Its Purpose is Misunderstood
Is there magic in the water?
What happens to me when I go into the water?
What good does it do?
The water is not for physical cleansing, it is the obedience to God
1 Peter 3:20-21
Jesus did not have the need for forgiveness of sins, but He was baptized to be obedient to God.
God wishes for people to be baptized.
The purpose of baptism is to spiritually enact what Jesus physically enacted.
Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and resurrected, all physically.
We are to crucify our old way of life, kill the old man of sin, bury it in a watery grave of baptism, and resurrect to walk in a new life following Christ.
Since we are baptized into Christ’s death, we come into contact with His blood, which was shed in His death.
His blood is the only cleansing agent that can wash away our sins.
When we are baptized, it is the way we come into contact with the blood and death of Christ and it is then that we have our sins washed away.
It is for salvation and not because of it.
The purpose of baptism may often be taught as “an outward sign of an inward change.”
In other words, it is believed that you are saved and then you are baptized to show everyone that you are saved.
This contradicts Scripture, however.
“Unto” means going toward something, not that you have already arrived.
If you said, “I am going unto the grocery store.”
while you were standing in the grocery store, we would wonder why you said that.
You are not going unto something if you are already there.
The word translated “unto” in the part “unto the remission of sins,” is from the Greek word “eis.”
This word is also used in another instance.
The word “for” in the part “for the remission of sins” is also the Greek word “eis.”
Was Jesus going to the cross because the sins of people were already remitted?
Or was He going because they had not yet been remitted?
What was Jesus going to the cross “for”?
If Peter had meant to tell the Jews that they needed to be baptized because their sins had already been forgiven, he could have used the Greek word “gar,” which also means “for,” but it means “for” in the sense of “because.”
Peter could have said, “Repent and be baptized because your sins are forgiven.”
But he didn’t.
It is Seen as a Meritorious Work
Baptism may be rejected if it is viewed as a work that is done in an attempt to earn salvation, i.e. - a meritorious work.
There are different types of works.
Works of merit - You earn things by the work that you do
Works of obedience - You do things to obey, but do not necessarily earn what you get
I do work for my jobs and I get paid for the work that I do.
When you earn money for work you do, we might call those works of merit.
I obeyed my parents, at least sometimes, and did works of obedience.
But there is probably no way I earned all the things they did for me.
We can call those works of obedience.
The Bible does teach that we do not earn our salvation through works of merit.
But are we to be offered the grace of God and do nothing?
Notice the next verse.
Even though Paul makes it clear we do not earn our salvation, he goes on to say that it is God’s will that we do good works.
Clearly, there are works that we should do, even if they do not earn our salvation.
Is Jesus our perfect example?
Did Jesus need salvation?
Did He need to earn salvation?
Did He do good works?
To be obedient to the Father.
Was He baptized?
To be obedient to the Father.
God gave us freewill to accept Him or reject Him.
He offers the gift of salvation through His Son.
We can accept it or reject it.
Jesus makes it clear that many will be lost in the end.
Didn’t God offer salvation?
But many will be lost.
Because they chose not to do the works God wanted them to do.
Were they works that would have earned them a spot in Heaven?
No, because we can’t do enough works to earn our way into Heaven.
Therefore, they must have been works of obedience.
Therefore, you cannot do enough meritorious works to earn your salvation, but you have to do works of obedience to obtain the salvation that is offered by the grace of God.
Being baptized is not something you do that earns you salvation.
You don’t earn salvation because it is a free gift of God.
Nevertheless, you are baptized in order to obtain that free gift.
You are baptized in order to be obedient to God.
1 Peter 3:21
Peter says that baptism is not for physical cleansing but it is the answer of a good conscience toward God.
When do you have a bad conscience?
When you know you should have done something and you didn’t do it.
So, when do you have a good conscience?
When you know you should have done something and you did do it.
So, what is Peter saying regarding baptism?
After you are baptized you will have a good conscience toward God because you know He wanted you to do it and you did it.
It is not a meritorious work, but it is a work of obedience.
It also may be interesting that baptism is a passive verb.
Baptism can be in the active voice if you are the one doing the baptizing, but the person concerned is actually “being baptized,” meaning it is in the passive voice.
Other acts of salvation, such as believing, confessing, and repenting, may all be in the active voice regarding the person concerned, but baptism is in the passive voice.
It’s interesting that the one passive action of salvation that a person has done to them may be dismissed as a work of merit, but all the other active things that the person actually does themself are not considered works.
Also, if one says baptism is not required because it is a work, but then says “belief” is required, they may be forgetting that “believe” is a verb and something that a person must do as a work.