Can water wash away sins, forgive sins?
If baptism saves, that would be the first thing we would have to do, not believe, but do. We would be told to believe in our baptism, then Jesus could not be the savior but our act of immersion would be saving us.
Throughout the New Testament, we find Jesus during his ministry forgiving one's sins without baptism (Mark 2 for example). Baptism is only connected to the forgiveness of sins is because it serves as the external statement of the real internal experience; thus it is a seal of the covenant we made through faith.
Nowhere did Jesus insist that one be baptized for salvation after or during their faith (I’m aware that some use Jn.3 for this).
Some Baptismal regenerationists argue if a person believes that he was saved before his baptism and is baptized not realizing that this is actually the purpose for their baptism (Acts 2:38 baptized in order to receive remission). Then their sins are not really forgiven. However, if the Bible teaches that one is saved by faith without baptism, or any other work, (yes baptism is a work). Then if one believes their baptism saved them they are involved with another gospel. When someone trusts in their own deeds or a ceremony, such as baptism, for salvation they will not be saved because they have not used the conduit that God has given. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). Those who believe on his sacrifice have his righteousness imputed to us to counter the effects of sin.
Titus 3:5-6 “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior”
Not by works of righteousness” We all agree baptism is a righteous work, just as any command is. Peter states baptism “It is not the removal of the filth of the flesh” (1 Pt.3:21).
Is our debt paid by water, or by the very life of the savior that was poured out by his blood on the altar (the cross, his crucifixion)? How can baptism be associated with Christ’s work when we are doing something that is a ritual, a physical work? Faith for salvation is not ritualistic, it is an issue of the heart from which we respond. This gives us all equal standing.
We are told to stand in the gospel and not be removed. What removes us is a lack of trust, one of those ways is that we depend on works or anything instead of Christ. I Jn 4:9-10 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The focus is the Son and His work, the way is by faith only.
Baptism ALWAYS follows believing. How could we have our sins forgiven by baptism if we already believed they were forgiven by faith? Do we get this forgiveness twice? These two activities are diametrically opposed. If it is by faith then baptism cannot wash away sins. If it is by baptism then Faith by itself does not save, it becomes faith plus a human work. The Bible disagrees unequivocally stating in Eph.2:8 we are NOT saved by works.
This is how important this is to those who believe the necessity of baptism in the gospel? They have a need to understand what the covenant is and what the seal of the covenant is.
Paul's theology did not allow for any ability from water to save a soul. He made a distinction between baptism and preaching the Gospel.
1 Cor. 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” (Col 1:28 Him we preach)
Rom. 10:15-17 As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
When saying that baptism is not ‘necessary’ for salvation, it does not mean a Christian does not need to be baptized. Faith has us obey - all Christians should be baptized, just as all Christians should read their Bible, pray and witness. But none of these save us. If water baptism is essential to salvation, then all who are unbaptized are still in their sins and lost by believing the gospel. This would include the thief on the cross who repented.
Faith is what saves a soul, it is continually exercised after salvation. Baptism is a one time work.
Where are we told to be baptized to have eternal life? Or, unless you are baptized you will die in your sins?
Does Jn.3:16 say whosoever is baptized will have eternal life, or whosoever believes? Why be baptized unless you believe? And one does not believe unless they have heard the gospel of salvation. And the gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, therefore with this biblical precedent baptism can’t be included as the gospel not transfer any benefit that one gets from believing
Baptism is not a saving sacrament but a symbol of what does save; namely the death and burial of Jesus - which alone is called the gospel of grace.