“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: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 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. 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: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” 1 Peter 3:18-22 KJV
Above is one of the passages that ultimately led to me becoming a Lutheran. The reason is that they are the only ones I have seen that can seem to properly teach the passage in line with the normal rules of grammar and language. Everyone else seems to twist it horribly. That said, the passage wasn’t easy for me either and in this post I will explain my analysis of it past and present as I wrestled with the text.
When I first started examining this passage I was against the plain reading of it and was trying to find ways to force it to say something else. The first thing that I did was focus on the phrase “like figure”. The NKJV renders this as “antitype” which can mean symbol. So I argued that it was saying baptism is a symbol of salvation.
The problem with that is it ignores the previous verse entirely. Grammatically the anitype is the story of Noah and how eight were saved by water. An antitype pointing to baptism, which the text says saves us.
After that I tried to understand appealing to God for a clean conscience as saving us. Afterall, the text says we are not saved by the “putting away of filth from the flesh” but by “the answer of a good conscience toward God”. I was happy with this reading for a while.
Unfortunately that doesn’t work either. You are in effect saying that a request and appeal to God for a clean conscience is what saves you. To understand the text this way would mean that we help God save us by appealing to him, thus adopting synergism by means of works righteousness. Might as well become a Roman Catholic at that point.
There is only one other option to save Creedo Baptism as far as I saw it, and it is to confess that there are two (2) baptisms. One of the Spirit and one of the Water. In this model you would then argue that 1 Peter 3:21 must only be speaking of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This framework helps for all those other pesky verses teaching a salvific baptism as well. One can simply discern that when the Bible refers to baptism in an efficacious sense it is talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19) (John 3:5) (Acts 2:38-39) (Acts 22:16) (Gal 3:27) (Rom 6:3-5) (Eph 5:25-27) (Col 2:11-12) (Titus 3:4-7). And when one reads a verse saying that Baptism totally does nothing and its just a sign one has made a decision for Jesus they can understand it as water baptism (No Biblical Texts).
Ultimately the reason I reject the above hermeneutic, aside from the lack of a single text to support its thesis, is the fact that the Bible is clear there is only one Baptism.
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism” Eph 4:5 KJV
Lest there be any confusion Jesus Christ does in fact teach that water Baptism is Baptism. This means one cannot simply delete water baptism from the Bible either.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt 28:19-20 KJV
So with only one (1) Baptism as an option, Jesus defining said Baptism, and Peter clearly stating Baptism saves you, there is no other option. One must accept what the scripture says here or nullify it with a systematic theology that they impose over and against the text.
I simply refuse to do that