1 Peter 3:21–Baptism that Now Saves You!

There are many people who say that being baptized is what gets you in heaven. You can live however you want, doesn’t matter, as long as you got wet at an official church function with an official churchy official person your entrance to heaven is guaranteed.

This is complete nonsense.

1 John, which is all about the assurance of salvation and giving you many tests to see whether you are saved, says not one word about baptism. Curious.

What John does bring up is whether or not a new life has occurred. Are you more like Christ? Are you loving people? Are you departing from the control of sin?

Instead of dealing with the entirety of the New Testament when it comes to figuring out how to get saved or how to determine whether you are saved, people instead take one phrase out of the New Testament and call it good.

Here’s a phrase from 1 Peter that gets trotted out in this context: “baptism that now saves you.” Boom! There it is! What more do you need? Some church dude did some water stuff to me, so Bible says I’m saved!

Well, what more you need is context. “Baptism that now saves you” is not the only phrase Peter wrote.

Peter is talking about the flood waters of Noah’s day. Here’s the context:

“To those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

In Noah’s day, eight people were “saved through water.” Odd phrase, no?

I thought the ark saved them? It did. The ark is a type of Christ. You enter into Christ and escape the judgment. “Saved through water” shows that the water was the problem to be saved from. The excessive water was God’s judgment.

What got them through the judgment of the abundance of water? The ark.

In baptism what does the water represent? I’d say it represents death. You are dunked into it and raised back up. Notice Peter starts talking about resurrection! You were raised out of death to new life.

Being under water is death. In Noah’s day if you weren’t one of the eight souls in the ark, you were under the water and dead. You weren’t coming out. I mean, literally, if you get baptized today and the baptizer doesn’t raise you out of the water, you’ll drown and be dead!

It’s not the water that saves; it’s the resurrection, the coming out of the water, that’s the saving bit. Noah and his family came out of the water (note that in the four households of Noah’s family there were no infants!) (Ha, that actually means nothing, just having some fun with my pedobaptism friends.) the rest of the world was under the water and dead.

Is Peter’s point “As long as you went through the ritual of getting wet you’re saved?” I don’t think so because notice what he says about it, “not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.”

The physical act is not the point. This isn’t some external thing you do. This isn’t a bath. There’s an inner change, which occurs by faith in the Gospel. Baptism is a picture of it all. It’s not the whole thing.

The whole process that baptism represents—death, burial, and resurrection in Christ—is the thing that now saves you. This is abundantly clear by reading all the passages about baptism in the New Testament.

Which we have now done. I’ve covered every verse about baptism in the New Testament. The best way to know what the Bible says about a topic is to read what the Bible says about the topic.

Don’t elevate one phrase out of context to stand in for all that has been said. Read all the baptism passages and then try and say that merely going through the motions of getting wet in church saves you. Being intellectually honest, you can’t say that. You just can’t.

Read the Bible. Believe it.

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