Protestant distortion of 1 Peter 3:20-22


A common verse that i like to quote to protestants is 1 Peter 3:20-22 which directly says that baptism saves you

“Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

protestants however will somtimes respond with:

“the filth of the flesh is a direct reference to sin. What we do see is that baptism is our answer to God, to show that we have been saved.”

They say “see it says right in the next verse that baptsim cannot put away sin (filth of the flesh).”

obviously i’d dissagree with their interpretation. I would say that “filth of the flesh” is a reference to literal unclenlyness and that what peter was saying is that baptism is more than just a physical washing with water but that it has an interior effect on the person.

Any one else have some advice on how to counter thsi protestant distortion


A more up-to-date and better translation shoots down the Protestant interpretation you cited:

1 Peter 3:[20] who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
[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 clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
[22] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.


Check the Greek text here.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the verse from Protestant Bibles.


they guy is a “KJV onlyist” so he only accepts the kjv translation


Here is the KJV wording:
not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God

Getting a good conscience toward God means getting rid of sin, right? So if your KJV-only friend thinks “filth of the flesh” is a reference to sin, then he must understand the passage to read:
not the putting away of sin, but the putting away of sin.

His understanding makes no sense. Peter’s contrast becomes redundant.


Along with MarcoPolo’s fine response, you might advise him to look into word usage at the time the KJV was translated. He’s putting a modern spin on an Elizabethan expression people no longer use. This serves his purpose, but it’s not getting at the truth. So, you may want to ask him which is more important: making his interpretation seem right or actually being right.


I can see a big problem occurring already in that your friend will try to retort that “Catholics claim that Baptism guarantees salvation,” which the Catholic Church does not and never has taught. When using the word, “save,” “saves” or “saved,” with a Protestant, you must realize that they have a VERY different understanding of the entire concept of salvation, and the meaning of those terms. Many Protestants believe that “saved” is a result of a one-time event of “accepting Christ,” and will therefore associate THEIR twisted and distorted meaning of the term with what you(and St. Peter) are claiming about Baptism.
In other words, no offense, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree, if you will, by using 1 Peter 3:20-22 as a proof text, because you will essentially be speaking two different languages on that verse, when talking to a Protestant. I would instead recommend, if your goal is to prove that Baptism is regenerative, you should use Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, and Acts 11:16. All those verses make a distinction between the Baptism that John the Baptist was doing, and the Sacrament of Baptism that Jesus Christ initiated, as recorded in Matthew 28:19. Many (but not all) Protestant denominations have resorted back to the Baptism of John, denying The Holy Spirit’s role in the Sacrament. You may then follow up with a question and ask your Protestant friend, “What is the difference between the Baptism that John the Baptist was performing, and the Baptism that your church is performing?” If your friend fails to provide an answer, then you can explain to him/her what the difference is between the Baptism of John, and the Baptism that Jesus Christ initiated, which is what the Catholic Church follows as a Sacrament. You have the six proof text Scriptures I listed above to show that there IS in fact a difference. If your friend belongs to a church that claims, “Baptism is merely an outward sign of an inward commitment,” then you can point out to your friend that his/her church has gone back to John’s Baptism. If his/her church goes one step further and attacks Catholic Baptism, then you can respond saying that his/her church not only rejects a commandment that comes directly from Jesus Christ(Matthew 28:19), but disdains it as well.


The most important point Frank makes is regarding the language differences. there are many biblical texts for vertually every Dogma. It is extremely important at the beginning of any serious discussion with Protestants that both or all of you make it clear how you define certain terms, such as “saved” and “redemption”, etc. Even if you agree that you do not accept each other difinitions,you can at least be clear as to what it is you are actually saying to each other when you use these words.


1 Peter 3:20-22 offers a powerful message. Baptism now saves you. It is a promise you can trust will be kept.

Baptism now saves you “as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10


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