“when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
Now, the parallel must be drawn between the story of Noah’s salvation and salvation provided through baptism. “Baptism doth also now save” is an emphatic statement that must not be denied. Though denominations reject the concept of baptism being a part of a person’s initial salvation, Peter clearly states it is. Just as Noah and his family were saved by the water from the world that was perishing, so we are saved through baptism from the world that is now perishing. Just as Noah had to submit in humble obedience to God’s plan of salvation, so we must submit in humble obedience to God’s plan of salvation now.
Many today argue that baptism does not save. Peter boldly states that “baptism doth also now save.” Who should we believe: the inspired apostle Peter or a man who contradicts him? Paul answers this question in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Some people try to get around Peter’s statement that “baptism doth now save” by arguing that the baptism here referenced is a figure. According to Vines, the term “figure” means “a corresponding type”. (Vines, p.236) What is baptism a corresponding type to? Peter says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this,”; “this” is the story of Noah’s salvation from the flood. The literal act of water baptism corresponds to the literal act of Noah and his family being saved by water. Water did not save Noah and his family; God saved Noah and his family by water. Water does not now save men; God saves men through water (baptism).
Peter goes on to say that baptism is, “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” (KJV) The word “answer” in this passage literally means “appeal” and does not support the idea that baptism is the result of a good conscience toward God as Calvinists would teach. The ESV renders the passage correctly and clearly by translating it, “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Baptism is how one appeals to God for a clean conscience, not the resulting action of a clean conscience.
In summary, “baptism doth also now save us” and is “an appeal to God for a clean conscience.” Is baptism necessary for salvation? Absolutely.