I have a question concerning 1 Peter 3:21. The NIV reads "the pledge of a good conscience," whereas the NASB translates "an appeal to God for a good conscience," and the NKJV, "the answer of a good conscience toward God." Some of my commentaries agree that the proper translation is an appeal, asking God for a good conscience, but others say the answer refers to a person's ability to answer a question in good conscience, followed by the act of baptism. What's the true meaning of this verse? -- Zach

The translation tends to reflect the theology of the translators, even though this should not be the case. Eperotema in Greek can conceivably mean all the above, but not all at the same time! It seems unlikely Peter would teach that baptism is asking God for cleansing and telling God, in effect, "Now that I am cleansed, I pledge to keep my conscience pure."

Why don't we let Peter interpret the passage? When the great apostle taught on this subject at Pentecost (Acts 2:38), he could not have been any clearer that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. The best translation is an appeal. (The NIV has erred, and merely reflects the dominant faith-alone or sinner's-prayer theology of the translators.)

In baptism we are asking the Lord for forgiveness. This interpretation agrees not only with the other N.T. verses on baptism, but with the unanimous testimony of the early church.

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