Recently, I have been in a thorough discussion concerning what Peter said relative to baptism. In the midst of this discussion by a lady who believes baptism is not necessary to salvation, she submitted a link to sustain her point. I went to that link, and the remarks below is in direct relation to the web article she posted.
In an article, answering a question, concerning 1 Peter 3:21, this remark is make concerning baptism and salvation: “In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not of works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Here is what 1 Peter 3:21 says, alongside what Ephesians 2:8-9 says.
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)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (NKJV)
Note, especially, what Peter said baptism does. Peter forthrightly declares that baptism saves. Note, also, what Paul does not say in that which he wrote; he says nothing of baptism. Thus, the comment made in the web article inserts a word into a passage that is not there.
Shades of Genesis 3 and the serpent’s words to Eve.
In the lead paragraph of the web article, the author sets the tone for what 1 Peter 3:21 can’t mean, by inserting a word in the apostle’s Paul text that is not there.
In the next paragraph, the author speaks of contradictions. He writes, “Was Peter really saying that the act of being baptized is what saves us? If he were, he would be contradicting many other passages of Scripture that clearly show people being saved (as evidenced by their receiving the Holy Spirit) prior to being baptized or without being baptized at all (like the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43).”
It appears the author of the web article does not know what a contradiction is. Merriam-Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary has this as a definition of a contradiction: “to assert the contrary,” “to imply the opposite or denial of” (p. 394). Furthermore, under the word “contradiction,” the dictionary gives this meaning, “a proposition, statement, or phrase that asserts or implies both the truth and falsity of something” (ibid). Since the author of the article did not cite a reference to sustain his point, go back up at look at 1 Peter 3:21 and compare it to Ephesians 2:8-9. Is there in either passage an assertion to the contrary of the other? If there is, what is that contrary assertion or denial? Under the English definitions given, it becomes very clear the author of the web article does not know what a contradiction is. That which Peter said does not contradict that which Paul said. According to this type of approach, the words of Luke 23:40-42 “clearly” contradict Mathew 27:44!
Thief on the cross
The thief on the cross is a passage that invariably will be brought to negate God’s command, meaning and purpose of baptism. The assertion goes like this: when Jesus was on the cross, the thief beside Him asked to be remembered when Jesus departs (dies), “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:42-43, NKJV). This passage is supposed to give us a doctrinal statement on what is not required for salvation. Though I did not mention it previously, the lead paragraph of the web article says this” “Those who believe that baptism is required for salvation are quick to use 1 Peter 3:21 as ‘proof text,’ because it states ‘baptism now saves you.’” How ironic the accusation of proof text is leveled against those who believe in the necessity of baptism, when Peter expressly said it, though the same proof text accusation is rejected when leveled against the proponents of faith alone when the verse/passage they often use (Luke 23:42-43) mentions nothing about faith alone or baptism.
Was the thief on the cross baptized? The Scriptures do not speak to it at all. Thus, to conclude that he was or was not is unknown and not germane to the discussion concerning what Peter expressly taught. That which the Author of Life said to the thief on that occasion means that whatever the Lord said, even if it meant the thief had to drive to New York city before he could be saved, was sufficient for the occasion. Of course, the Lord said nothing of the sort. However, there is just as much justification for an insertion of driving to New York City into the text as there is of affirming a negative doctrinal point of regarding baptism in relation to faith alone in the passage!
Under the authority (or parameters) of the New Covenant, Paul said, one is saved if he (she) believes Jesus was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). There was no way for the thief on the cross to believe this because he would have been long-dead and have no knowledge of such a thing having occurred. Thus, under the parameters of the New Covenant requirements, that is, a belief in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus he could not be saved.
Examples of salvation before baptism
Apart from the thief on the cross, the other example given is that which surrounds Cornelius (among the “countless examples” were are told exists). “A good example of someone who was saved before being baptized is Cornelius and his household in Acts 10. We know they were saved before being baptized because they had received the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of salvation (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13; 1 John 3:24). The evidence of their salvation was the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized.”
As Peter spoke to those present on that great occasion,
“And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:42-48, NKJV)
Prior to this point in chapter 10, we learn from the first 9 chapters the following about baptism. It is a command of God and directly related to repentance and the forgiveness of sins (2:38). It is also directly connected to the preaching of the kingdom of God, both men and women having been baptized (8:12). It is directly connected to the preaching of Jesus, and when salvation came up in the conversation, the question was asked if anything hindered him (the Ethiopian eunuch) from being baptized (8:35-37). From the foregoing Scriptures baptism is a command of God related to the preaching of salvation. We also learn that one’s sins are forgiven in obedience to God’s command to repent and be baptized; candidates for baptism are men and women and baptism is part of God’s gospel relative to the kingdom of God and Jesus.
