Probably no other topic has been debated so frequently as the topic of baptism. Many try to argue that baptism is a work and therefore is not required for salvation. They use this passage to supposedly support their claim; “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). What does this passage really say?
First of all, it says that we are saved by grace. Let there be no doubt about it. We are saved by grace. Grace is simply God’s unmerited favor. Even though we are sinners, God still has favor on us and wants us to be saved; “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). It is true that no amount of works can save us. Grace saves us.
However, the verse says that we are saved by grace through faith. This is where many people misapply the verse. Faith requires works or it is dead, “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). In order for God’s grace to be applied to us, we must have faith. For us to be able to say that we have true, Biblical faith, we must have works. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).
There is one more thing that I would like to point out. If you really think about it, baptism is the only part of the plan of salvation that is not a work. To believe in God takes mental activity which is a work, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29). Repenting is a work because you have to stop doing bad things. Confessing with your mouth that you believe Jesus is the Son of God is a physical act. However, when you come to baptism, the one being baptized does not have to do anything. Baptism is something that is done to them. They are immersed in water by another individual.
-- Ralph Price - 2001 --