Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
Physical baptism saves no one. It is merely a picture – of death. Indeed, death cannot save anyone because it is DEATH. Only resurrection can save people from OUT of death. When Jesus said we must, “be born of water and of the Spirit,” He was telling us that we must die and be raised if we want to be born from above.
But in what sense? Paul says that we were baptized into the death of CHRIST – he says that this means we were planted into the likeness of His death. He then says that we were raised IN Christ, i.e., planted into the likeness of His resurrection. Note the ONENESS with Christ. Being baptized or planted INTO Christ is different than simply being baptized BECAUSE of Christ. We are actually, “joined to the Lord,” and now, “one spirit with Him.” (I Cor. 6:17)
This is the new birth from above – we have been birthed OUT of the Adam race through baptism into the death of Christ. And we have been birthed INTO the new race by being raised in Christ. We are born again from above as a new creature in Christ Jesus. This results in, “Christ in you,” which is the core definition of Christianity.
If we had no other teaching at all on this matter, it would certainly show that salvation is not a new religion, or merely new conduct, or a restoration of the old life. Salvation is a renunciation of the old life through the Cross – baptism into the death of Christ – and a birth from above unto new life through resurrection in Christ. We are not merely given a new life – Christ IS our life and our salvation because we are forever joined to Him.