heaven are the antitypes (Hebrews 8:2,5; 23-24). 2. God could have judged and destroyed the wicked during Noah’s generation with some other means or element besides water, i.e., He could have simply struck them all dead, but God chose water as the means, because God already knew that centuries later He would command water baptism as a condition for salvation in the New Covenant. Water baptism as a condition for salvation, was already in the mind of God, before the flood ever happened. In fact, seeing that salvation in Jesus Christ was God’s eternal purpose, one would have to concede that everything connected with salvation in Christ, was also part of God's eternal purpose(Ephesians 3:10-11; 1:4). 3. How can anyone argue that baptism is non-essential? Water baptism in the New Testament is the original pattern, which various Old Testament practices and events foreshadowed. For example, besides the Flood, baptism was also prefigured in the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Baptism is also pre-figured in the laver in which the priests washed prior to serving in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-20; Titus 3:5 "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit").
Today people offer many excuses for not wanting to admit that water baptism is necessary for salvation. How do these excuses and arguments sound in the mouth of Noah? 1. "God, salvation is supposed to be on the basis of grace and faith, but building an ark would be a ‘work’, so I’m not going to do it, because I know that one isn’t saved by works". If God commanded the ark to be built, and if having it built was His idea and His divinely given means of deliverance, then whose ‘work’ is it? The same thing is true of baptism. Who invented it as a means of salvation? Who commanded it to be done? (Colossians 2:12-13; Titus 3:5) 2. "What if someone dies of a heart attack on the way of coming to the ark, will God save them? Ah, then, getting into the ark is unnecessary for my salvation God!" 3. "God, you have only one ark here, isn’t that being kind of restrictive? What about all those people who might want to chose another way to be saved?" 4. "Yes, I know what God has said, but I really believe that He is a big softy, and He will simply end up saving everyone". 5. "As long as you are sincere, you really don’t have to get into the ark".
Now Saves Us
Some argue that while Jews were told to be baptized, Gentiles didn’t have to be baptized. Or, that while Peter commanded baptism on the day of Pentecost, his understanding of salvation became clearer as time went on, and he eventually understood that baptism wasn’t essential for salvation. Yet this verse completely undermines the above arguments. Some thirty years after Acts 2:38, baptism is still essential for salvation. Note calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21; 38), has always included baptism (Acts 22:16). God has one plan of salvation, one set of conditions for salvation, for all men (Mark 16:16; Acts 15:11 "in the same way as they also are").
An Appeal To God
The word "appeal" means, "earnest seeking, a craving, intense desire, to long for something, a demand". Points To Note: 1. Obviously, baptism only applies to those who are old enough to personally make an appeal to God for a clear conscience. 2. Since baptism is always placed prior to salvation, if one does have a clear conscience prior to baptism, such a clear conscience isn’t from God. 3. The person who really wants to stand before God with a clear conscience, will realize that baptism stands between one and the forgiveness of their sins. When God gives a sinner a clear conscience, that person has the assurance that every sin has been forgiven (Hebrews 10:22). 4. Another way of saying that baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience, is saying that the person being baptized is earnestly wanting the forgiveness of their sins. Which means that those who balk at baptism aren’t really sincere about their claim of wanting to be saved.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/644-9017