There are many biblical words that we should study because of the frequency with which they are used. It is important for us to understand such words so that when we repeatedly encounter them while reading our Bible, we will be clear about what they mean. However, there are also some words that are only used once or twice that are just as important for us to know. Even though they are only used a few times, or even once, we should give just as much attention to them as the frequently used words. The word “antitype” is a good example. The English word is used only once in the New King James translation and the the specific form of the Greek word is, likewise, only used once, though the root word and other forms are used frequently. But when we see how it is used, and the context of its use, we see how vitally important it is to understand what the word means.
The word “antitype” is only found in 1 Peter 3:21. However, its connection with salvation in that passage shows how important a word it is. “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). So the word “antitype” specifically refers to something that “saves us.” How much more important could a word be?
In the context, Peter had made a reference to Noah and the Flood, saying that “eight souls were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20). The Pulpit Commentary on 1 Peter 3:21 says, “…the water which saves is the water of baptism. Thus the literal translation will be, “Which (as) antitype is saving you also, (namely) baptism;” that is, the water which is saving you is the antitype of the water of the Flood.”
According the Louw & Nida Greek Lexicon, “antitype” means, “pertaining to that which corresponds in form and structure to something else, either as an anticipation of a later reality or as a fulfillment of a prior type.” The use in 1 Peter 3:21 would clearly be in the sense of “a fulfillment of a prior type.” That is, the universal Flood of Noah, by which waters Noah and his family were separated from a sin-sick world, pointed forward to or prefigured the waters of baptism, by which waters people are separated from the sickness of sin. In this way, the relationship between type and antitype is that the antitype is the greater of the two. Since the antitype is the fulfillment of the type, naturally, the antitype would be greater than the type that it fulfills. That means that the cleansing power – the saving power – of baptism is greater than that of the universal Flood of Noah. The Flood was not the “once for all” solution to sin. The “once for all” solution to sin is baptism into Christ (cf. Heb. 9:12; 10:10; Rom. 6:3, 4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; et al). When we are buried with Christ in baptism (Col. 2:12), we are washed by His blood (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5). As we live for Christ every day, the blood that was contacted in baptism will continue to cleans us of every sin (1 John 1:7). Thus, Peter says that baptism in water for the remission of sins by the blood of Christ (cf. Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36) is the antitype to the type of Noah’s Flood.
The type – antitype relationship also involves similarities. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says, “a thing resembling another, its counterpart; something in the Messianic times which answers to the type … prefiguring it in the O. T. … as baptism corresponds to the deluge: 1 Pet. 3:21.” Both New Testament baptism and the Flood had water as the element. In both New Testament baptism and the Flood there is a separation from sin. In both New Testament baptism and the Flood, “salvation” occurs on the other side of the water. Noah and his family were not saved from the sin-sick world in which they lived prior to the Flood’s cleansing of that world. Likewise, we are not saved from sin prior to the cleansing of the baptismal waters. This is the type – antitype relationship between the Flood and New Testament baptism, “which now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21).
There are many resources available for you to use for a deeper study of your Bible. I would love the opportunity to study with you in person. If you would prefer material by mail, please contact me for a free Bible Correspondence Course. There is also a free online Bible study at NorthsideLaGrangeChurch.org. How ever I can help you in your study of God’s word, I am happy to do. Please contact me if I can be of help to you.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]