1 Peter 3:21
The like figure whereunto even baptism does 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:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.—There are two undoubted false readings in this sentence which must be cleared away before we can consider the meaning. First, the word “whereunto” is a mistake for the more difficult which; and second, it should be you, not “us.” We may then translate, either, Which baptism also, in antitype, doth now save you, or else, Which (water) also, in antitype, now saveth youbaptism. The first is less likely, both from the order of the words in Greek, and also because of the difficulty of calling the Flood point-blank a baptism. According to the second translation, the water through which Noah was saved is said in the present day (“now,” as opposed to “in the days of Noe”) to save us (the “you” is emphatic). It does so, in the same sense as we might say, for instance, that the sprinkling of the paschal blood saves us: that is to say, it foreshadowed something which does as a fact save us. This St. Peter expresses by the adjective which may be rendered “in antitype.” The thing it represented is Christian baptism. Where, then, lies the likeness between the two? Not merely in the identity of the element water, which serves but to arrest the fancy, and make one think of the deeper resemblance. One obvious point is that the number of persons accepting the proffered salvation at the present crisis is, as in the days of Noe, very small compared with those who reject it. The main thought, however, is not of the Christians, as a body or family (like Noe’s), being saved while others are lost. For each individual by himself there is a meaning in his baptism which is prefigured by the Flood; and the explanation of baptism which follows, and the opening of the next chapter, show that the Apostle was thinking chiefly of this individual application. As the passage of Israel through the Red Sea is described as a baptism (1Corinthians 10:2) because it marked their transition from the state of bondage to a new national life, and left their enemies destroyed in the water, so Noe’s safe passage through the Flood is a type of baptism, because it was a regeneration of humanity, it was a destruction of the carnal, sensual element (Genesis 6:3. “he also is flesh”), it washed the human race from its pollutions, and man rose to a new and more spiritual existence for the time being, with the bow for a sign of a perpetual covenant made. So baptism is a destruction and death to the flesh, but a new life to the spirit. It must be observed how carefully St. Peter expresses the permanent effect of baptism by the present tense “saveth:” not “saved you,” nor “hath saved you;” it is a living and ever present fact, the “everlasting benediction of His heavenly washing;” it washes the neophyte not from past sins only, but from those which he afterwards commits, if only he still repents and believes.

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.—The Apostle is not cautioning his readers against the thought that baptism acted ex opere operato, as a charm, but he is telling them, on the contrary, that it is no external rite. He was writing to Jews, who were very familiar with ceremonial washings, or “baptisings,” which, though they symbolised a cleansing from sin, really effected nothing but to make the skin less dirty.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God.—An expression which has caused almost as much difficulty as any in the New Testament. The difficulty lay especially in two points: first, that the context was so involved as to give little indication what to expect; secondly, that the Greek word (eperôtêma) which is here rendered “answer” is so seldom found. and might easily take such various shades of meaning. (1) Touching the word itself, we may at once reject the translation “answer,” for it could only mean an “answer” in that sense in which “question” and “answer” are identical, both of them being “the thing asked,” the subject matter of both being the same; but so cumbersome a sense is not in keeping here. (2) Next we may consider the attractive theory that it means a “contract.” The form in which a contract was made was as follows: N says to M, “Dost thou promise?” and M answers, “I promise.” Now in Byzantine Law-Greek such a contract is known as an eperôtêma, or “questionment,” from the question with which proceedings began. And, as a matter of fact, the baptismal covenant has undoubtedly been entered upon from the earliest times with just such questions and answers. Tertullian speaks of this (De Corona, chap. iii.) as an ancient custom in the end of the second century. There are, however, three serious objections: first, that “the contract of a good conscience” is a somewhat vague and imperfect phrase, and far more difficult in Greek than in English; secondly, that there is no trace of the legal term eperôtêma until centuries after the date of St. Peter, or of Tertullian either; thirdly, that had eperôtêma been a recognised term for a “contract” in St. Peter’s time, we should have been certain to find this explanation in some of the Greek Fathers. (3) The usual meaning of the verb would lead us towards a less unsatisfactory conclusion. Eperôtân is “to put a question” for further information’s sake. And we may remark that the order of the Greek would strongly suggest that the words “toward God” should be attached (in spite of the analogy of Acts 24:16) not to “good conscience,” but to the word eperôtêma. Now, there is a constant use of the verb eperôtân in the Old Testament in connection with the name of God. In Joshua 9:14, Judges 1:1; Judges 18:5, and many other places, it means “to consult God,” “to inquire of the Lord,” to seek to Him for direction. Or, with a slightly different turn, it is used, as in Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 65:1, for “to inquire after God,” in which sense it finds its way into the New Testament in Romans 10:20. Thus baptism would be said to be, “not the flesh’s putting away of dirt (for so it might be turned, though it is somewhat forced), but a good conscience’s inquiry at the hands of God,” or “a good conscience’s inquiry after God.” Observe that if the “good conscience” is the agent in this transaction, as here expressed, St. Peter would recognise (as in Luke 8:15) the man’s happy state of soul before baptism, and baptism would be the mode of his further approach to God. That this is good doctrine cannot be denied. (4) There is, however, another version for which a still better case can be made out: viz., “demand.” It is true that the verb eperôtân more frequently means “to ask” a question than “to ask” a boon, expecting a verbal response rather than a practical one; but it is once used in the New Testament in the latter sense (Matthew 16:1), and in the Old Testament also (as Psalm 137:3). And the only other instance of the word eperôtêma in inspired literature makes for this view. This occurs in Daniel 4:17, where the English has “demand,” and the Latin petitio. There is, indeed, almost as much difficulty in ascertaining the exact sense there as here; but, on the whole, it seems to mean the “demand” for Nebuchadnezzar’s degradation. This was evidently the meaning assigned to our present passage by the anonymous Father in the Catena, for, wrongly joining the words “through the resurrection” with eperôtêma, he says: “It teacheth also how we beseech of Him; and how? by confessing the resurrection of the Lord.” Taking, then, the rendering “demand,” a further question arises: Does St. Peter mean that baptism is the demand (made by God or the Church upon the man) for a good conscience towards God? or the demand made by a good conscience upon God, without specifying the demand? or finally, the demand upon God (made by the man) for a good conscience? Of these the second seems the weakest, because it leaves the nature of the demand so open, and because the notion of a good conscience previous to baptism is less suited to the context. The first would indeed give a vigorous sense. St. Peter would then be saying, “Have a good conscience (1Peter 3:16), for, besides all else, it is your baptismal obligation, and in defiling conscience you forfeit your baptismal salvation;” but it labours under the defect of connecting “toward God” with “conscience” instead of with “demand,” and it is imperfect, moreover, in not demanding a good conscience toward men as well as toward God. The last seems both the clearest in itself, the best antithesis to the balancing clause, and the most in keeping with the context. It will then be: “Noah’s flood, in antitype, to this day saves you—that is to say, baptism, which is no cleansing of the skin from dirt, but an application to God for a clear conscience.” A “good conscience,” in this case, will not mean an honest frame of mind, but a consciousness of having nothing against you, such as would come to even the chief of sinners from the baptismal remission of sins. “Conscience” is used in this retrospective sense four times in Hebrews (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14, and Hebrews 10:2; Hebrews 10:22); and, indeed, in 1Peter 3:16 it meant “having nothing on your mind because of the past,” rather than “being sure that you mean well.” And how well this suits the context! The Apostle, from 1Peter 3:13 to 1Peter 4:6, is uttering the praises of a clear conscience, and warning from everything that could defile it. “With this,” he says, “you cannot be harmed; with this, you will be always ready to defend the faith when called to account. It was because He had this that Christ was able to atone for you and bring you to God, and to conduct His mission to the dead, and to give by His resurrection an efficacy to your baptism; and that baptism itself only saves you by the fact that in it you ask and receive the cleansing of the conscience.”

