20Which 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. 21The 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,)

(Verse 20 is added for context.)

Firstly, based on the fact that the Greek text of the first clause says, word for word, "Which also an antitype now saves us, baptism..." (ὃ καὶ ἡμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα), is baptism to be considered an antitype of Noah's Flood, or are baptism and Noah's flood to be considered antitypes of that salvation? It seems obvious, however, that baptism is being called the antitype of Noah's flood, and so this question might be purposeless.

Secondly, what does baptism save from? Does it save our souls from judgement, as many passages in the New Testament say that faith does, or is the text perhaps suggesting that baptism saves us from something temporary, like how the waters saved Noah and his family from that temporary judgement?

Thirdly, when the text says that "the putting away of the filth of the flesh" is not what saves, is this referring to the ceremony of baptism undertaken with or without faith, or only to baptism undertaken without faith?

Finally, when the text says that "the answer of a good conscience toward God" is what in fact saves, is this referring to faith, of which baptism may only be a symbol (and so it "saves" symbolically")? I understand that "answer" is an incorrect translation of the Greek word, and that the word should be translated as "question" or "inquiry". Based on that fact, is the text be saying that one asks for a good conscience toward God by undertaking baptism, and so baptism is what us from judgement? What is this "answer of a good conscience toward God"?

Thank you.

  • You could split this into about 6 separate questions. I think that would be better. – Ruminator Dec 5 at 10:52
  • @Ruminator All of these questions work together to form the main question of whether or not 1 Peter 3:21 teaches baptjsmal regeneration. Splitting it up may encourage people to answer it though, seeing as it may be too long, although I don't think thaf it's longer than some of the other questions that I've asked. – CMK Dec 5 at 13:32
  • So if I answer the title question without addressing all the other questions in the body, is that an "answer"? – Ruminator Dec 5 at 13:36
  • @Ruminator I suppose so; however, I asked those questions because I determined the answer of any of those questions could prove baptismal regeneration false. To answer the question about this specific verse, I am almost certain that you will address one of those questions, whether directly or indirectly. – CMK Dec 5 at 16:29
  • Can you please remove the reference to the theological dogma because as posed your question is a theological one, not an exegetical one, and theologians have differing views on what BR involves and means? Please just ask if Peter is saying rather than agreeing. As posed it seems off topic to me. – Ruminator Dec 5 at 17:35

As to the fundamental inquiry - Is baptism itself an act of regeneration or is baptism an outward confession that regeneration has occurred ? - William Huntington (1745-1813) answers it very concisely in relation to the OP text :

We are washed in regeneration; clean water is sprinkled upon us and we are clean. We are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. All 'baptism' short of this is washing the outside of the cup and platter and amounts to no more than carnal washing.

It is not the washing away the filth of the flesh, but purgation from guilt and a testimony by the Spirit to our justification and adoption, that is the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I Peter 3:21, through whom and by whom the Spirit comes.

The Works of William Huntington

Firstly, we have to look at who the author is to understand his backgound and how he communicates. Peter was a Jew writing to Jews & Gentiles who were followers of Jesus Christ in Asia Minor.

With the added bonus of being a Jew who learned directly from the Lord Jesus Who sometimes taught with very illustrative and cryptic methods, Peter used those same methods in conveying his points in 1 Peter 3:20-21.

Remember back in John 3:5 that Jesus told Nicodemus "...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." That doesn't mean baptism saves. Jesus Christ is also referred to in John 7:38 as the Source of living water. Meaning one must be born again by having faith in Jesus AND be indwelt by the Holy Spirit as a result.

Now, per Strong's Greek Dictionary (https://biblehub.com/greek/499.htm), "antitupas" means "a thing resembling another, its counterpart; something in the Messianic times which answers to the type".

Now here's where it gets a bit confusing.

Jews used imagery to get to a point, but sometimes it was very figurative and artistic to get to a literal point. It wasn't outright literal due to the idiosyncracies of their language. Peter notes that Noah and his family were "saved through water". Because they were in the Ark, it was either A) the water that carried them to safety or B) their faith in the Source of Living Water (God) which led them to build the Ark that carried them to safety.

