What is the importance and significance of baptism in salvation? -- A.H.
Please search the website first, then send many any lingering questions. I have written a lot about baptism. I'll be looking for your next email.
I see that scripture makes it clear that it is essential to salvation. My whole life (until recently), I was taught that baptism is an "outer display of an inner commitment." Why has that non-scriptural viewpoint become so popular? -- A.H.
The history of how all this changed is not too hard to trace. First 200 years -- Christian baptism is very straightforward. Around 200 AD, some babies are immersed. By 400 -- infant baptism is broadly accepted, though adults joining Christianity were immersed. 1500 -- Reformation reconsiders the role of faith, though the Creeds still affirm the essentiality of baptism. For example, check out the Nicene Creed and its phrase "baptism for the remission/forgiveness of sins."
You may appreciate the article on the Sinner's Prayer by Steve Staten, which is also be at this website. Nearly all churches considered baptism essential for salvation until sometime after the Reformation. Consider this: the most famous Baptist preacher of all time, Charles Spurgeon said in his lesson He that Believes and is Baptized shall be Saved, “What do you mean by ‘nonessential’? ‘I mean that I can be saved without being baptized.’ Will you dare to say that wicked sentence over again?" (London, October 13, 1889).
As for the Sinner's Prayer (which I was taught when I was first getting involved in Christianity), this did not appear on the scene until about 1835. Popular -- because it is easy and it seems to work. And you know how powerful traditions can be!