Many denominational people oppose the idea that baptism is an essential condition for the remission of past sins. One of the misconceptions leading to this erroneous conclusion is this. It is argued that the New Testament plainly teaches that we are not saved by works. But, baptism is a work. Therefore, baptism can have nothing to do with our salvation. This is a most fallacious argument.
It is a fact, of course, that the Bible does deny that man is saved by works of human merit (Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5). That does not mean, however, that all works of every kind are excluded from the salvation process.
There are, for instance, works which are denominated as “works of God,” i.e., works which God has prescribed, which are clearly included in the plan of redemption. One of these is believing. Jesus declared: “This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). The expression “work of God” denotes “the works required and approved by God” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 248).
Similarly, baptism is not a work of human merit; rather, it is an act that has been commanded by God (Acts 10:48), “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38), and the “resurrection” effected in that ritual (which is unto life — Romans 6:4) is a “working of God,” and not one of human ingenuity.
It is crassly wicked to pervert a divinely given obligation by suggesting that it is a work of human merit. In Colossians 2:12, underline the expression “working of God,” and record this notation: Salvation through baptism a working of God; not a work of human merit.
Incidentally, this additional comment is appropriate. If baptism is a mere work of human righteousness, then it is excluded from the divine plan of redemption. If such is the case, then those who submit to it, believing that it brings remission of sins, are trusting in a human work rather than the Savior, and thus they cannot be saved. Those who oppose baptism for the remission of sins cannot legitimately claim: “We believe that you are wrong on this issue, but nonetheless we accept you as brothers in Christ.” That position is not consistent.