By the resurrection.—Rightly joined in our version with “doth save.” Baptism derives all its sacramental efficacy from the fact that Christ has, by the Resurrection, introduced into the world a new kind of life, which in baptism is imparted to the believer. The doctrine here approaches still nearer to that of Romans 6 than to that of 1Peter 1:3. In the first chapter, the Resurrection of Christ was said to be the means and the moment of our regeneration, but baptism (though of course implied) was not mentioned, nor the death to sin. But here, as in Romans, these two take a prominent place. As humanity died to the flesh in the bad Antediluvians, and rose again, washed clean, in Noe, so to the believer there was in baptism a death to the flesh, and he rose again, with a conscience washed clean through the union thereby effected with the crucified and risen Christ. Note, again, that when the Apostle speaks of glories he uses the name of Jesus: when of sufferings, it is the title of Christ.

1 Peter 3:21-22. The like figure whereunto Αντιτυπον, the antitype whereof, that is, the thing which corresponds, not with the water, but with the ark; even baptism doth now save us — Or is the instrument of our safety and preservation, from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin, which overwhelms the world as a flood. Not the putting away the filth of the flesh — As if he had said, By baptism I do not mean merely or chiefly the sprinkling or washing the body with water from its filthiness, which is only the outward or visible sign of baptism, but the inward renewing grace of God, producing the answer of a good conscience, or a divine consciousness that both our persons and our actions are accepted; by the resurrection of Christ — That is, the baptism which consists in the answer of a good conscience toward God, and which is the antitype or thing which was signified by Noah’s preservation in the ark, now saves us as effectually as the ark preserved Noah from destruction by the flood. It is well known the Jews laid a great stress upon their lustrations or washings. The apostle, therefore, very properly cautions his readers against such foolish dependancies. A readiness to perform their whole duty, and even to suffer persecution for the sake of truth, was absolutely necessary in the first Christians, in order to their maintaining that good conscience, to which, in their baptism, they professed a great regard, and to the exercise of which they solemnly engaged themselves. The word επερωτημα, here rendered answer, signifies rather interrogation, and is said by Archbishop Leighton to be a judicial word, and to signify interrogations used in the law for a trial, or executing a process, and has been thought by some commentators to refer to certain interrogations, said by Cyprian and other ancient writers to be put to persons who offered themselves to baptism, concerning their faith in Christ, and their renunciation of Satan with all his works, and the vanities of the world. But it does not appear, Macknight thinks, that these questions and answers were used in the apostle’s days; and if they were not, the apostle could not refer to them. “Allowing, however,” he says, “that the word question is here put for the word answer, this answer of a good conscience, being made to God, is an inward answer, and means the baptized person’s sincere persuasion of the things which, by submitting to baptism, he professed to believe; namely, that Jesus, in whose name baptism is administered, arose from the dead, and that at the last day he will raise all from the dead to eternal life, who sincerely obey him. This signification of baptism the Apostle Paul hath taught, Romans 6:4-5; and therefore he calls it, our begun confidence, Hebrews 3:14; and exhorts the Hebrews to hold it steadfast to the end.” Who is gone into heaven — As our forerunner; and is on the right hand of God — Having all power in heaven and on earth; angels, authorities, and powers — That is, all orders, both of angels and men; being made subject to him — Insubserviency of his great design, of saving all his true followers. The apostle, in speaking here of the resurrection and glory of Christ, means not only to represent him as the object of our confidence, but to intimate, that if we imitate him in his courageous fidelity, we may hope to partake with him in his glory. 3:14-22 We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him. What was the ground and reason of their hope? We should be able to defend our religion with meekness, in the fear of God. There is no room for any other fears where this great fear is; it disturbs not. The conscience is good, when it does its office well. That person is in a sad condition on whom sin and suffering meet: sin makes suffering extreme, comfortless, and destructive. Surely it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, whatever our natural impatience at times may suggest. The example of Christ is an argument for patience under sufferings. In the case of our Lord's suffering, he that knew no sin, suffered instead of those who knew no righteousness. The blessed end and design of our Lord's sufferings were, to reconcile us to God, and to bring us to eternal glory. He was put to death in respect of his human nature, but was quickened and raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christ could not be freed from sufferings, why should Christians think to be so? God takes exact notice of the means and advantages people in all ages have had. As to the old world, Christ sent his Spirit; gave warning by Noah. But though the patience of God waits long, it will cease at last. And the spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, where those that despised Noah's warning now are, and from whence there is no redemption. Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water, which carried him above the floods, set forth the salvation of all true believers. That temporal salvation by the ark was a type of the eternal salvation of believers by baptism of the Holy Spirit. To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism, of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery. Rest not then till thou art cleansed by the Spirit of Christ and the blood of Christ. His resurrection from the dead is that whereby we are assured of purifying and peace.The like figure whereunto, even baptism, doth also now save us - There are some various readings here in the Greek text, but the sense is not essentially varied. Some have proposed to read (ῷ hō) to which instead of (ὅ ho) which, so as to make the sense "the antitype to which baptism now also saves us." The antecedent to the relative, whichever word is used, is clearly not the ark, but water; and the idea is, that as Noah was saved by water, so there is a sense in which water is made instrumental in our salvation. The mention of water in the case of Noah, in connection with his being saved, by an obvious association suggested to the mind of the apostle the use of water in our salvation, and hence led him to make the remark about the connection of baptism with our salvation. The Greek word here rendered "figure" - ἀντίτυπον antitupon - "antitype" means properly, "resisting a blow or impression," (from ἀντί anti and τύπος tupos;) that is, hard, solid. In the New Testament, however, it is used in a different sense; and (ἀντί anti) in composition, implies resemblance, correspondence and hence, the word means, "formed after a type or model; like; corresponding; that which corresponds to a type" - Robinson, Lexicon. The word occurs only in this place and Hebrews 9:24, rendered "figures." The meaning here is, that baptism corresponded to, or had a resemblance to, the water by which Noah was saved; or that there was a use of water in the one case which corresponded in some respects to the water that was used in the other; to wit, in effecting salvation. The apostle does not say that it corresponded in all respects; in respect, e. g., to quantity, or to the manner of the application, or to the efficacy; but there is a sense in which water performs an important part in our salvation, as it did in his.

Baptism - Not the mere application of water, for that idea the apostle expressly disclaims, when he says that it involves not "putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." The sense is, that baptism, including all that is properly meant by baptism as a religious rite - that is, baptism administered in connection with true repentance, and true faith in the Lord Jesus, and when it is properly a symbol of the putting away of sin, and of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, and an act of unreserved dedication to God - now saves us. On the meaning of the word "baptism," see the notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16.

Doth also now save us - The water saved Noah and his family from perishing in the flood; to wit, by bearing up the ark. Baptism, in the proper sense of the term, as above explained, where the water used is a symbol, in like manner now saves us; that is, the water is an emblem of that purifying by which we are saved. It may be said to save us, not as the meritorious cause, but as the indispensable condition of salvation. No man can be saved without that regenerated and purified heart of which baptism is the appropriate symbol, and when it would be proper to administer that ordinance. The apostle cannot have meant that water saves us in the same way in which it saved Noah, because that cannot be true. It is neither the same in quantity, nor is it applied in the same way, nor is it efficacious in the same manner. It is indeed connected with our salvation in its own proper way, as an emblem of that purifying of the heart by which we are saved. Thus, it corresponds with the salvation of Noah by water, and is the (ἀντίτυπον antitupon) "antitype" of that. Nor does it mean that the salvation of Noah by water was designed to be a type of Christian baptism. There is not the least evidence of that; and it should not be affirmed without proof. The apostle saw a resemblance in some respects between the one and the other; such a resemblance that the one naturally suggested the other to his mind, and the resemblance was so important as to make it the proper ground of remark.

