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"An Appeal to God for a Good Conscience"

By Bob Myhan

Peter wrote, concerning Christ, that "He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water" (1 Peter 3:19-20). Some contend that Noah and his family weren't saved through water, but through the ark. Peter, however, said they "were saved through water." It is true that the ark saved them physically, in that it bore them up above the physical destruction brought on by the water below. However, the water saved them spiritually, in that it took away all the wicked people and their evil influence (Matt. 24:37-39).

Peter went on to write,

"There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism (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" (1 Peter 3:21-22, NKJV)

"which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is one the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:21-22, ASV)

"Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (1 Peter 3:21-22, NASB)

Peter says that baptism is "an antitype which now saves us." What is an antitype? An antitype is that which corresponds to the type to which it is related. The water through which Noah and his family were saved is the type and baptism is the antitype, corresponding to the water through which Noah and his family were saved.

We know that baptism in water is under consideration because of the connection to the word "water" in the phrase, "few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water," in verse 20. Thus, water baptism saves us. But how is it that water baptism saves us? Water baptism saves us in that our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ when we are "baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

Peter does not say that baptism saves us by itself, but "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." If not for this miraculous event, by which Jesus was fully and finally declared, with power, to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4), neither baptism nor anything else would or could save anyone. Baptism does not save as the cause, but as a condition of salvation (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:3-5).

Notice, also, that the baptism that saves is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." That is, if one is baptised merely for the removal of bodily dirt, he has not been saved. But what is meant by "the answer of a good conscience toward God"?, The Greek word translated "answer," in the KJV & NKJ, appears nowhere else in the New Testament, but its verb form appears fifty-nine times in fifty-eight verses, and is rendered "ask," "asked," "asking," "demanded," "desired," or "questioned" (KJV). The noun form must, therefore, mean "a request." In attestation of this, the ASV employs the word "interrogation," and the NASB uses the word "appeal," as quoted above. Notice, also, the following comment:

In Classical Greek the word means a "question" and nothing else. The meaning here is much disputed, and can hardly be settled satisfactorily. The rendering "answer" has no warrant. The meaning seems to be (as Alford), "the seeking after God of a good and pure conscience, which is the aim and end of the Christian baptismal life." So Lange: "The thing asked may be conceived as follows: 'How shall I rid myself of an evil conscience? Wilt thou, most holy God, again accept me, a sinner? Wilt thou, Lord Jesus, grant me the communion of thy death and life? Wilt thou, O Holy Spirit, assure me of grace and adoption, and dwell in my heart?' To these questions the triune Jehovah answers in baptism, 'Yea!' Now is laid the solid foundation for a good conscience. The conscience is not only purified from its guilt, but it receives new vital power by means of the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft).

Thus, only one whose baptism is "an appeal to God for a good conscience" is saved. If this is not so, why is it not?

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