Once I was watching a video from a prominent baptist preacher of southern Los Angles. He stated that he had been getting questions about baptism due to a recent sermon on salvation. As he began to conclude, he posed a question I had never thought about before: "Why wouldn't you want to be baptized?" It's a great question and one that has long crossed my mind when talking to people who are against the practice.
For a moment, let's go back and talk about the purpose of baptism and examine why those who disagree may need to reconsider their position. We find John the Baptist in the wilderness near the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance. Many were gathered, listening to John, and were getting baptized. A few verses later, we find Jesus looming among the crowd, as John favorably talks about him, stating, "I baptized with water, but there is one who comes after me who baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3).
As you read these passages, you will notice that there is no comment from Jewish leaders or subjects who find this practice strange or unprecedented. A quick search on the practice of baptism in the Jewish religion would tell you that it was not uncommon for Jewish people in the first century to "wash" or immerse themselves in cleansing pools before entering the temple. Years ago, while excavating around what used to be Herod's temple were Jewish immersion pools--around 250 total.
After Jesus' resurrection, when speaking to the disciples in Galilee, before he ascended, he gave the disciples a commission that included immersing (Matthew 28:19-20). At the beginning of the book of Acts, after the apostles received the holy spirit in the upper room, Peter preached a sermon that concluded with repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:36-38).
Some would contend that baptism is work, but we could also argue from scripture that baptism is, in fact, an act of faith. When we closely examine the word "faith," we find that what drives action is faith, belief, and trust, in God to do what you cannot do for yourself. James writes a letter to the Jews in the mid-first century explaining how faith works, not out of a sense of obligation but trust and belief. Two illustrations of prominent Jewish figures, one a renowned pioneer of the faith, the other a prostitute (James 2:14-26). He goes on to explain both the result and the reward of trust and belief are that God can do what he promises.
From the scriptures, I believe we can gather, logically, that baptism/immersion is essential for salvation, but the question we must pose to those in denial of its power and promise is, "why wouldn't you want to be baptized?" - Francis Chan.
If Jesus did it, why wouldn't it be necessary?