(But if Noah's preservation in the ark, be the type of that salvation of which baptism is the emblem, who shall say it was not so designed of God? Must we indeed regard the resemblance between Noah's deliverance and ours, as a happy coincidence merely? But the author is accustomed to deny typical design in very clear cases; and in avoiding one extreme seems to have gone into another. Some will have types everywhere; and, therefore, others will allow them nowhere. See the supplementary note at Hebrews 7:1; M. Knight's Essay, viii. Sect. v., on the laws of typical interpretation, with his commentary in loco)

The points of resemblance in the two cases seem to have been these:

(1) There was salvation in both; Noah was saved from death, and we are saved from hell.

(2) water is employed in both cases - in the case of Noah to uphold the ark; in ours to be a symbol of our purification.

(3) the water in both cases is connected with salvation: in the case of Noah by sustaining the ark; in ours by being a symbol of salvation, of purity, of cleansing, of that by which we may be brought to God.

The meaning of this part of the verse, therefore, may be thus expressed: "Noah and his family were saved by water, the antitype to which (to wit, that which in important respects corresponds to that) baptism (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, or the mere application of material water, but that purifying of the heart of which it is the appropriate emblem) now saves us."

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh - Not a mere external washing, however solemnly done. No outward ablution or purifying saves us, but that which pertains to the conscience. This important clause is thrown in to guard the statement from the abuse to which it would otherwise be liable, the supposition that baptism has of itself a purifying and saving power. To guard against this, the apostle expressly declares that he means much more than a mere outward application of water.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God - The word here rendered "answer" (ἐπερώτημα eperōtēma) means properly a question, an inquiry. It is "spoken of a question put to a convert at baptism, or rather of the whole process of question and answer; that is, by implication, examination, profession" - Robinson, Lexicon. It is designed to mark the spiritual character of the baptismal rite in contrast with a mere external purification, and evidently refers to something that occurred at baptism; some question, inquiry, or examination, that took place then; and it would seem to imply:

(1) that when baptism was performed, there was some question or inquiry in regard to the belief of the candidate;

(2) that an answer was expected, implying that there was a good conscience; that is, that the candidate had an enlightened conscience, and was sincere in his profession; and,

(3) that the real efficacy of baptism, or its power in saving, was not in the mere external rite, but in the state of the heart, indicated by the question and answer, of which that was the emblem.

continued...

21. whereunto—The oldest manuscripts read, "which": literally, "which (namely, water, in general; being) the antitype (of the water of the flood) is now saving (the salvation being not yet fully realized by us, compare 1Co 10:1, 2, 5; Jude 5; puts into a state of salvation) us also (two oldest manuscripts read 'you' for 'us': You also, as well as Noah and his party), to wit, baptism." Water saved Noah not of itself, but by sustaining the ark built in faith, resting on God's word: it was to him the sign and mean of a kind of regeneration, of the earth. The flood was for Noah a baptism, as the passage through the Red Sea was for the Israelites; by baptism in the flood he and his family were transferred from the old world to the new: from immediate destruction to lengthened probation; from the companionship of the wicked to communion with God; from the severing of all bonds between the creature and the Creator to the privileges of the covenant: so we by spiritual baptism. As there was a Ham who forfeited the privileges of the covenant, so many now. The antitypical water, namely, baptism, saves you also not of itself, nor the mere material water, but the spiritual thing conjoined with it, repentance and faith, of which it is the sign and seal, as Peter proceeds to explain. Compare the union of the sign and thing signified, Joh 3:5; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5; Heb 10:22; compare 1Jo 5:6.

not the, &c.—"flesh" bears the emphasis. "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh" (as is done by a mere water baptism, unaccompanied with the Spirit's baptism, compare Eph 2:11), but of the soul. It is the ark (Christ and His Spirit-filled Church), not the water, which is the instrument of salvation: the water only flowed round the ark; so not the mere water baptism, but the water when accompanied with the Spirit.

answer—Greek, "interrogation"; referring to the questions asked of candidates for baptism; eliciting a confession of faith "toward God" and a renunciation of Satan ([Augustine, The Creed, 4.1]; [Cyprian, Epistles, 7, To Rogatianus]), which, when flowing from "a good conscience," assure one of being "saved." Literally, "a good conscience's interrogation (including the satisfactory answer) toward God." I prefer this to the translation of Wahl, Alford and others, "inquiry of a good conscience after God": not one of the parallels alleged, not even 2Sa 11:7, in the Septuagint, is strictly in point. Recent Byzantine Greek idiom (whereby the term meant: (1) the question; (2) the stipulation; (3) the engagement), easily flowing from the usage of the word as Peter has it, confirms the former translation.

by the resurrection of Jesus—joined with "saves you": In so far as baptism applies to us the power of Christ's resurrection. As Christ's death unto sin is the source of the believer's death unto, and so deliverance from, sin's penalty and power; so His resurrection life is the source of the believer's new spiritual life.

The like figure; Greek, the antitype. Twice this word occurs in Scripture; once Hebrews 9:24, where it signifies simply a type, or exemplar, or representation; and here, where it implies either the likeness or correspondence of one type with another in signifying the same thing: so that here may be two types, the deliverance of Noah and his household in the flood, and baptism, whereof the former was a type of the latter, yet so as both represent the salvation of the church; in that as the waters of the flood lifting up the ark, and saving Noah’s family shut up in it, signified the salvation of the church; so likewise baptism signifies the salvation of those that are in the church (as in an ark) from that common destruction which involves the rest of the world: or, it signifies the truth itself, as answering the type or figure; and thus the temporal salvation of Noah, &c. from the flood, in the ark, was the type, and the eternal salvation of believers by baptism is the antitype, or truth figured by it. Our translation seems to favour the former.

Whereunto; i.e. the saving eight persons by water; q.d. The salvation of believers now by baptism, answers to the deliverance of Noah then; and so this relative, whereunto, answers to the foregoing sentence, as its antecedent.

Even baptism doth also now save us; viz. with an eternal salvation, in answer to the temporal deliverance of Noah by water; and that not only as it is a sign, but a seal whereby the Spirit of God confirms in the hearts of believers the faith of their justification purchased by Christ’s death, and witnessed by his resurrection, Romans 4:25.

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh; not merely the washing of the body with water, or the external part of baptism, which can of itself have no further effect than other bodily washings have, viz. to cleanse the flesh. And so he answers an objection which might be made: How baptism can be said to save us, when so many perish who are baptized, by declaring, as follows, what it is in baptism which is so effectual.

But the answer of a good conscience: the Greek word here used is several ways rendered, and so this place differently interpreted: the best translation seems to be, either:

1. The petition of a good conscience, and then it notes the effect of baptism, viz. that holy confidence and security wherewith a conscience, sprinkled with the blood of Christ, addresses itself to God in prayer, as a Father. Thus the word is taken, Matthew 15:23 16:2 Romans 10:20. Or rather:

2. The stipulation, which by a metonymy is taken for the answer, promise, or restipulation required; and this agrees with our translation.

In baptism there is a solemn covenant, or mutual agreement, between God and the party baptized, wherein God offers, applies, and seals his grace, stipulating or requiring the party’s acceptance of that grace, and devoting himself to his service; and when he out of a good conscience doth engage and promise this, which is to come up to the terms of covenant, that may properly be called the answer of a good conscience. It seems to be an allusion to the manner of baptizing, where the minister asked the party to be baptized concerning his faith in Christ, and he accordingly answered him; Dost thou believe? I believe. Dost thou renounce the devil, &c.? I renounce. See Acts 8:37.

A good conscience; a conscience purified by faith from internal and spiritual defilements, (in opposition to putting away the filth of the flesh), which only sincerely answers to what God requires in baptism.

Toward God; i.e. in the presence of God, with whom conscience hath to do in baptism, and who alone is the Judge of conscience, and knows whether it be good and sincere, or not: or, toward God, is to God; and then it relates to answer, and implies the answer or engagement of conscience to be made to God.

