To say that baptism is essential to salvation does not contradict the truth that we are saved by grace (Titus 3:4-7).
We can never earn our salvation. Baptism is a condition of salvation (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
A remarkable parallel
Dipping seven times in the Jordan was a condition for Naaman to be cleansed of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Could he expect a cure without going to the water?
Was there something about Jordan River water that cleansed leprosy? No, Naaman was healed on the condition of his obedience. Cleansed by the grace of God, he had nothing to boast about.
Water cannot wash away sins; Christ’s blood does. When? At the moment we are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2:12-13).
Praise be to God for His marvelous grace!
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