With this before us, let us consider Acts 10. The events of chapter 10 are extraordinary in comparison with the events surrounding chapters 2 and 8. In both of these chapters (chapters 2 and 8), the gospel message was preached, and people heard and obeyed. In chapter 10, there is similarity, but also an exception. Cornelius was told by the Lord to send for Peter; Peter would tell him some things that would save him and his household (10:6, 33; 11:14). Cornelius heard the Lord’s messenger and obeyed him. Peter arrived and had begun telling those assembled about Jesus and the remission of sins (10:34-43). Suddenly, without prompt by Peter within the message he preached, directly from heaven came something extraordinary; the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word (10:44). This was surprising to Peter and those who came along with him. Peter learned on this occasion that the message of God was not exclusive to the Jewish nation (cf. Acts 1:8 and take note how it actually complements the sentiment Peter expressed in 10:35).
Were they saved when the Holy Spirit came directly from heaven? Look at 10:6 again. Here Cornelius is told to call for Peter, and Peter would tell them words wherein they must hear and obey if they would be saved. The Holy Spirit that fell from heaven is not that which Peter spoke. When Peter saw what occurred, he called for them to be baptized in water. Why? Because, as previously stated, baptism in water is directly related to repentance and forgiveness of sins, to adults who are responsible for their thoughts and actions, and it is part of God’s gospel relative to the kingdom of God and Jesus (8:12, 35). It is clear from the context the Lord received Cornelius and those with him, but they were no saved without obeying God’s commands, as spoken by Peter.
The author of the web article has implicitly said, with his inclusion of Romans 8:9 as a sustaining passage, that each person who is saved, must be saved in the same way as Cornelius. That is, he (she) must receive something that comes directly from heaven (not through some person’s hands) and speak in languages as evidence of that.
Cornelius is an example or pattern to be saved, but only in accordance with the words Peter taught.
A Teaching Not Taught
The third paragraph of the web article makes clear to me what the author thinks some teach when there is a positive declaration concerning the importance of baptism. “While Peter is connecting baptism with salvation, it is not the act of being baptized that he is referring to (not the removal of dirt from the flesh). Being immersed in water does nothing but wash away dirt.” It is possible that some people put efficacy in the act of baptism, but New Testament does nothing of the sort. The efficacy (the power to produce an effect, in this case, the removal of sin and placing in Christ) is not in the act, but in the One who authorized the command to be obeyed.
Peter said submission to God’s command in baptism is the answer of a good conscience, it represents the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is, by biblical teaching, connected with hearing the gospel, believing that which is declared by God, turning from sin, confession of Jesus as Lord and dying to sin in baptism, to be raised to newness of life. The words of Douglas Moo are appropriate here: “…the popular explanation that Paul uses baptism as a symbol of our death to the old life (when we are plunged beneath the water) and resurrection to new life (when we arise out of the water) is also wide of the mark. Baptism does not symbolize what happened when we were converted; it somehow is integrally involved in that conversion itself” (Douglas Moo, Colossians and Philemon: Pillar New Testament Commentary, p. 202). The following passages teach exactly this: Acts 18:8, 11:19, 8:37, Romans 10:9-10 and Romans 6:3-7.
Kenneth Wuest (Word Studies)
The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the web article deals with the words of a Baptist preacher/professor of many years ago who produced a series of studies collected in what is known as Wuest’s Word Studies. According to the web article, Wuest said that water of 1 Peter 3:21 is a counterpart. “That is, water baptism is the counterpart of the reality, salvation. It can only save as the counterpart, not actually.” The word “counterpart” means, duplicate, a thing that fits another perfectly, complement. Sometimes people will speak of one person and say of that person’s associate or friend, “Your counterpart agrees with what I said” (for instance). With these definitions in mind, Wuest said baptism is the duplicate of salvation, or the complement of salvation, as Noah experienced in relation to the great flood thousands of years previous. The word Peter actually uses is antitupon, which is translated antitype. The word antitype (transliteration of the Greek word) is defined by Vine’s Expository Dictionary “in the N. T. metaphorically, corresponding to” (435). The word is used in only one other location (Hebrews 9:24). The Holy Spirit does not connect the word antitupon (antitype) in Hebrews to the word “save” or “salvation” like he does in Peter’s remarks.
In Hebrews 9, the word antitupon is used in relation to the tabernacle, not salvation. The Holy Spirit declares that Jesus did not enter into the copy/antitupon (tabernacle), but into the actual (heaven itself). The blood of animals could not take away sin (10:4), and that into which the tribe of Levi (the High Priest) entered was only a copy of the actuality. The material blood of an amoral creature (sinless, but with no free-will) was not the adequate price paid to remit sins. The blood of Jesus (a man of material substance) was the adequate price paid to remit sins (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). The reason for this, among others, was because of volition and sinlessness (Hebrews 4:15).