By the resurrection of Jesus Christ: either these words are to be joined to the verb save, and the rest of the verse to be read in a parenthesis, according to our translation; and then the sense is, that baptism saves us by the faith of Christ’s resurrection, or by virtue derived from Christ’s resurrection, under which is comprehended his death and sufferings: or they are to be joined to answer, supplying which is; and then, without a parenthesis, the text runs thus, the answer of a good conscience, which is by the resurrection of Christ; and the meaning is, that the answer of a good conscience toward God is by the resurrection of Christ, as the foundation of our believing the promise of forgiveness and free grace, inasmuch as it testifies God to be fully satisfied for sin, and Christ to have fully overcome sin, the devil, &c. For where this faith is not, there can be no good conscience, nor any sincere answering what God requires of us in baptism: if men do not believe the satisfaction of Divine justice by Christ’s death, which is evidenced by his resurrection, they will not close with the offers of his grace, nor engage themselves to be the Lord’s. See 1 Peter 1:3 1 Corinthians 15:17. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us,.... The ark, and deliverance by it, as it was a type of Christ, and salvation by him, so it was a figure of baptism, and baptism was the antitype of that; or there is something in these which correspond, and answer to, and bear a resemblance to each other: as the ark was God's ordinance, and not man's invention, so is baptism, it is of heaven, and not of men; and as the ark, while it was preparing, was the scorn and derision of men, so is this ordinance of the Gospel; it was rejected with disdain by the Scribes and Pharisees, as it still is by many; and as the ark, when Noah and his family were shut up in it by God, represented a burial, and they seemed, as it were, to be buried in it, it was a lively emblem of baptism, which is expressed by a burial, Romans 6:4 and as they in the ark had the great deep broke up under them, and the windows of heaven opened over them, pouring out waters upon them, they were, as it were, immersed in, and were covered with water, this fitly figured baptism by immersion; nor were there any but adult persons that entered into the ark, nor should any be baptized but believers; to which may be added, that as the one saved by water, so does the other; for it is water baptism which is here designed, which John practised, Christ gave a commission for, and his disciples administered: it saves not as a cause, for it has no causal influence on, nor is it essential to salvation. Christ only is the cause and author of eternal salvation; and as those only that were in the ark were saved by water, so those only that are in Christ, and that are baptized into Christ, and into his death, are saved by baptism; not everyone that is baptized, but he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved, Mark 16:16, for baptism

is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh; the design of it is not to take off the sordid flesh, as circumcision did; or in a ceremonious way, outwardly, to sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, as the Jewish baptisms did; see Hebrews 9:10, or to take away either original or actual sin; this only the blood of Christ can do; and it is not a mere external cleansing of the body:

but the answer of a good conscience towards God; the Vulgate Latin renders it, "the interrogation of a good conscience"; referring, it may be, to the interrogations that used to be put to those who desired baptism; as, dost thou renounce Satan? dost thou believe in Christ? see Acts 8:36, others render it, "the stipulation of a good conscience"; alluding also to the ancient custom of obliging those that were baptized to covenant and agree to live an holy life and conversation, to renounce the devil and all his works, and the pomps and vanities of this world; and baptism does certainly lay an obligation on men to walk in newness of life; see Romans 6:4, the Ethiopic version renders it, "confession of God"; and to this the Syriac version agrees, rendering it, "confessing God with a pure conscience"; for, to baptism, profession of faith in Christ, and of the doctrine of Christ in a pure conscience, is requisite; and in baptism persons make a public confession of God, and openly put on Christ before men: the sense seems plainly this; that then is baptism rightly performed, and its end answered, when a person, conscious to himself of its being an ordinance of Christ, and of his duty to submit to it, does do so upon profession of his faith in Christ, in obedience to his command, and "with" a view to his glory; in doing which he discharges a good conscience towards God: and being thus performed, it saves,

by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; being a means of leading the faith of the baptized person, as to the blood of Christ, for pardon and cleansing, so to the resurrection of Christ, to justification; see Acts 2:38, moreover, the sense of the passage may be this, that baptism is a like figure as the ark of Noah was; that as the entrance of Noah and his family into the ark was an emblem of a burial, so their coming out of it was a figure of the resurrection; and just such a figure is baptism, performed by immersion, both of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and of the resurrection of saints to walk in newness of life. The Arabic version renders the whole verse thus; "of which thing baptism is now a type saving us, not by removing the filth of the flesh only, but by exhilarating a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ".

{23} 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 {p} God,) {24} by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

(23) A proportional applying of the former example to the time which followed the coming of Christ: for the preservation of Noah in the waters, was a figure of our baptism, not as though the material water of baptism shows us, as those waters which bare up the ark saved Noah, but because Christ with his inward virtue, which the outward baptism shadows, preserves us being washed, so that we may call upon God with a good conscience.

(p) The conscience being sanctified, may freely call upon God.

(24) That same virtue, by which Christ rose again, and now being carried up into heaven has received all power, does at this day defend and preserve us.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Peter 3:21. ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς [ἡμᾶς] ἀντίτυπον νῦν σώζει βάπτισμα] does not apply to the thought expressed in the previous verse, as Gerhard, who adopts the reading , explains: isti conservationi tanquam typo spiritualis conservationis baptismus velut ἀντίτυπον respondet (in like manner Beza, Hornejus, Morus, Hottinger, Hensler, etc.), but it refers back to ὕδατος, and, withal, so that by it water generally is to be understood, and not that particular water through the medium of which the Noahites were saved; water saved them, and it is water by which you too are saved. The general term receives a more precise definition in the adjectival ἀντίτυπον, by means of which the water which now saves is contrasted as antitype[219] with the water which saved Noah and those with him. What this antitypical water is, is stated by the subjoined βάπτισμα, which as an apposition must be explained in the sense: “as baptism” (comp. Winer, p. 491 [E. T. 663]). Differently Hofmann; he would take the apposition in the sense of: “a baptism namely;” he says: “in the explanatory apposition the apostle substitutes the term ‘baptism’ for ‘water,’ without, by the anarthrous βάπτισμα, directly indicating Christian baptism. What kind of baptism he means is stated by the apposition subjoined to βάπτισμα.” On this it must be remarked that βάπτισμα would certainly convey to the readers only the idea of a definite Christian baptism, and that the apposition following is not fitted to mark the term baptism, indefinite in itself, as the specifically Christian baptism, but only to point out in what way baptism possesses in itself the saving power attributed to it.

Without any cogent reason, Steiger interprets βάπτισμα as equivalent to “baptismal water.” The direct conjunction which takes place here ceases to occasion surprise, if it be considered that the typical character of the deluge, as regards baptism, consists not only in the sameness of the elements, but in the similarity of the relation of the water to those saved. If διʼ ὕδατος be rendered “through the water,” an incongruity will arise, disturbing to the parallelism, and which attempts have been made to overcome by supplying intermediate ideas. According to de Wette, the antitypical character of baptism consists in this: “that in it the flesh must perish and, as it were, be judged; whilst, at the same time, through faith in the resurrection of Christ, pure spiritual life is attained, and the believer saved.” By these and such like supplements, which the apostle himself in no way suggests, elements are introduced foreign to his conception.[220]

The present σώζει is put here neither instead of the preterite nor the future; it denotes rather the effect which, from the moment of its accomplishment, baptism produces on the persons who submit to it. The latter resemble the Noahites whilst by means of water they were being preserved in the ark from destruction (ἀπώλεια).

The antithesis which exists between ὑμᾶς and the preceding ὀλίγοι, indicates that the proportion saved by baptism to the unbelieving is but small. ὀλίγοι has accordingly a typical significance. It is more doubtful whether the same is the case with the ark; Oecumenius already saw in it the church, whilst others regard it as a symbol of Jesus Christ. Thus Hemming: quemadmodum aqua per se non salvavit Noe, sed mediante area, ita aqua baptismi per se non salvat, sed mediante area, h. e. Christo Jesu.

οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου, ἀλλά] Apposition to βάπτισμα, which, however, does not state the nature of baptism generally, but only in what sense it effects σώζειν. This is stated first negatively, in order thereby to mark more distinctly the standpoint. Almost all commentators take σαρκός as a genitive depending on ῥύπου, and preceding it only for the sake of emphasis. Bengel, on the other hand, joins it—as genit. subj.—directly with ἀπόθεσις: “carni adscribitur depositio sordium; ideo non dicitur: depositio sordium carnis.” The sense would then be: baptism does not consist in this, “that the flesh lays aside its uncleanness.” This explanation, corresponding as it does to the position of the words, is well suited to the idea ἀπόθεσις, which does not necessarily presuppose the activity of the subject, but can be used when the subject is, strictly speaking, passive; comp. 2 Peter 1:14, the only other passage in which the word occurs in the N. T. Hofmann is accordingly mistaken in asserting that “the laying aside of uncleanness cannot be regarded as an act of the flesh.”

An antithetical allusion to the Jewish washings can hardly be here assumed (cf. Justin M. dial. c. Tryph. p. 331: τί γὰρ ὄφελος ἐκείνου τοῦ βαπτίσματος (the Jewish washing), ὃ τὴν σάρκα καὶ μόνον τὸ σῶμα φαιδρύνει; βαπτίσθητε τὴν ψυχήν).[221]

ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς Θεόν] The positive, as contrasted with the negative character of baptism, συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς can be either the subjective or the objective gen.[222] ἐπερώτημα, a ἅπ. λεγ. in the N. T. (in the O. T. only once, LXX. Daniel 4:14, as a translation of שְׁאֵלְתָּא), is used in classical Greek only in the sense of “question.” Holding by this meaning, commentators have explained it as—(1) the question concerning a good conscience addressed to God (thus Wiesinger, who, however, prefers the translation “inquiry” to “question”), or (2) “the question of a good conscience directed to God” (Gerhard, Steiger, Besser). The first of these renderings is not in harmony with the nature of baptism, inasmuch as the person to be baptized already knows how the good conscience is to be obtained. From the second there results only an incomplete idea, necessitating arbitrary supplements.[223] Now, as ἐπερωτᾷν, which doubtless means only “to ask a question,” is used also of such questions as would obtain something from the person asked (Matthew 16:1; Psalm 137:3, LXX.), the meaning has been assigned to ἐπερώτημα: “the inquiring desire,” “the inquiring request.” Some commentators here take συν. ἀγ. as a subj. gen., and interpret: “the request of a good conscience addressed to God” (thus Bengel, with whom Schmid, Bibl. Theol. des N.T. p. 199, agrees: salvat nos rogatio bonae conscientiae, i. e. rogatio, qua nos Deum compellamus cum bona conscientia, peccatis remissis et depositis[224]); but this also gives rise to an incomplete idea, inasmuch as the contents of the request are not stated. On this rendering of ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ it is better to regard the gen. as an object. gen., thus: “the request addressed to God for a good conscience; “Lutz, Lechler, Weiss, Weizsäcker (Reuter’s Repert. 1858, H. 3), Hofmann, Schott; Wiesinger, too, is inclined to agree.[225] But to this also objections which cannot be overlooked arise: (1) Although the reception of baptism be founded on the desire for a reconciled conscience, yet it does not follow that baptism itself can be described as the expression of this desire; (2) Taken thus, the proper meaning of ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ is entirely lost sight of; the word is used in a sense in which it occurs nowhere else,—a proceeding which is all the more open to question that the apostle had certainly other words at his command wherewith to give the idea of request; (3) The object which the recipient of baptism requests, namely, “the reconciled conscience,” is inadequately expressed by ΣΥΝΕΊΔΗΣΙς ἈΓΑΘΉ, for here no stress is laid on the essential element—the forgiveness of sin; lastly, (4) In this interpretation ΕἸς ΘΕΌΝ is only of secondary importance, whilst the passages, chap. 1 Peter 1:21 and 1 Peter 3:18, show that the chief emphasis lies on ΕἸς ΘΕΌΝ.[226]

Even from early times interpreters have attempted to explain ἐπερώτημα in this passage, not according to common, but according to juristic usage, taking it as equal to ΣΎΜΦΩΝΟΝ, stipulatio mutua, contract (Luther: “covenant”), referring at the same time to the act of question and answer, which took place at baptism: ἈΠΟΤΆΣΣῌ Τῷ ΣΑΤΑΝᾶ; ἈΠΟΤΆΣΣΟΜΑΙ· ΣΥΝΤΆΣΣῌ Τῷ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ; ΣΥΝΤΆΣΣΟΜΑΙ· abrenuntias? abrenuntio; credis? credo (Tertull. lib. de resurr. cam.: anima non lavatione, sed responsione sancitur). Aretius interprets: Deus in baptismo nobis promittit, quod velit nos filiorum loco habere propter Christum; contra nos promittimus, nos serio victuros pie; haec est mutua stipulatio; this interpretation, however, is erroneous, as even in legal phraseology ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ does not mean a “reciprocal” contract. De Wette’s is likewise wrong: “by metonymy, because questions were addressed to the individual who took the vow, ἐπερωτᾶσθαι acquired the meaning promittere, spondere, and ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ that of sponsio;” for ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ is not derived from ἘΠΕΡΩΤᾶΣΘΑΙ, but from ἘΠΕΡΩΤᾷΝ, and therefore never had or could have had the signification: “solemn pledge.” Further, it has been not unjustly remarked, in opposition to this view, according to which συν. ἀγ. is considered as an object. gen, that it would have been better to have spoken of ἀναστροφὴ ἀγαθή as that which has to be vowed.[227] Brückner has substantially corrected de Wette by pointing out that in the language of the Byzantine lawyers ἘΠΕΡΩΤᾷΝ is used in the sense: “to conclude a treaty, a contract, stipulari,” taking ΣΥΝ. ἈΓ. as a subject, gen. But his exposition suffers from an uncertain wavering, for he too declares ἐπερώτημα to be synonymous with “treaty,” indeed with “vow,” which is certainly not the case. The facts are these: a contract was concluded in the form of question and answer: spondesne? spondeo (comp. Puchta, Curs. der Instit. v. 3, p. 97); by the question, on the one side, the agreement was proposed; by the reply, on the other, it was concluded. ἐπερώτημα is then this question by which the conclusion of a contract began, not then the contract itself, and still less the pledge which was taken rather by him who replied. The questioner bound himself by his question to accept that which he who gave the reply promised. If, then, the designation of baptism as ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΩς ἈΓ. ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ ΕἸς ΘΕΌΝ is to be explained from legal procedure, it can only be spoken of as such, inasmuch as the person baptized, by the reception of baptism, enters into a relation—as it were of contract—with God, in which he submits in faith to God’s promise of salvation. Nor can it be denied that this is really in harmony with the nature of baptism, more especially if it be considered that in the legal proceedings, connected with the conclusion of a contract, the respondent pronounced his spondeo in the expectation that the interrogator would fulfil the conditions previously stipulated, to which he had pledged himself. This explains the expression ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΩς ἈΓΑΘῆς, which points to the circumstance that the recipient of baptism, in submitting to it, has the honest purpose faithfully to fulfil the conditions under which the divine assent is given. This interpretation is distinguished from those above mentioned by its concrete precision. No doubt ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ in this juristic sense is to be found only in writings of a later date; but since this form of concluding a contract belonged to an earlier time, it may be assumed that the word had previously been in use thus in legal phraseology.[228] The adjunct: διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, by referring back to ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι, brings the apostle again to his former train of thought. The words are not appended in a loose way to ἐπερώτημα for the purpose of stating how this is effected, as Grotius, Pott, Hensler, Zezschwitz, Hofmann, Schott, and others assume;[229] they are rather conjoined with the verb of the clause ΣΏΖΕΙ, inasmuch as they state that through which the ΒΆΠΤΙΣΜΑ exercises its saving effect (de Wette, Wiesinger, Weiss). The former construction is the less justifiable, that it is more natural to unite the concluding adjunct with the leading idea than with the secondary thought which specifies the nature of baptism. It is still less appropriate to connect the words directly with ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΩς ἈΓ. (as against Fronmüller).

