So, if baptism saves, is it true that one is not saved until they are baptized? Read these verses and notice the qualifications and the tenses.
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (Romans 10:9)
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:5)
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, (2 Timothy 1:9)
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5)
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Is salvation something one receives only after they “endure to the end?” Or are they saved before then? Is one saved when they believed? Is salvation future? Is one saved before they confess that Jesus is Lord, after, or is that not even enough? Are Christians already saved, will be saved, or being saved? Are believers already saved or simply able to be saved?
This is a lot of questions, but there's more.
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9)
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (Romans 13:11)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12)
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:28)
who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, (1 Peter 2:2)
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10)
Has salvation come for some who believe but not for others? Is salvation near or already here? How exactly does one work out their salvation? Aren't those people already baptized? If baptism/ faith/ repentance/ whatever saves, then why is salvation a hope? Some who are chosen/ elect aren't saved yet? What is that about? Does salvation happen at belief, baptism, or the second coming? Is salvation something one grows in respect towards? It's not a one-time event?
What is the solution to all this? Well, some people throw their hands up into the air and say “already-but-not-yet” to answer this question. That really doesn't mean anything to a lot of people though. Some may even look at it as Schrödinger's salvation instead of Schrödinger's cat. The best way I can explain it, however, is by looking at a statement of Jesus found in Matthew 6 and Matthew 16, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Or another way I sometimes explain this is with the phrase “perception versus reality” or “subjective versus objective reality.” What may be objectively true, such as when one is in Christ, they have all spiritual blessings, may not be subjectively true. That is, one may not always be aware of the blessings they have. So, in that sense, salvation for each person is past, present, ongoing, and future because as you grow, you learn more about the deliverance you've been given.
Is one saved at the point of baptism? Is one only saved once they work out their salvation? Is one saved at the point of faith? Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. (Acts 16:31). Is that just as true as the passages about baptism, growing, the second appearing, the last time, the coming of the kingdom, etc.? Yes. Because salvation isn't binary. It is an ongoing process unique to the individual in that we all learn and grow at different rates.
So, to throw out 1 Peter 3:21 and say, “It is baptism that saves” really doesn't do much. Because of course it does. And, of course, one is saved at the point of faith. And, of course, one isn't through being saved at baptism. It is an ongoing process that one grows up into as they discover who the Divine really is. Salvation isn't binary (in/ out). Salvation is more like out > in > more in > more in > and on and on.