Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,1 Peter 3:21(NASB)
This verse has caused much controversy and is used as a proof-text that 'water baptism' is necessary for salvation, but that is not what this verse teaches.
Baptismal regeneration is unbiblical, and when this verse is read in its correct context and in conjunction with every other passage on salvation, the 'baptism' that saves is clearly Christ’s 'baptism unto death'.
When a thorough examination of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) is undertaken, the meaning of 'baptism' is clarified, an understanding of types and their antitypes is appreciated, confusion is checked, and the meaning of this verse become clear.
This verse confuses 'water baptism' with 'spirit baptism', because it is transliterated from the Greek word 'baptizo' and not a true translation. In addition, the true meaning of the word has been altered over time. It also confuses a biblical 'type' with its 'antitype'. Noah being saved from the water because he was in the ARK (the TYPE) prefigures Christians being saved from judgement because we are IN CHRIST (the antitype).
Noah was not saved BY the water. He and his family were saved THROUGH the flood waters of God's judgement which was being poured out on a God-hating evil world. Noah was saved from the peril of the water by being in the ark. Christians are not saved BY baptism. It is not the baptism that redeems a sinner. (Neither water baptism nor spirit baptism saves us - but faith in Christ). However, spirit baptism is the immediate RESULT of faith in Christ and water baptism is the outward sign of the inner change of a redeemed life.
Noah was not saved by the water. He was saved from the peril of the water by being in the ark. Christians are not saved by baptism. It is not the baptism that saves (neither water baptism nor spiritual baptism). We are saved from the peril of God's judgement by being in Christ.
We are saved by faith in Christ and are 'baptised' (placed into) the Body of Christ the moment we are saved. The meaning of 'baptizo' is 'placed into' but the transliteration of the Greek 'baptizo' to 'baptism' has incorrectly become associated with water baptism. It is because we are positioned in Christ and members of His spiritual Body, that HIS death became our death - death to the old self. And His Resurrection became our resurrection - a new life in Christ and a member of God's new creation.
Never forget that we are justified by faith and not by being baptised. But because we are justified we are immediately baptised in the spirit, which gives us a good conscience before God. God declares us righteous because of our faith in Christ and we are placed in Christ the moment we are saved by grace through faith in Him.
Faith in Christ saves us from God's righteous judgement and His baptism unto death becomes our death - NOT the removal of the filth of the flesh for the forgiveness of sin, which we received by faith in Christ, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who is our righteousness.
The reference to 'the baptism… which now saves us' in this verse, is not implying that 'water baptism' or 'spirit baptism' is the means of salvation. Spirit baptism is the result of faith in Christ while water baptism is a illustrative picture of the inner cleansing of the heart at salvation. When a man or woman turns from their sins to Christ and is cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word of God, the result is a good conscience before the Lord.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful truth that because I am IN Christ I have been saved from the fierce 'baptism of fire', which is reserved for those who do not believe in the only begotten Son of God. Thank You for the illustration of Noah who remained safe IN the ark from the destructive flood-waters of judgement and that I have been 'baptised into Christ’s Body' by the power of the Spirit and am identified with His death, burial, and Resurrection. Thank You that His death became MY death and His burial became MY burial and that through Christ’s Resurrection, I have a received a good conscience before God. May I walk daily in newness of life for Your honour and glory. This I ask in Jesus’ name, AMEN.