[219] Raphelius: τύπος res aliud quid praefigurans, ἀντίτυπος res ilia praefigurata. ἀντίτυπος has another meaning in Hebrews 9:24, where the τύπος is the ἀληθινόν.

[220] Schott, indeed, justly remarks “that the antitypical nature of baptism, and therefore the typical nature of that to which baptism corresponds as antitype, consists precisely in what is asserted of both, namely, in their saving power and effect.” He thinks, however, “that the antitypical nature of the water applies to what was essentially peculiar to the great flood.” What this is he explains by saying that “the flood was a judgment which destroyed mankind from the earth, so that from out of it only a small number, belonging to the church of believers, were saved;” that is, “it was a judgment of extirpation in such a way that it was the means of effecting a salvation.”

[221] Augustin’s opinion (contr. Faust. c. 12 et 13), with which Beda and others agree, is quite inappropriate. It is, that the apostle here alludes to the baptism of the heretics. Calvin’s assertion, too, that this negative apposition emphasizes the fact that baptism, as an outward form, is of no use, introduces a foreign idea into the words of the apostle.

[222] This is denied, indeed, by several commentators, specially by Hofmann and Schott, because a good conscience does not precede, but is the fruit of baptism. But this assertion presupposes the identification of the good conscience with that conscience which by Christ is reconciled with God, and is released from the feeling of guilt. For this, however, the N. T. phraseology gives no warrant. According to it, συνείδησις ἀγαθή rather means: “the consciousness of pure intentions,” or “the consciousness of sincerely willing that which is good”

[223] Gerhard: quomodo deus erga baptizatum affectus sit, etc.; Steiger: “for the salvation of which he who receives baptism would be assured;” Besser: Art thou not my father? am I not thy child? The interpretation given in the Erlanger Zeitschrift, 1856, p. 293 ff., is evidently altogether erroneous: “the proof of the good conscience attained in baptism is the ἐπερώτημα εἰς Θ., i.e. the question: Am I not saved by my baptism from the judgment on an unbelieving world?” Apart from all else, the matter here treated of is not a question which is only put after baptism, since baptism itself is designated as the ἐπερώτημα.

[224] To this interpretation of Bengel, Hofmann rightly objects: “that ἐπερώτημα cannot well mean something which presupposes the reception of baptism;” but if the “peccatis remissis et depositis” be not looked upon as belonging to the idea of a good conscience, Hofmann’s objection loses its validity.

[225] The same view is to be found already in Seb. Schmidius, only that he regards ἐπερ. as meaning the petitio addressed to God by him who baptizes, and συν. ἀγ. as the gift which he implores for the person baptized; evidently this is entirely arbitrary.

[226] Hofmann, in support of the interpretation here called in question, appeals to the circumstance, “that the petition for the cleansing of the conscience from past sins forms the only suitable antithesis to the putting away of filth contracted outwardly.” But it must be remarked in opposition, that however suitable this antithesis may appear in itself, it does not follow that the apostle had it in his mind in the way here stated. It is rather improbable that he had, since in this positive nearer definition of baptism its application to cleansing is in no way alluded to.—The explanation given in Weissagung und Erfüllung, II. p. 234: “the happiness of a good conscience asked of God,” he passes over in silence in his Schriftbeweis, II. 2.—The interpretation given by Winer in the 5th ed. of his Gr.: “The inquiry of a good conscience after God, i.e. the turning to God, the seeking Him,” does not occur in the subsequent editions, nor is there any justification for it.

[227] Estius, Beza, Grotius, Semler, Pott, Hensler, etc., interpret similarly to de Wette,

[228] After the explanation here given, it is evidently incorrect when Hofmann says that “ἐπερώτημα could only be the question addressed by him who closes an agreement, to the person who is to consent to it.” The very opposite is the case. The question is not addressed from the former to the latter, but from the latter to the former; that is, then, not from God to the person baptized, but from the person baptized to God.

[229] 1 Kings 22:7 : ἔτι εἷς ἔστιν ἀνὴρ εἰς τὸ ἐπερωτῆσαι διʼ αὐτοῦ τὸν κύριον, has been appealed to in favour of this construction. Erroneously, since διʼ αὐτοῦ applies to a person. Between it, therefore, and διʼ ἀναστάσεως no parallel can be drawn.—According to Hofmann, διά states that which the person baptized appeals to in support of his desire for the remission of sin. The passages, however, which he quotes (1 Corinthians 1:10 and Romans 12:1) by no means prove that the prep. διά has this signification.

(Hebrews 13:18 : καλὴν συνείδησιν ἔχομεν, ἐν πᾶσι καλῶς θέλοντες ἀναστρέφεθαι; cf. also 1 Peter 3:16; Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:9). If baptism is really to bring a blessing to the person baptized, he must surely desire it with a good conscience.1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is generally the antitype of the deliverance of Noah. Christians pass through water (in both senses) to salvation; in each microcosm are the sins which must be washed away and the remnant which is to be saved. Therefore the antitypical water saves us ( = τὸ ὕδωρ > διʼ ὕδατος) being οὐ σαρκὸς, κ.τ.λ.; cf. Titus 3:5.—βάπτισμα if not an interpolation explains ὁ ἀντ. which corresponding to the (pre-existent) type (cf. Hebrews 9:24 the earthly temple is ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν). The following definition by exclusion contrasts Christian baptism with Jewish and pagan lustrations and also with the Deluge which was a removal of sin-fouled flesh from the sinners of old (1 Peter 4:6); the former affected the flesh and not the conscience (Hebrews 9:13 f.), the latter removed the flesh but not the spiritual defilement proceeding from past sin. σαρκός and συνειδήσεως stand before their belongings for emphasis and not merely in accordance with prevalent custom. For ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου compare Isaiah 4:4 (sequel of the description of the daughters of Zion which is used above 1 Peter 3:3), Jehovah shall wash away their filth (τὸν ῥύπον: LXX chivalrously prefixes of the sons and). ἐπερώτημα is explained by Oecumenius as meaning earnest, pledge as in Byzantine Greek law. Its use for the questions put to the candidate in the baptismal service (dost thou renou nee.…?) is probably due to St. Peter here. In ordinary Greek (Herodotus and Thucydides) it = question ἐπ. having no force, as if implying a second additional question arising out of the first). Here the noun corresponds to the verb as used in Isaiah 65:1, quoted by St. Paul in Romans 10:20, ἐμφανὴς ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἐμὲ μὴ ἐπερωτῶσι = (1) a seeking, quest after God or (2) request addressed to God (supported by εἰς cf. the formula ἔντευξις εἰς τὸ βασίλεως ὄνομα, a petition addressed to the king’s majesty). In the latter case Peter will still be thinking as above and below of the disobedient spirits who presented a petition (ἐρώτη σις) to God inspired by an evil conscience (see Enoch summarised above). At any rate συνειδ. is probably subjective or possessive rather than objective genitive. The believer who comes to baptism has believed in Christ and repented of his past sins, renounces them and the spirits which prompted them and appeals to God for strength to carry out this renunciation in his daily life.—διʼ ἀναστ. with σώζει; compare 1 Corinthians 15:13-17.21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us] The MSS. present two readings; one that of the Textus Receptus, answering to the English Version as giving the relative pronoun in the dative, the other, supported by the better MSS., giving the pronoun in the nominative, “which also” (sc. the element of water) “the antitype [of the deluge,] doth even now save us,” and then he adds, as explaining what was the antitype, the word “baptism” in apposition with the subject of the sentence. At first it seems hard to see the parallelism between the flood which destroyed and the baptism which saves, but reflection will shew that the Apostle may well have thought of the deluge as burying the old evils of the world and giving the human race, as it were, a fresh start, under new and better conditions, a world, in some sense, regenerated or brought into a new covenant with God, and therefore new relations to Him. Does not the teaching of the previous verse suggest the inference that he thought of the flood as having been even for those who perished in it, not merely an instrument of destruction, but as placing even the souls of the disobedient in a region in which they were not shut out from the pitying love of the Father who there also did not “will that any should perish”?

