In general, the “Christian” world fully agrees that for salvation a person must:
1) Hear about Jesus of Nazareth
2) Believe that He lived, was crucified, raised from the dead and is Deity
3) Turn away from sinful actions of life, repent
4) Tell others about our faith in Jesus
5) Live a life that is an imitation of the life of Jesus
With regard to faithful living, most (influenced by Calvinism – once saved, always saved) would say that if a person lives a godless life, they were never saved in the first place.
But these same people would “scream from the roof tops” that if baptism is required for salvation, it is a meritorious work and voids the idea of salvation as a gift from God.
Let’s look at this proposition from the viewpoint of grammar.
1) Hearing is not just the sound entering the ears. Hearing in this meaning is intellectually accepting information from any source (audio or visual, etc.) and “pondering” over it to determine if it is true. This takes effort on the part of the hearer.
2) Believing is not just a passive action. This is especially true if a person was raised in a culture that denies Jesus. Having been raised in a Hindu, Moslem, other culture and with other beliefs would make it difficult for a person to deny previous beliefs and accept Jesus. One who believes there is no sin has a major barrier to accepting Jesus as their “personal savior”.
3) Turning away from a life of sin is not easy. It really doesn’t matter if the sin is “stealing candy from grandmother’s cookie jar” to living in open fornication and adultery. Murder, drunkenness – take your pick. Repentance takes effort on the part of the sinner.
4) Telling others about your faith in Jesus is not “easy”. Some people are very shy and must overcome their fear of telling anyone anything (either in public or private). Others may live in an area where a declaration of faith in Jesus may be life threatening (either from the government or other “civilians” around them).
5) Living a life that imitates Jesus is never easy. The life of Jesus is “against nature”. Just something as simple as “turning the other cheek” flies in the face of self preservation.
Many other examples could be found for each of these items. My idea here is only to present that each of these represents action on the part of the individual (mental or physical action).
In a very simplified way, baptism on the other hand represents passiveness on the part of the baptized.
A) Try to baptize someone who is twice your size and afraid of the water. Baptism requires the receiver to “passively submit” to being baptized by the other person.
B) Baptism, from the new testament scriptures, represents the believer submitting their life to God and the passive acceptance of their faith in the power of God to save and the willingness of God to accept the death of Jesus as payment for their sins.
If we list these items in the “usual” way and identify the grammatical nature of each element we find this “chart”
1) Hear Active
2) Believe Active
3) Repent Active
4) Confess Active
5) Be baptized Passive
6) Live faithfully Active
But the religious world in general says that all of the others are “required” either for or as a recognition of salvation but baptism “cannot be” required.
If you haven’t started “laughing out loud” at the foolishness of the world’s arguments, it is only because you recognize the power of the Devil in his condemning most of mankind to eternity separated from God. The Devil never wants us to “submit” to the Lord (James 4 : 7) because it destroys his power.