Is Baptism essential for salvation? Acts 2:38 says And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It appears that Peter is saying that forgiveness is based on baptism. IF that were the case, then Peter’s next message would have included baptism. Acts 3 records his next message and there is no mention of baptism: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Throughout the book of Acts salvation is presented as based on repentance and faith, Acts 2:21; 10:43; 13:38-39; 15:9; 16:31 & 20:21-22.
It is clear from reading Paul’s full explanation of “the Gospel” to the church in Rome that baptism is not essential for salvation. In reading the book of Romans, baptism is only mentioned in chapter 6 in reference to being “baptized” into Christ. The word “baptize” means to immerse or place within.
What about 1 Peter 3:21? It says, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” What does this mean? The context says, corresponding to that, there is a “type” or “pattern” that the waters of the flood in Noah’s day is corresponding to baptism in the New Testament. The waters of Noah’s days did not “save” Noah and his family! The waters gave evidence that Noah and his family were saved!!
Submersion under water represents death. In the Old and New Testaments, water was judgment and an agent of death. We are rescued from death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why we read, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” in 1 Peter 3:21
Baptism does not contain an inherent saving power. The saving power is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is symbolized in baptism. Peter clarified this when he said, baptism is not “the removal of dirt from the body.” Baptism does not remove the moral filth or sin from our flesh.
Baptism is a pledge as stated in this passage – And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — … but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, NASB The word appeal means an inquiry, a question. It is the answer to the question in a business contract, “Do you accept the terms of this contract and bind yourself to observe them?” The answer was “YES” and that is called “an appeal.”
Salvation is based on the work of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God (the finished work of Christ on the cross), and the repentance & faith of individuals.