not the putting away of the filth of the flesh] The Greek word for “putting away” may be noted as one of those common to the two Epistles (see note on 2 Peter 1:14). The implied protest against the notion that this was all that was meant by Christian baptism, though it might be necessary both for Jewish and heathen converts, gains immensely in its significance if we think of the Epistle as addressed mainly to the former class. They were in danger of looking upon baptism, not as the sacrament of a new birth, but as standing on the same level as the “washing” or “baptism” (the same word is used) of the older ritual. So, even during the ministry of the Baptist, there was a dispute between some of his disciples and the Jews “about purification” (John 3:25), obviously rising out of that confusion of thought. So it formed part of the elementary instruction of Christian catechumens that they should learn the “doctrine of baptisms” (Hebrews 6:2), i.e. the distinction between the Jewish and the Christian rites that went almost or altogether[18] by the same name. St Peter warns men against the perilous thought that they washed away their sins by the mere outward act. So far as he may have contemplated heathen converts at all we may remember that they too thought of guilt as washed away by a purely ceremonial institution. So Ovid, Fast. ii. 45,

[18] The tendency to desynonymize led to the term baptisma in the neuter being used of the Christian rite, while the masculine baptismos was used in a more generic sense.

“Full easy souls who dream the crystal flood

Can wash away the deep-dyed stain of blood.”

[Ah, nimium faciles qui tristia crimina caedis

Fluminea tolli posse putetis aqua.]

Comp. also Juven. Sat. vi. 522, Persius, Sat. ii. 15, Horace, Sat. ii. 3.290. History records but too many instances of the revival of a like superstition. The tendency to postpone baptism in order to cancel the sins that were in the meantime accumulating, and avoid the danger of postbaptismal sin, of which we see conspicuous instances in the lives of Constantine and Augustine, the mediæval dogma still lingering in popular belief, that unbaptized infants are excluded from salvation; these are examples of ways of looking at baptism more or less analogous to that which St Peter condemns. With him the saving power of baptism varies with the activity and purity of the moral consciousness of the baptized.

but the answer of a good conscience toward God] The words admit of very different interpretations. (1) The Greek word translated “answer” means primarily “question,” “enquiry.” If this sense be admitted here, there would then rise the question whether the words “of a good conscience” were in the genitive of the subject or the object. If the former, the condition on which St Peter lays stress would be equivalent to (a) the enquiry of a good conscience, the seeking of the soul after God; if the latter, that condition would be (b) the prayer addressed to God for a good conscience. Neither of these interpretations, however, is satisfactory. It is against (a) that it is the idea of baptism that men are no longer seeking God but have found Him. It is against (b) that it is also the idea of baptism that it is more than the asking for a gift. A true solution is found partly in the forensic use of the Greek word for question, as including, like our word “examination,” both question and answer, and so applied to the whole process of a covenant, the conditions of which were determined by mutual interrogatories and affirmative or negative replies, and partly in the fact that at a date so early that it is reasonable to infer an Apostolic origin, the liturgical administration of baptism involved interrogatories and answers, in substance identical with those that have been in use in the Church at large and are in use still. “Dost thou renounce Satan?” “I do renounce him.” “Dost thou believe in Christ?” “I do believe in Him,” the second question sometimes taking the form “Dost thou take thy stand with Christ?” and the answer, “I do take my stand.” In this practice of interrogation then we find that which explains St Peter’s meaning. That which is of the essence of the saving power of baptism is the confession and the profession which precedes it. If that comes from a conscience (see notes on chaps. 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 3:16) that really renounces sin and believes on Christ, then baptism, as the channel through which the grace of the new birth is conveyed and the convert admitted into the Church of Christ, “saves us,” but not otherwise. The practice of Infant Baptism, though the scales of argument both as regards Scripture and antiquity turn in its favour, presents, it must be admitted, an apparent inversion of the right order, though the idea is still retained in the questions put to the sponsors who answer in the infant’s name, as his representatives. If the question is asked, What then is the effect of Infant Baptism? the answer must be found, that it is, in the language of Scripture, as a new birth, the admission into new conditions of life, into, as it were, the citizenship of a new country. It gives the promise and potency of life, but its power to save the man that grows out of the infant varies with the fulfilment of the conditions when consciousness is developed. Now, as when St Peter wrote, it is not the “putting away the filth of the flesh” that saves, but “the answer of a good conscience towards God.”

by the resurrection of Jesus Christ] So far the words have brought before us the human side of baptism. But the rite has also a divine side and this the last words of the verse bring before us. Baptism derives its power to save from the Resurrection of Christ. It brings us into union with the life of Him who “was dead and is alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:18). We are buried with Him in baptism, planted together with Him in the likeness of His death, that we may be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:4-5).1 Peter 3:21. Ὃ καὶ ἡμᾶς ἀντίτυπον) The relative , which, stands in the place of ὕδωρ, water; and has ἀντίτυπον added to it as an epithet; but the substantives, baptism and asking [“answer”], are put in apposition to it.—νῦν, now) at this time, which is in other respects an evil time.—σώζει, saves) brings us forth from the destruction of the whole world, and of the Jewish people. There is a reference to were saved, 1 Peter 3:20. Peter shows that, as in former times there were some who perished through unbelief, and others who were saved through faith, so altogether in the New Testament there are some who are saved (as in this passage), others, on the contrary, who perish: ch. 1 Peter 4:4-6 : that they both experience, although in different ways, the efficacy (power) of Christ: which very thing has special force to bring forth the godly from the wicked, and to confirm them in patience.—οὐσαρκὸς, not of the flesh) He declares why and how far baptism has so salutary an effect. There were baptisms also among the Jews; but they were such only as purified the flesh, and to this their efficacy was limited: even now the flesh is washed in baptism, but the washing of the flesh is not that in which baptism really consists, nor does it (baptism) save, so far as it is [i.e. in respect of its being] done by the hand: comp. Ephesians 2:11 : but so far as it is the asking [“answer”] of a good conscience. The word σαρκὸς, of the flesh, is emphatically put first, and the putting away of impurity is ascribed to the flesh [i.e. “the flesh’s putting away of impurity”] (accordingly it is not said, the putting away of the filth of the flesh [as Engl. Vers.]); and the conscience is opposed to the flesh.—συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα,[33] the asking of a good conscience) Daniel 4:14, שאלתא (parallel to which is פחגמא, a judicial decree, Heb. דבר), in the Septuagint, ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ, in this one passage. But שאל and דרש are oftened rendered by the same by the word ἘΠΕΡΩΤΆΩ. The Greek Scholia have this: ἘΠΕΡΏΤΗΜΑ, ΤΟΥΤΈΣΤΙΝ, ἈῤῬΑΒῺΝ, ἘΝΈΧΥΡΟΝ, ἈΠΌΔΕΙΞΙς, an earnest, a pledge, a proof. There is no doubt but that the apostle had reference to the Hebrew שאלה. It is the part of the godly to ask, to consult, to address God with confidence; but it is the part of the ungodly not to ask Him, or to ask idols: Jdg 20:18; Jdg 20:23; Jdg 20:27; 1 Samuel 10:22; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 23:4; Isaiah 30:2; Hosea 4:12; in all which places the Septuagint has ἘΠΕΡΩΤᾷΝ. Therefore it is the asking of a good conscience which saves us; that is, the asking, in which we address God with a good conscience, our sins being forgiven and laid aside. Comp. 1 Peter 3:16; Hebrews 10:22. This asking is given in baptism; and it is exercised in all acts of faith, of prayers, and of Christian life; and God always regards it as worthy of an answer. Comp. Deuteronomy 26:17-18, את יהוה האמרת, τὸν Θεὸν εἳλου, thou hast chosen God: ויהוה האמירך, ΚΑῚ ΚΎΡΙΟς ΕἽΛΕΤΌ ΣΕ, and the Lord hath chosen thee: Isaiah 19:21.—διʼ ἀναστάσεως, by the resurrection) Constructed with saves. Comp. ch. 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:21.

