The links between baptism and the salvation of the soul are many and certainly not relegated to just a verse or two of the Bible. Jesus taught that to be saved one needed to believe and be baptized (Mark 16.16). Sins cause us to be lost (Rom. 6.23) but baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2.38). Baptism gives us entrance into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12.13) and Jesus is the Savior of the body (Eph. 5.23). Faith and baptism enables us to become God’s children (Gal. 3.26-27) and is the process of becoming a new creature (Rom. 6.1-6). I Peter 3.21 clearly states that baptism saves us. So what’s the problem?
We cannot earn salvation. No, of course not! It is the gift of God. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2.8). Saving faith, however, throughout the Bible, is an obedient faith (Heb. 5.8-9). It’s not that we have earned our salvation when we obeyed, but that, upon our faithful obedience God saved us by his grace. No one can say to God upon their baptism; Alright God, you owe me now. I’ve earned salvation. I deserve it! That would be ridiculous. It is just as absurd, however, to conclude that because God saves me by his grace; that means he doesn’t place any requirements on his gift! The grace of God that brings salvation has been made available to all men, but all men will not be saved because all men will not obey!
Those who claim baptism is not essential to salvation because baptism is a work are generally not consistent. They often teach that you have to pray. You have to repent. You have to make the good confession. Now wait a minute, is it faith only or not? Do you have to do something more than just believe? Remember, the demons believe (James 2.19) and that does not save them.