“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. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:20-21).
Peter stated in the plainest of terms that “baptism doth also now save us”; yet, many today will flatly contradict the apostle by affirming that baptism does also not save us! However, regardless of the arguments men may advance in trying to prove that baptism has no part in man’s salvation, when the smoke is cleared away, this verse still says: “baptism doth also now save us”; it will read that way in judgment, too.
Sometimes men will argue that baptism only saves in a figure, as they stress that Peter said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us”; they say that whatever baptism does, it does figuratively; it only saves in a figure. But this is not what Peter is saying at all! The expression, “like figure,” literally means “antitype.” It denotes “a thing resembling another, its counterpart; something in the Messianic times which answers to the type prefiguring it in the Old Testament, as baptism corresponds to the deluge” (Thayer’s Lexicon, page 51). In other words, Peter is saying that the salvation of Noah by water foreshadowed or prefigured our salvation through baptism; Noah was saved by water and in a true likeness, or corresponding to that figure, baptism also saves us.
Consider how some other translations render this verse:
Revised Standard Version: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.”
American Standard Version: “Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even immersion.”
Weymouth: “And, corresponding to that figure, baptism now saves you.”
20th Century N.T.: “And baptism, which this foreshadowed, now saves you.”
Even though I have heard people deny that Noah was saved by water, Peter wrote in I Peter 3:20, “wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” Then Peter says that after a true likeness, or corresponding to that figure, we are also saved by baptism. What is the similarity between Noah’s salvation by water and our salvation by baptism? The water of the flood was the dividing line between the old and the new; it was by the water of the flood that Noah and his family were transported from the antediluvian world to the postdiluvian world. Likewise, baptism is the dividing line between the old world of sin and newness in Christ. When we are baptized “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27), we become new creatures in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). Noah’s salvation by water foreshadowed or prefigured our salvation by baptism!
Is baptism in water necessary to salvation? In light of Peter’s teaching on the subject, and many other passages of scripture, we must answer in the affirmative. It was our Lord who made baptism, along with faith, a condition of salvation (Mark 16:16). Baptism is not a matter of option or choice; it is a divine command of God to be obeyed (Acts 10:48 ). The doctrine of “faith only,” which sets aside baptism as a condition of salvation, is a deliberate attempt to set aside a part of Gods word! To “receive the word” is to obey it, including the command to be baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38, 41). A refusal to be baptized is a refusal to obey the counsel of God (Luke 7:30), just as “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of John.”
Have you obeyed the Lord in baptism? If not, do it today. “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Remember: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY him.” Do you honestly believe that one can know that Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned,” yet refuse to do it and still be saved?
Published in the January 1, 1987 issue of the OPA.