While on earth Jesus could not enter into the Tabernacle (a copy) because he had no authorization to do so from the Law of Moses (Hebrews 7:14; 8:4). Thus, while on earth, under the authority of the Law of Moses, the blood of animals offered in sacrifice was designed by God as an inadequate substitute to remit sins. Thus, there was no ultimate reason for Jesus to enter into an inadequate substitute structure.
Sin, of course, is not a material thing that actually sticks to the physical body of a person. It is a spiritual concept associated with the failing to obey God’s will (1 John 3:4). Because sin is a spiritual failing of the heart associated with the lack of obedience; there was and is nothing in man that is adequate to pay the price to atone for his sin/sins. The Law of Moses was of God’s design to a particular nation (Israel) until the right time in human history for His son to come (Galatians 4:4-5).
The use of the word antitupon in 1 Peter 3:21 is not paralleled in Hebrews 9 because the Holy Spirit used it differently in one context compared with the other. The word is the same, but the contexts are not parallel. The comparison fails!
Wuest’s attempt to correspond Old Testament blood sacrifices with salvation fails because the Holy Spirit does not make the comparison. The blood sacrifices of the Old Testament, can they be looked on as a counterpart to the blood sacrifice of Jesus? To a certain degree, but in a very limited sense. Remember how the word is defined. It means duplicate, a thing that fits another perfectly, complement. The blood of no-free-will amoral animals does not “fit perfectly,” or “complement” the blood of Christ. “Blood” is life, thus a counterpart. The actual kind of life (man/beast), however, is not a counterpart. Old Testament blood sacrifice is a counterpart in a life being given, but it is not a counterpart in the kind of life given.
Contemporary exegetes to Wuest
Below are some remarks of 19th century and early 20th century Greek scholars (corresponding to the time of Wuest).
Henry Alford. The ἀντίτυπον [antitupon] to that water on which the ark floated, saving its inmates, is the water of baptism; but as ours is a spiritual, not a material rescue, so the ἀντίτυπον is not the washing of our flesh by that water,—the form in which it is applied to us, as the bearing up their ark was the form in which their water was applied to them,—but a far nobler thing, the clearness and purity of our inner consciousness towards God: and this saving power of the water of baptism in our case is by virtue of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, into whose death and resurrection we are baptized.
Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary. Therefore, as suggested above, it seems better to take ἀντίτυπον as a substantive. The same earthly copy, namely, saving by means of water, which was presented in the Flood, is again presented in Baptism. Now, as then, it represents the same heavenly original, life issuing out of death.
Expositor’s Greek Testament Commentary. Baptism is generally the antitype of the deliverance of Noah. Christians pass through water (in both senses) to salvation; in each microcosm are the sins which must be washed away and the remnant which is to be saved. Therefore the antitypical water saves us (ὅ = τὸ ὕδωρ > διʼ ὕδατος) being οὐ σαρκὸς, κ.τ.λ.; cf. Titus 3:5.
Robertson’s Word Pictures. Water in baptism now as an anti-type of Noah’s deliverance by water. For baptisma see note on Matt. 3:7. For antitupon see note on Heb. 9:24 (only other N.T. example) where the word is used of the earthly tabernacle corresponding (antitupa) to the heavenly, which is the pattern (tupon, Heb. 8:5) for the earthly. So here baptism is presented as corresponding to (prefigured by) the deliverance of Noah’s family by water.
Wuest said it only saved as a “counterpart.” “…water baptism is the counterpart of the reality, salvation. It can only save as a counterpart, not actually.” Fine! Counterpart…, corresponding to…, model…, type… the point is this: the Holy Spirit said it saves! For a person who is a teacher, or a person who subscribes to that which is taught by a teacher that says otherwise than what the New Testament said has adopted a false doctrine. No matter all the manipulation done by Wuest (others), the Holy Spirit still said “baptism saves.”
With regard to exegesis, Wuest is very disappointing!
In his closing remarks of the denominational verse study, the author speaks of the importance of baptism, writing that Peter would not have entertained anything like that which many do today, that is, be saved by faith, and then relegate baptism to “something that is done later.” In the next to last paragraph of the web article, he writes, “Therefore, it is not surprising that Peter would see baptism as almost synonymous with salvation. Yet Peter makes it clear in this verse that it is not the ritual itself that saves, but the fact we are united with Christ in His resurrection through faith, ‘the pledge of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 3:21).”
In Charles Williams Translation of the New Testament, here is what Peter said: “Baptism, which corresponds to this figure, now saves you, too — I do not mean the mere removal of physical stains, but the craving for a clear conscience toward God — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
In spite of the effort of the author of the web article, here is what Peter made clear: baptism saves!