1 Peter – Chapter Three XXXIV

by Ed Urzi

“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” (1 Peter 3:21).

1 Peter 3:20 closed with a reference to “…the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” 1 Peter 3:21 now follows with an uncommon word that makes a connection between Noah’s flood and the sacrament of baptism. That word is “antitype.”

An “antitype” is something that corresponds to something else. Today, we might use words like “example,” “symbol,” or “counterpart” to express this idea. (1) The following sources explore the relationship between the Biblical account of Noah and the great flood of Genesis 6-8 in the context of our text from 1 Peter 3:21…

“Baptism symbolizes judgment on sin in the death of Christ and then also renewal of life (Rom. 6:4). The floodwaters were a judgment on the wicked, and at the same time physical salvation for Noah and his family.” (2)

“Peter says that Noah’s salvation from the Flood symbolized baptism, a ceremony involving water. In baptism we identify with Jesus Christ, who separates us from the lost and gives us new life. It is not the ceremony that saves us; instead, the ceremony is evidence of our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of the cleansing that happens in the hearts of those who believe (Rom_6:3-5; Gal_3:27; Col_2:12). By identifying themselves with Christ through baptism, Peter’s readers could resist turning back, even under the pressure of persecution. Public baptism would keep them from the temptation to renounce their faith” (3)

While there are several viewpoints associated with the meaning and significance of baptism, it is perhaps best seen as an outward expression of Jesus’ inner work within our lives. Baptism serves (or should serve) as our visible identification with Jesus Christ and a reflection of the inner spiritual change that has taken place in the lives of those who have accepted Him.

One Biblical translation offers a vivid illustration of this idea in its rendering of Colossians 2:12: “…you were placed in the tomb with Christ through baptism. In baptism you were also brought back to life with Christ through faith in the power of God, who brought him back to life” (GW). Therefore, the act of baptism symbolizes the death and burial of our old lives and our “resurrection” to a new life in Christ.

The act of baptism does not make anyone right with God. However, it serves to represent Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and our identification with Him.

(1) See G499 antitupon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g499/kjv/tr/0-1/

(2) R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2248.

(3) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [1 Peter 3:21] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.