But because baptism is referenced in 1 Peter 3:21 and per Genesis 6:9-10, Noah did walk with the Lord and was righteous before Him., B) is the closest and most accurate answer. As discussed here baptism isn't a means to salvation but a sign - even in ancient religions - to show cleansing, rebirth, or conversion (basically formalizing one's allegiance to a new faith).

Therefore, in verse 21, that "thing in the Messianic times which answers to the type" is not literally baptism. Water is only used as a deeper image to illustrate faith in Christ!

Clearly, per verses 21 and 22, it is "(not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him."

When one has good standing with God, just like Noah, it is a sign of your faith and belief in Him that leads to righteousness (being) and righteous acts (doing).

Therefore, 1 Peter 3:20-22 does not teach baptismal regeneration, but that only faith in Christ regenerates and saves through the imagery of Noah and his family during The Flood and figurative baptism. Literal baptism is just an expression/sign of that change.

I hope these answer your questions.

  • 1
    This answers only part of the above question but it is a good answer. – Dr Peter McGowan Dec 5 at 7:21
  • Thanks for your answer. I think that your theory is possibly true, and i like the idea, but the notion that the water of the Flood is referring to God Himself just doesn't seem to be justified within the text. – CMK Dec 5 at 18:08
  • You don’t have any exegetical basis that baptism is a sign without the eisegesis you used. In verse 20, the ark saved them through the water just as baptism saves us. You also ignored other verses such as Acts 2:38. Baptismal regeneration is a poor description because faith and repentance are prerequisites. I don’t know of any denomination that teaches that baptism alone saves. – Jesus Saves Dec 5 at 19:05
  • Thanks Peter! I appreciate the encouragement. An evaluation and study of Hebrew language and culture will help you understand the kind of imagery they used, CMK. It may not be explicitly stated in-text, but these are traits of the artistry in Hebrew grammar, some of which can be observed in the Psalms, Proverbs, and Christ's parables. Kindly check out this (christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/67424/…) discussion, Jesus Saves. This is another example of ancient syntax and grammar coming into play here. Hope it helps. – Philip Dec 6 at 2:17
  • @Philip The verse flat out says that baptism saves. The Bible should define our theology; not our presuppositions the Bible. The question becomes, is this confirmed in other passages (Acts 2:38, 16:33-34, 22:16, etc.) and are other elements required (faith, repentance)? Faith and repentance are absolute requirements to be baptized. The NT model is that those who believed were immediately baptized. Ungodly church tradition knows more than the Bible. I don’t question your sincerity. I used to believe like you do. Blessings. – Jesus Saves Dec 6 at 15:49

To answer you main question, no, the bible does not teach baptismal regeneration.

Your text starting at verse 18:

1 Peter 3: 18-21 (KJV):

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:

Our understanding will be aided if we start at verse 18. Verse 18 states that Jesus Christ is the one solely responsible for our salvation, for Christ who rose from the dead (quickened by the spirit) suffered once for sins being put to death in the flesh. That phrase (being put to death in the flesh) is significant for Christ paid the physical price (death) for each on of us for our failure to keep the Law of Moses perfectly in our flesh (ie, by our actions in our physical life).

In verse 20, the bible then sets up the metaphor, the reference to Noah and his family saved through the flood.

Verse 21 then, tells us explicitly that baptism is indeed a metaphor for Noah’s family being saved through the flood. The verse starts by stating explicitly that baptism is a “like figure” (antitupos: Per Vines, “a corresponding type not an antitype”). The verse says that this “like figure” saves us in a similar way that Christ literally saved us for look at the next phrase; “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh”. Here we are told that the metaphor is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh (or the issue of our sin) for verse 18 has already told us that Christ suffered once in the flesh in order to bring us to God. So, the metaphor of baptism is not a regeneration event as verse 18 already told us.

Verse 21 goes on to say that the figure of baptism saves us from an evil conscience. The verse says (paraphrased) “…not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the putting away of a demand of a good conscience toward God”. The word “answer” in verse 21 is the Greek eperotema which means demand or appeal. Hence we see that baptism “saves” from an evil conscience in a similar manner as Christ saved us from our sins in the flesh.

Verse 21 is telling us that the reference to baptism “saving us” is clearly a reference to the gospel of grace where through His sacrifice and resurrection, Jesus has passed to us all the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses. Since we are then are clothed with HIS righteousness and not our own, we can have a clear conscience toward God since the law cannot condemn us any more.

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