"Baptism doth also now save us"

By Eddie K. Garrett, II

It never ceases to amaze me how that there can be so many different explanations and interpretations of one fairly reasonable passage of Scripture. It is so common in our day and time among the religious world. Verses that appear and seem to be so plain and simple in its teaching, yet, denominational preachers come along and inform us with great vigor that, no, the verse is not saying what we think it's saying. Then they begin telling us what it means. Many novice religionists have fallen prey to these men. It reminds me of the Lord's "Parable of the Sower" in Mark 4 and Luke 8. Where our Lord says of the Word that was sown among the "wayside hearers" of which after they had heard, "then cometh the Devil and taketh away that which was sown in their hearts."

When a person honestly reads the Scripture, and God, the Holy Spirit then teaches them the truth, then along comes a "theologian" who will snatch that truth right out of his heart by explaining it away. It happens more times than not and most do not even realize the consequences of what has happened. This is oh so true of so many passages of Scripture, especially if they are such in teaching a doctrine that many denominational creeds do not support. Thus, these have then got to be, as we shall say, "interpreted." This is what has happened to all the passages that teach of water baptism as necessary to salvation. The "creeds of men" seem to have the pre-eminence and be of more importance than the ever-inspired "Creed of God" (the Bible).

What we want to try to do in this article is expound on one verse in the Bible found in I Peter 3:21. To get the context I will quote verse 20, as well.

"Which sometimes 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 the putting away of the
filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God), by the resurrection
of Jesus Christ."

The first thing we must understand is that Peter is using what is commonly called "typology." Biblical typology takes the unity of both testaments and sees in the Old Testament types and shadows which prefigure something in the New Testament. These types can be people, places, objects, events, and animals, etc. Typological language in the Old Testament is called a "type." The counterpart in the New Testament is called the "anti-type." A danger in typological interpretation results when the interpreter forms a type which has no designated counterpart (anti-type) in the New Testament. A type must be substantiated by the Biblical text and not be accidental or superficial. The New Testament writers made use of the typological method. Yet, their typology was of divine intention and authority in its origin and inspiration. A type is truly a type when the New Testament writers allocates it as such.

So, what we have here is Peter using typology in these verses. One must remember that the Old Testament type is ALWAYS the "figure" and the NT counterpart or anti-type is ALWAYS the "real." Allow me to give a few examples of true Biblical typology.

The Hebrew writer uses typology when he uses the "High Priest" as the Old Testament type or figure, then its New Testament counterpart or anti-type is Jesus as the real (Heb. 5ff). The apostle Paul uses typology when he uses the "Passover Lamb" as the Old Testament type or figure, then its New Testament counterpart or anti-type is Jesus as the real (I Cor. 5:7). The apostle John uses typology when he uses the "Manna" as the Old Testament type or figure, then its New Testament counterpart or anti-type is Jesus as the real (John 6:32-35).

We can see this typological method used in the case of Adam and Jesus (Rom. 5:14; I Cor. 15:45). We can see it in reference to other Old Testament characters such as Melchizedek (Heb. 7:1-7); Jonah (Matt. 12:40); and David (Phil. 2:9). We can also see how the New Testament writers used typology in reference to events in the Old Testament such as the flood in Noah's day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as the type or figure, and the New Testament counterpart or anti-type is the Final Judgment day as the real (2nd Peter 2:5-9).

When we say that the Old Testament type or figure and the New Testament counterpart or anti-type is the real, we do not mean that these events did not happen in the Old Testament. On the contrary, they surely did, but, we use the term "real" as the New Testament anti-type in the typological illustration that the New Testament writers are trying to convey. They are just corresponding something in the New Testament to something in the Old Testament.

In our text of I Peter 3:20,21, we notice that Peter speaks of Noah and the flood. He says that Noah and his family were saved by water. He then proceeds to say in verse 21:
"The like figure." What does he mean by these words? Let us look at how the word "figure" is used in the New Testament typology. First in Rom. 5:14 we read; "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him (Jesus) that was to come."

We notice that Paul, in his typology here makes the "figure" Adam as the Old Testament type and Jesus as the New Testament anti-type which is the real. So the figure here is used referring back to the Old Testament.

We also notice the term "figure" in Hebrews 9 which talks of the Old Testament tabernacle, the Holiest of all. Then corresponds the New Testament as Jesus a more perfect tabernacle. For instance in verses 8,9 we read:
"The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. Which was the figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." In verse 11 we read: "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building."

