on 1-peter 3 :21
The like figure whereunto, etc. - Dr. Macknight has translated this verse so as to make the meaning more clear: By which (water) the antitype baptism (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) now saveth us also, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He remarks that the relative ᾡ being in the neuter gender, its antecedent cannot be κιβωτος, the ark, which is feminine, but ὑδωρ, water, which is neuter.
There are many difficulties in this verse; but the simple meaning of the place may be easily apprehended. Noah believed in God; walked uprightly before him, and found grace in his sight; he obeyed him in building the ark, and God made it the means of his salvation from the waters of the deluge. Baptism implies a consecration and dedication of the soul and body to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He who is faithful to his baptismal covenant, taking God through Christ, by the eternal Spirit, for his portion, is saved here from his sins; and through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, has the well-grounded hope of eternal glory. This is all plain; but was it the deluge, itself, or the ark, or the being saved by that ark from the deluge, that was the antitype of which St. Peter speaks? Noah and his family were saved by water; i.e. it was the instrument of their being saved through the good providence of God. So the water of baptism, typifying the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, is the means of salvation to all those who receive this Holy Spirit in its quickening, cleansing efficacy. Now as the waters of the flood could not have saved Noah and his family, had they not made use of the ark; so the water of baptism saves no man, but as it is the means of his getting his heart purified by the Holy Spirit, and typifying to him that purification. The ark was not immersed in the water; had it been so they must all have perished; but it was borne up on the water, and sprinkled with the rain that fell from heaven. This text, as far as I can see, says nothing in behalf of immersion in baptism; but is rather, from the circumstance mentioned above, in favor of sprinkling. In either case, it is not the sprinkling, washing, or cleansing the body, that can be of any avail to the salvation of the soul, but the answer of a good conscience towards God - the internal evidence and external proof that the soul is purified in the laver of regeneration, and the person enabled to walk in newness of life. We are therefore strongly cautioned here, not to rest in the letter, but to look for the substance.
on 1-peter 3 :21
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.
on 1-peter 3 :21
3:21 The antitype whereof - The thing typified by the ark, even baptism, now saveth us - That is, through the water of baptism we are saved from the sin which overwhelms the world as a flood: not, indeed, the bare outward sign, but the inward grace; a divine consciousness that both our persons and our actions are accepted through him who died and rose again for us.