1 Peter 3:21 – Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

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Some argue that 1 Peter 3:21 teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, clearer Scripture passages definitively teach that baptism is ”not” necessary for salvation—since justification is by faith alone—and there is a very reasonable interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 that does not contradict with the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

1 Peter 3:21

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

1 Peter 3:21

Those who argue that baptism is necessary for salvation argue that 1 Peter 3:21 teaches that baptism saves a person.

The Answer

The Second Half of 1 Peter 3:21

The second half of 1 Peter 3:21 helps us understand what Peter means when he writes that “baptism… now saves you.” It says, “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.”

From the second half of 1 Peter 3:21, we learn that Peter is essentially referring to baptism and faith as the same thing (since baptism is the public declaration, representation, and symbol of a person’s faith). He says that baptism does not actually remove dirt from the body—that is, it does not cleanse or save a person—but rather, it is “an appeal to God,” or trust in God.
This is a very reasonable interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 that does not contradict with what Scripture teaches elsewhere concerning justification by faith alone.

Salvation Is Through Faith Alone

There are clear passages that teach that salvation and justification is through faith alone. 1 Peter 3:21 is not entirely clear concerning whether baptism is necessary for salvation, so we must interpret 1 Peter 3:21 in light of Scripture’s clear teaching elsewhere concerning what ”’is”’ necessary for salvation.

To read more, see Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

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