A Good Conscience

1Peter 3:19-22 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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 God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. 

‘By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison’ by the Holy Spirit anointing He preached to the angels in Tartarus while His body was in the grave (2Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6-7).

‘Spirits in prison’ ten proofs these spirits are fallen angels: They sinned in the days of Noah (Gen. 6:4). If these were human souls it would not specify only those who sinned in the days of Noah. Human beings are never called “spirits.” Where human spirits are referred to it is always qualified and clarified by speaking of them as “spirits of men” (Heb. 12:23); “spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22; 27:16); and “spirits of the prophets” (1Cor. 14:32). People have spirits, but they are not spirits. Where the word “spirits” is used without such qualifications it refers to spirit beings (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7, 14). There is a special prison for angels that sinned before the flood (2Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6-7). The Greek word for “preached” is kerusso meaning to proclaim as a public crier, or to announce something whether it be good or bad. The gospel is never preached to human beings after they die, and there would be no special message for only the one generation of Noah’s day for God is impartial. Human beings are appointed to die and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27), not more preaching intended for their salvation. There is no special prison for human beings who sinned in Noah’s day and another prison for all other human beings who have sinned. All go to Sheol/Hades until the judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Christ made no announcement to human souls in hell that we know about. He did liberate the righteous souls taking them to heaven with Him when He ascended on high (Eph. 4:8). He left the angels in hell until the judgment (2Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6-7). Christ Himself – not Enoch, Noah, or some other man – went to preach to these spirits. This could only be while He went to Sheol/Hades (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27). Whoever the spirits are they were in prison when Christ preached to them (3:19). All these facts indicate that they were fallen angels and not men.

‘Wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water’ into which ark eight souls were saved by [Greek: dia, through] water, or saved from drowning in the flood by being in the ark (Gen. 6:9-10, 18; 7:7; 8:18). The water did not save them, but the ark did.

‘Saved by water’ they were not saved in the sense of their souls being saved from sin, but saved from drowning in the flood.

‘Like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us’ the “like figure” of baptism in water also saves us. It was the ark that saved them from drowning in the flood. So baptism in water does not save the soul, but faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – that which baptism is a figure of – does save the soul (Rom. 6:3-5; 1Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 1:14; Col. 1:20-22). A mere figure can have no power to save, but the reality of the figure can. Peter, lest some should trust in water baptism to save the soul, makes it very clear that baptism does not save one from the filth or moral depravity of the flesh. He shows it to be only the answer of a good conscience toward God, one that has been made clean by faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is clear here that at baptism the conscience is already supposed to be good and clean and baptism merely answers to it. As the waters of the flood could not have saved these eight persons had they not made use of the ark, so the water of baptism does not save the soul of anyone, but testifies figuratively to the salvation that comes by faith (Rom. 1:16; 3:24-25; 10:9-10).

‘Filth of the flesh’ the Greek word rhupos, the root word of rhuparia, rhuparos, and rhupoo, meaning moral filth and depravity (Jas. 1:21; 2:2; Rev. 22:11).

‘Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God’ this is His rightful place by virtue of His achievements and exaltation to original glory (John 17:5; Eph. 1:20-23; Php. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:3-4). After Christ made His supreme sacrifice His work for sins was finished. He could then sit down and wait to see His work completed in the lives of believers who would be freed from sin and delivered from their enemies (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-14; 12:2; Ps. 110:4).

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