I’m nailing these to the virtual church door. They’re some theses about 1 Peter 3:20-21, which says,
“…when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, into which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 Which also you an antitype, baptism, now saves, not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, but the response of a good conscience to God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
I’ve translated the beginning of 21 in an overly literal way to make the grammar clear. Now, here are theses:
1. The “answer of a good conscience” is a grammatical appositive of “baptism.” The two are thus identified: Water baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God.
2. “Baptism” is nominative, an appositive of “antitype.” Water baptism, not something else, is the antitype of the salvation through water that Noah and his family experienced.
3. This antitype, baptism, is the grammatical subject of “saves” (swzei). The passage therefore says outright that “baptism now saves you.”
4. We may say that baptism saves by being “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
5. Anyone who says “baptism does not save you” is contradicting the express words of the apostle Peter. (#3 above).
6. Anyone who says that “water baptism” is to be identified with “the putting off of the filth of the flesh” makes Peter say this: “baptism now saves you, not baptism, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Which really amounts to “baptism now saves you, not baptism, but baptism.” (#1, 2, 3 above)
7. Anyone who says that water baptism is not “the answer of a good conscience toward God” is importing theology into the text, not exegeting it. The text identifies the two (#1 above).
8. By the same procedure as #7, we may make all kinds of gnostic arguments: “When the Bible says that Jesus was raised for our justification, it really means that we can have faith for our justification, since we know that faith, and not physical events, is what saves us.”
9. Thus, the hermeneutic that baptists use on 1 Peter 3:21 can be used to empty anything of power and efficacy. We should therefore reject this hermeneutic as a pernicious “universal solvent” that will destroy the supernatural aspects of the Christian faith.
10. No one — not I, not Peter Leithart, not John Calvin — ever taught that baptism saves us by washing dirt off our physical bodies. We are all thus in agreement with the apostle Peter’s qualification of the meaning of “baptism” in 3:21.
11. Baptists like John Piper very commonly say things like “sacraments don’t save us” or “baptism doesn’t save you.” When they talk this way, they are contradicting Scripture. (#3 above)
12. The passage in 1 Peter 3 says nothing about “Spirit baptism”. To gloss “baptism” in 1 Peter 3 with anything other than water baptism is an imposition on the text. It can be motivated by nothing in the context, but only by theological parti pris.