Baptism Now Saves–1 Peter 3:18-22

Posted: August 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Baptism picThis morning I had the chance to teach a two hour class on what Bethlehem Baptist Church believes about baptism. It was a beneficial time for me as I was forced to think through my own beliefs about baptism, answer questions, and spend time walking through the Bible with new believers. I am thankful to be at a church that takes doctrine seriously and makes the effort to teach theology to its members.

I approached the class by asking five questions. As a class we walked through each question and generated some conclusions. The five questions I asked were:

1. What is baptism?

2. Who can be baptized?

3. How do we baptize (mode of baptism)?

4. Does baptism save?

5. What about infant baptism?

In the discussion of whether or not baptism saves the passage of 1 Peter 3:18-22 was examined. That passage seems to contradict the idea that baptism does not save (which is the position I hold and the official position of Bethlehem). As we approached the 1 Peter passage I stated that a good hermeneutical principle is to let clearer passages of Scripture inform and guide your interpretation of more difficult or obscure passages of Scripture. In this case we noted that it seemed the NT consistently taught that salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus alone (Eph 2:8-10). Furthermore, our  justification is tied to faith and not works in a number of places (ex. Rom 5:1; Gal 3). Even Jesus ties salvation to whether or not we simply believe in Him (John 3:16). So, if the NT seems to teach that salvation is based on faith, and that our justification is effected by faith, and that being saved is tied to our belief, then it would seem that 1 Peter 3 needs to be explained in a way that does not contradict these other clearer teachings.

As the class affirmed this hermeneutical approach we began to look more closely at the passage. What we noticed was the salvific aspect of baptism was not tied to an actual removal of filth from the body but as “an appeal to God” (3:21). This phrase seemed significant as it suggests that what saves is the “appeal to God” for help. Thus, baptism, while not actually removing the filth (sin) from us, is significant partly because it symbolizes our “appeal to God.” That is, baptism symbolizes our calling on the Lord to save us! And according to Paul, everyone who calls on Jesus will indeed be saved (Rom 10:13).

While this short explanation may not satisfy the reader, it has nonetheless been helpful to me (and hopefully my class) in trying to make sense of the 1 Peter 3. I offer the thoughts of John Piper on this verse HERE.  John MacArthur offers thoughts HERE.


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