An Explanation of 1 Peter 3:21 from Experience

praying man

Today I would like to share with you how my interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 changed by an experience birthed in prayer. Of course this does not replace proper exegesis of the text. It is up to the reader should to make a proper exegesis of the text, since I will not discuss it at this moment. At this moment I will just talk about the experience which I had, which changed my interpretation of the text. The text which I talk about is 1 Peter 3:21:

"There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"
- 1 Peter 3:21 (NKJV)

I used to see this verse as speaking about water baptism, which saves us (in a way, in the broader sense of the word) and gives us a good conscience towards God.

Now I understand it as a Spiritual cleansing, performed by Jesus Christ who can do this because He is resurrected. It is a full cleansing from sin which is received through earnest prayer with a heart longing for true holiness. From that moment on, you have a pure conscience. From that moment on you are saved from all your sins (Matthew 1:21).

Some of us have had that same wonderful sweet cleansing through earnest prayer in faith, longing earnestly for holiness. We experienced what Charles Finney described:

‘In this state I was taught the doctrine of justification by faith, as a present experience. That doctrine had never taken any such possession of my mind, that I had ever viewed it distinctly as a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel. Indeed, I did not know at all what it meant in the proper sense. But I could now see and understand what was meant by the passage, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could see that the moment I believed, while up in the woods, all sense of condemnation had entirely dropped out of my mind; and that from that moment I could not feel a sense of guilt or condemnation by any effort that I could make. My sense of guilt was gone; my sins were gone; and I do not think I felt any more sense of guilt than if I never had sinned.

This was just the revelation that I needed. I felt myself justified by faith; and, so far as I could see, I was in a state in which I did not sin. Instead of feeling that I was sinning all the time, my heart was so full of love that it overflowed. My cup ran over with blessing and with love; and I could not feel that I was sinning against God. Nor could I recover the least sense of guilt for my past sins.’

source of the excerpt: Charles G. Finney, The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney (1876 edition), Chapter II: Conversion to Christ.

Read also “Phoebe Palmer on Christian Perfection” and “On Christian Perfection“.


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