[33] ἐπερώτημα. The word seems to denote the promises made in baptism. St Luke 2:46, uses the word ἐπερωτᾷν for questioning, where he speaks of the child Jesus as being found in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. The word appears to comprehend, as referred to baptism, the mutual questions and answers which make up the process of teaching on one side, and the stipulation on the other.—T. See Quarterly Review, vol. 71, p. 332.Verse 21. - The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. The reading of the Textus Receptus ω΅ι, represented by "whereunto," is without authority; all the uncial manuscripts have ο}, "which," in the nominative case. The oldest manuscripts also read "you" instead of "us." The antecedent of the relative must be the word immediately preceding, ὕδατος, water; the word "baptism" is added in apposition, to define more clearly the apostle's meaning; the water which saves is the water of baptism. Thus the literal translation will be, "Which (as) antitype is saving you also, (namely) baptism;" that is, the water which is saving you is the antitype of the water of the Flood. That water was made the means of saving a few; it bore up the ark in which they were. It saved them, perhaps, from the malice of the ungodly; it saved them from that corruption which was almost universal; it was the means of saving the race of men as by a new birth through death into a new life, a new beginning; it washed away the evil, those who suffered for evil-doing, and so saved those who had doubtless been suffering for well-doing. Thus it is the figure (τύπος) of the antitype (ἀντίτυπον) baptism; the two (the water of the Flood and the water of baptism) correspond as type and antitype. The ἀντίτυπον is the counterpart of the τύπος; and as τύπος sometimes means the original, sometimes the figure, there is a correspondent variation in the meaning of ἀντίτυπον. Delitzsch says, on Hebrews 9:24, "We have found τύπος at 1 Peter 8:5 used in the sense of an original figure - a model from which a copy is made; such copy from an original (or architype) is that designated as ἀντίτυπα here. Τύπος again (as at Romans 5:14) is used in the sense of a prophetic foretype, of which the accomplishment is reserved for the future (τύπος τῶν μελλόντων); and that accomplishment is again called ἀντίτυπον (antitype); e.g. baptism, at 1 Peter 3:21, is in this sense an ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge. The earthly reflection of the heavenly archetype, and the actual fulfillment of the prophetic τύπος, are each called ἀντίτυπον." Here the water of the Flood is the prophetic foretype; baptism is the accomplishment. "Baptism," St. Peter says, "is saving you," the few Christians, separating you from the vast number of Gentiles, whom in some sense it condemns through their rejection of God's offered mercy (comp. Hebrews 11:7), saving you from the corruption of their evil example, bringing you into the ark of Christ's Church, bearing up that ark through the grace of the new birth. The apostle says, "Baptism is saving you;" he does not say, "hits saved;" he is using the present tense in its proper sense of an incomplete action; it brings us into a state of salvation, into covenant with God. But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be realized in actual life; otherwise, alas! we shall have received the grace of God in vain (comp. Titus 3:5). (Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.) St. Peter hastens to explain his statement. Baptism doth save us, but not the mere outward ceremony; you may "make clean the outside" with the most scrupulous care; you may be very careful in putting away the filth of the flesh (or, if the genitive is to be regarded as subjective, with Bengel, the flesh may put away its filth); but more is needed than the old Jewish washings, the frequent purifications. Comp. Justin Martyr, ' Dial. cum Trypho,' p. 331 (quoted by Huther), Τί γὰρ ὄφελος ἐκείνου τοῦ βαπτὶσματος (the Jewish washing) ο} τὴν σάρκα καὶ μόνον τὸ σῶμα φαιδρύνει βαπτίσθητε τὴν ψυχήν. Observe that St. Peter uses the word here rendered "putting away" (ἀπόθεσις) again in the Second Epistle (1. 14) of putting off the earthly tabernacle (comp. also 1 Peter 2:1, where he uses the corresponding participle, ἀποθέμενοι). The next clause presents great difficulty. Is the genitive subjective or objective? What is the meaning of ἐπερώτημα? The word ἐπερώτημα occurs only in one other place in the Greek Scriptures (Daniel 4:14 [in the Authorized Version, 4:17D, where it is translated "demand;" the corresponding verb is of frequent occurrence; as in Romans 10:20, "them that asked not after me;" and 2 Kings 11:7 (2 Samuel 11:7, in the Authorized Version), where it is joined with the preposition εἰς, as in this verse. Thus ἐπερώτημα seems to mean an "inquiry," and the genitive is probably subjective. The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires after God. The outward and visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace. The first is necessary, for it is an outward sign appointed by Christ; but it will not save without the second; those who draw near to God must have their bodies washed with pure water, but also their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22). The inner cleansing of the soul results in a good conscience, a consciousness of sincerity, of good intentions and desires, which will instinctively seek after God. And that good conscience is the effect of baptism, when baptism has its perfect work, when those who have once been grafted into the true Vine abide in Christ, when those who have once been baptized in one Spirit into one body keep the unity of the Spirit, Christ dwelling in them, and they in Christ. Archbishop Leighton explains the word ἐπερώτημα as "the whole correspondence of the conscience with God, and with itself as towards God, or in the sight of God." If the genitive is regarded as objective, the meaning will be, "an inquiry addressed to God for a good conscience;" the soul, once awakened, seeks continually fuller purification, hungers and thirsts after righteousness. This gives a good sense, but seems less suitable in this context. It is possible also to join the preposition εἰς with συνείδησις in the sense of a good conscience in relation to God; but it seems much more natural to connect it with ἐπερώτημα. Some commentators follow AEcumenius in paraphrasing ἐερώτημα by ἀῥῤαβών ἐνέχυρον ἀπόδειξις; they take the ground that, in legal language, the word was used in the sense of a contract, and they see in St. Peter's words a reference to the covenant made with God in baptism, and to the questions and answers in which, from the earliest times, that covenant was expressed; ἐπερώτημα being used in a general sense so as to cover answers as well as questions. This is a possible alternative, but the word seems to have acquired this meaning in later times. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These words refer back to "baptism doth also now save us." Baptism derives its saving effect from the resurrection of our Lord; without that resurrection it would be an empty form (see note on 1 Peter 1:3). The like figure whereunto

Following a rejected reading, ᾧ, to which; so that the literal rendering would be the antitype to which. Read ὃ ἀντίτυπον, which, the antitype or as an antitype; i.e., which water, being the antitype of that water of the flood, doth now save you, even baptism. Rev., which, after a true likeness doth now, etc. Ἀντίτυπον, figure, or anti-type, is from ἀντί, over against, and τύπος, a blow. Hence, originally, repelling a blow: a blow against a blow; a counter-blow. So of an echo or of the reflection of light; then a correspondence, as of a stamp to the die, as here. The word occurs only once elsewhere, Hebrews 9:24 : "the figures of the true."

Putting away (ἀπόθεσις)

Peculiar to Peter. Here and 2 Peter 1:14.

Filth (ῥύπου)

Only here in New Testament. In classical Greek signifying especially dry dirt, as on the person.

Answer (ἐπερώτημα)

Only here in New Testament. 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."

This is the sense of ἐπερωτᾷν εἰς, in the only place where it occurs in scripture, 2 Samuel 11:7 (Sept.): "David asked of him how Joab did (ἐπερώτησεν εἰς εἰρήνην Ἰωάβ)." Lit., with reference to the peace of Joab. Rev. renders, the interrogation, and puts inquiry, appeal, in margin.

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