We can easily see that the "figure" is used always as the Old Testament type.

I now go into our opening text of I Peter 3:21. The Greek words "anti-toupon" which is translated
"like figure" in our text means "ANTI-TYPE. "Anti" meaning "over against," "after," "like." "Type" meaning "figure," "pattern."

Peter says "anti-type" or "like figure". He says that water baptism is the anti-type, not the type. In other words, water baptism is "over against the figure." The figure is the Old Testament type of Noah and the ark saved by water.

As we have learned so far from our lesson in Biblical "types", what is the proper understanding of the typology Peter is using here? It is so obvious that it defies explanation at this point. The Old Testament type or figure is Noah and the ark, the New Testament anti-type or like figure is water baptism. In Peters typology, the flood is the "figure" and the "real" is New Testament water baptism. To say that water baptism is the type or figure and the flood is the anti-type or real is to go against all principles of inspired Biblical typology. Some men have gone so far like Mr. W.E Vine to say some ridiculous notion that Peter's typology is two-types. All the typology used in the NT by the inspired writers were used exactly the same way, but, Mr. Vine comes along now and wants to say that on one, and just one occasion, Peter changed it. It certainly sounds as though Mr. Vine (who certainly knows better) will do anything to uphold his ancestors' denominational creed even to the sacrificing of his scholarship to do so. Even George Ricker Berry (a Baptist Greek scholar) in his "NT Greek-English Interlinear" comes to the words "anti-toupon" which is "like figure" or "anti-type" and translates "toupon" as "figure" but has the audacity to not even translate the word "anti." He leaves it untranslated. Why does he do this? Because he knows that if he translates it properly that It would go against his own doctrine and denominational creed and prove baptism as necessary to eternal salvation. He knows Biblical typology and that the words "anti-toupon" properly translated is "anti-type" which would make water baptism the "real," and his creed will not permit that. He has got to somehow make baptism in verse 21 to be the "figure." So he does not translate "anti" it hopes that no-one will catch it. But OH! Mr. Berry, don't you know that there are some Christians out there that will catch your deception and inform others of your cunning, craftiness in handling the Word of God deceitfully! You forfeit your scholarship when you pull such stunts as this to try to hide and obscure the plain and obvious truth.

Let us go on to what the text says about water baptism which is the "real."
"Whereunto even baptism doth also NOW (meaning in NT times) SAVE US." Could God have made it any plainer than that my friends! Devil's may hate it, creeds may omit it, and men may despise it, but, it is the God's honest truth whether people accept it or not.

Peter is corresponding a physical salvation by water in the Old Testament case of Noah and the flood with the spiritual salvation by water in baptism in the New Testament. Perfect typology that is in harmony with all the typology used by the New Testament writers.

"(Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)"

Some try to get around the truth by saying that the word translated
"filth" here should be "sins." The only problem with this is there is not one reputable translation (if any, that I know of), translates it as "sins." Some translate it "the dirt upon the flesh" (Mof); or "not the mere cleansing of the body" (TCNT); or "not as the mere removing of physical stain" (Gspd).

Even if it did mean "sins" (and it doesn't), but, just for argument sake, then that would bring these men right up to the very point of truth of the passage that they're trying so hard to avoid, that water baptism is not a physical salvation, but a spiritual salvation of which it is, and that is Peter's main thrust and point. So they meet themselves coming and going on that argument. Changing "filth" to "sins" still doesn't meet their aggressive objective.

The apostle Peter was the apostle to the circumcision (Jews), and he knew that the Jews were fully aware of the Old Testament ceremonies in their sacrifices and worship. He knew that they were accustomed to the sacrificial bath or cleansing of the flesh/body before and after these ceremonies (see Lev. 16). Peter did not want anyone to think that this is what he was referring to, but that it was a spiritual cleansing/washing and not a physical one, as they were so accustomed.

The fact of the matter is my friends, that no matter how men may try to twist, wrest and corrupt God's Word, there will always be faithful Christians who will not fall under their condemnation and pernicious ways, but that will uphold the truth no matter what, because they love God and His precious Sacred Word which is a lamp unto their feet and a guide unto their path as they sojourn toward the promise of the gift of eternal life.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Eddie K. Garrett, II for the article!]

Email the Editor at markjward@yahoo.com