I have always believed baptism did something. This in spite of the fact I grew up in the ‘Assemblies of God’ church which holds to an anti-sacramental view. For them baptism is merely an expression of one’s “salvation”. As a child I was ignorant of this view because, perhaps since they didn’t believe baptism did anything, they didn’t get around to talking about it.
My own view was the result of my reading of scripture. It’s rather clear to me from reading the New Testament that baptism is important. The only way to get around all those passages which speak about baptism in connection with conversion and a transformation of life (salvation) is to spiritualize them. This reduces baptism to a metaphor for spiritual conversion.
In contrast the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman Church (in chapter 6) teaches that in baptism we are joined to the death and resurrection of Christ. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:” (Rom 6:4,5) I like the use of ‘planted’ here. More modern translations use ‘joined’ or ‘united’ but that misses out on the imagery of seeds being buried and bursting forth from the ground with new life. (see John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.“)
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:” (Rom 6:6,7,8) On the supernatural level baptism alters the individual. It initializes the transformation of the person into the image of Christ. A new life. Not in name only but in reality. It imparts to the individual the divine nature, the life of Christ within. This reality is being missed out on by those who do not grasp it. This is a sacramental and incarnational point of view. Christ took on our human nature so that we can take on his divine nature. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20).
In the Old Testament God saves the Israelites by bringing them through the waters of the red sea, which was death for the Egyptians. God saves by transforming the instruments of death (ultimately the cross) into instruments of life. God saves Noah by passing him through the great flood, a flood which which was for the world death . The Apostle Peter tells us that the flood of Noah was a type, a foreshadowing of baptism, “Wherein a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water. This corresponds to baptism which now saves YOU” (1 Pet 3:20,21) AWEsome.