We’ve been talking about becoming a Christian and made the point that God has always required some act of obedience on the part of those whom He blessed. Noah had to build an ark, for example. In all cases, this pattern holds. Because Noah built the ark, did he earn his salvation? No. He merely responded in faith to the blessing God had offered.
What about today? Does God require anything of us in response to the gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus? According to the pattern, yes; and that act is baptism, immersion in water. Many protest that this act is a work to earn salvation; but again, we do not earn salvation because we are immersed. We are merely responding in faith. By the way, Jesus says in John 6:28-29 that our very faith is a work. But does the fact that we have faith earn our salvation? No. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation from God. But there is something He requires of us in obedience to His offer of salvation.
In 1 Peter 3:20-21, Peter says that Noah and his family were saved through water and then corresponds that to our baptism which, he says, “now saves us.” It is hard to get around this statement, though many try.
Does God have the right to ask something of us in response to His offer of salvation? Absolutely. He sets the terms; and just as he tested Abraham’s faith in sacrificing Isaac, He wants to see our faith act. A faith that acts is what James 2:14-26 is all about. James makes the point that faith without works is dead. Hebrews 11 is all about those who acted through faith. Their faith made them respond to God in the way He required. Abraham left Ur of Chaldees, Moses forsook Egypt, and Rahab received the spies. None of these people responded by simply saying they believed God. They acted. Jesus says in Mark 16:16a, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Some will cry foul because that is only half the verse, but friend, tell me how does anything change this sentence which stands alone?