A dear friend and brother says that a person will be saved when a person believes and get baptized (Mark 16:16), even if he thinks he was saved before the act of baptism. He thinks it is good that a person understand the reason for baptism, but can see nowhere in the Bible where it says that we need a understanding of what happens in the baptism. I have tried to share what I believe and pointed out some verses for him like John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Titus 3:4-8, and 1 Peter 3:20-21, but he wants me to give him a verse that shows that a person must understand that baptism is the point of salvation. I have told him that it is of course not the understanding that saves, but faith in Christ Jesus, but I have a hard time reaching him... I think my friend is missing something very important here, and I need help to reach him. -- Bente (Oslo)
When I teach, I try to distinguish between clear scriptural principles and commands, on the one hand, and human inferences, on the other. I agree with your position. But I also agree with your friend, in that the Bible does not explicitly require a full understanding. Colossians 2:12 may be the clearest passage we have: "through faith in the power of God." But of course there is more than one way to take interpret this; faith in the power of God to forgive through baptism, or faith in the power of God to save us? As for Acts 2:38, is the purpose of baptism part of the command, or not? That passage too has less information than we need to make a definitive statement about the need for full understanding.
Summing up, the Bible explicitly states the purpose of baptism, even though most churches reject this. There are only a handful of Christian groups in the world who teach that baptism is part of God's plan for salvation. How unfortunate!
I will continue to teach baptism, and also do my best to help others to grasp the why. And I appreciate that you will continue to do the same. Yet as for fully understanding how baptism "works," the Bible does not speak explicitly about that. Should we teach that this is preferable, but not scripturally required? There are a few logical pitfalls to such a view, which I will not explore at this time. Most people will come to biblical conclusions if they are open-minded and patiently study the relevant passages.
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