I have often been accused of overemphasizing the part water baptism plays in the salvation of an alien sinner. In view of what the Bible teaches, I do not see how this could be possible.
There are five passages in the New Testament which mention both baptism and salvation in the same verse. Here is the list -- see for yourself: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16 and 1 Peter 3:21. In every one of these passages, water baptism precedes salvation, the remission of sins or walking in the newness of life. Do you know of a single exception?
"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). This passage contains the conditions for salvation: faith and baptism. It also contains the conditions for damnation: a lack of faith. If anyone wants to know what to do to go to hell, have them read Mark 16:16 -- all that is necessary is a lack of faith. If they want to know what to do for salvation, have them read the same verse -- it tells them to believe and be baptized.
In Acts 2:38 Peter told a group of believers to "repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Our denominational friends often focus on the word "for" in this passage and insist it means "because of," even though it is never translated that way in the Bible. We have to remind them that if baptism is "because of" the remission of sins, then so is repentance. Baptism and repentance are joined by the little conjunction "and." Whatever baptism is "for," repentance is "for."
After we are buried with Christ in baptism, we are raised to walk in a newness of life (Romans 6:1-4). This new life comes after baptism. Many preachers who want to "bury" the "new man," since they claim the newness of life comes before our "burial."
Three days after the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus, Ananias told him to "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Many preachers today claim Saul was saved three days before Ananias met him. Ananias must not have known it, for he told Saul how to "wash away" his sins. If Saul had been saved on the road as some preachers claim, he must have been the most miserable saved man in the Bible. Saul was blind and spent three days praying and fasting until Ananias arrived.
1 Peter 3:21 plainly states baptism "now saves us." I realize that baptism alone is not the only thing necessary for salvation. Other requirements must be met, like faith, love and repentance. I do not know of anything "alone" that will save a sinner, not even faith (James 2:24).