We are saved by the Almighty’s mercy and grace, which is unearned lovingkindness, through faith [trust] in Him. We are not saved by any righteous works which we do:
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that salvation not of yourselves; it is the gift of ‘G-d,‘ 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Romans 3:27 “What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith. 28 Therefore do we reckon a man to be declared righteous by faith, apart from works of law.”
2 Timothy 1:8 “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our
Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for
the good news according to the power of
‘G-d,’ 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Messiah Yeshua [christ jesus] before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Messiah Yeshua [jesus christ], who has made powerless death and brought life and immortality to light through the good news, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, a sent one, and a teacher of the nations. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have trusted and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him until that Day.”
We must be born of water and Spirit:
John 3 verse 5 says unless one is born of water and the spirit, one can not enter the kingdom of heaven. This 'water' could refer to two other things besides the literal sprinkling of water on a person.
Some people use the following verse [John 3 verse 6] to say that the 'water' in verse 5 refers to the waters of birth.. like when a woman's water 'breaks.' The idea that it refers to the waters of physical birth in John 3 verse 6 comes from the phrase of one being born of 'flesh;' That is to say, physical birth. This is a more valid interpretation than to think it refers to a literal sprinkling of water on someone. Another valid interpretation is that He is referring to a spiritual cleansing when He uses the word 'water.' John 3 verse 10-11 seem to indicate that He expected the man to already know what He is talking about, since he is a 'teacher of Israel'... teachers of Israel should be knowledgeable of the testimony, that is, the Tanakh aka 'old' testament. Ezekiel 36 verse 25 speaks of the Almighty sprinkling 'clean water' on us, and cleansing us. We of course can not equate a mere man with the Almighty. So for any human [other than Messiah - Isaiah 9:6] to sprinkle us with clean water would not fulfill this prophecy. Also the word baptism means immersion, to be plunged into something; This word in Greek is bapto and baptizo, and in Hebrew it is tabal. The Hebrew and Greek word for sprinkle is totally different; Sprinkle in Hebrew is zaraq, and in Greek the word for sprinkle is rhantizo. So it is clear that the water in Ezekiel 36 verse 25 is not baptism.
Then verses 26-27 of Ezekiel 36 speak of the giving of a new heart and a new spirit, with the old heart being taken away. Verse 27 gives the results of this new birth. [See further: Psalm 51:9-10; Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 18:31-32] It is also interesting to note that the very next chapter after Messiah speaks of 'water and Spirit' He speaks of living water [John 4:10-15], and then just a few chapters later He says the Spirit is living water - in John chapter 7 verse 37 "Yeshua stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit.."
The Scriptures He was referring to in verse 38 are:
Jeremiah [Yeremi'yahu] 2:13 "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water."
Psalm [Tehilim] 36:8 "They shall be satisfied with the fatness of Your house; and You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures. 9 For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we shall see light. 10 O continue Your loving-kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the honest in heart."
Jeremiah [Yeremi'yahu] 17:13 "O YAHUEH, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed. 'Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken YAHUEH, the fountain of living waters."
Isaiah 44:3 [Yesha'yahu] "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring;"
Isaiah 55:1 [Yesha'yahu] "Oh! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
Isaiah 58:11 [Yesha'yahu] "YAHUEH will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."
These two Biblical interpretations of 'water and Spirit' [water referring to physical birth and inner spiritual cleansing] are much more consistent with the majority of passages which speak of salvation as being a free gift, not of works that we have done, but by His mercy and grace. Now we can know what Titus 3 verses 5-7 means when it says we are saved “through the washing of regeneration even the renewal of the Holy Spirit..” yet at the same time “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” These two statements agree because the washing of regeneration is not a physical outward work that we do, but a spiritual work of cleansing that the Holy Spirit does within us.
Titus 3:5 “..not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Messiah Yeshua our Savior, 7 that having been declared righteous by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Romans 11:6 "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work."
So why be baptized? Because Messiah us to, and because if we have been born again [and saved] then His Spirit will cause us to walk in His statutes, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them." - Ezekiel 36:27.
Matthew [Mattityahu] 28:18 "And Yeshua came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. 19 Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days unto to the consummation of the age. Amen.'"
The early believers kept this command as a result of being saved:
Acts 2:38 "Repent for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift which is the Holy Spirit; and let each of you be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua."
What is the purpose of water immersion aka 'baptism'?
It is to publicly identify us with Messiah Yeshua. It symbolically shows to other people what has already happened inside:
Romans 6:3 "Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Galatians 3:26 "For you are all sons of 'G-d' through faith in Messiah Yeshua. 27 For as many of you as were immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all united in Messiah Yeshua."
For this reason people were often baptized quickly after they were saved to show their conversion, as this example shows:
Acts 8:29 "And the Spirit said to Philip, Go near and join yourself to this chariot. 30 And running near Philip heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, Indeed, do you know what you are reading? 31 But he said, How should I be able except someone shall guide me? And he called Philip near, to come up to sit with him. 32 And the content of the Scripture which he was reading was this: 'He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb voiceless before the one shearing it, so He does not open His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His judgment was taken away. And who will recount His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth." [Isaiah 53:7-8] 34 And answering the eunuch said to Philip, I ask you, about whom does the prophet say this? About himself, or about some other one? 35 And opening his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, Philip proclaimed the good news to him - Yeshua. 36 And as they were going along the highway they came on some water. And the eunuch said, Behold, water! What prevents me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If you believe from all the heart, you may. And answering he said, I believe Messiah Yeshua to be the Son of 'G-d.' 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 But when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. And the eunuch did not see him any more; for he went his way rejoicing."
When some people where exalting water baptism higher than it was intended to be, Paul explained that water baptism is separate from the good news of Messiah Yeshua, [and it is by the good news of what He has done for us that we are saved, not by any good deed we do. Romans 1:16]:
1 Corinthians 1:14 "I thank 'G-d' that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Messiah did not send me to baptize, but to preach the good news, not with wisdom of words, lest the stake of Messiah should be made of no effect."
Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the good news of Messiah, for it is the power of 'G-d' to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of 'G-d' is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The righteous by faith will live.'"
Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, a prideful one! His soul is not right within him; but the righteous by his faith will live."
Isaiah [Yesha'yahu] 51:4 "Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation; for law [torah] shall go out from Me, and I will make My judgment to rest for a light of peoples. 5 My righteousness is near; My salvation [yeshah] has gone out, and My arm shall judge peoples; the coastlands shall wait on Me, and on My arm they shall trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall become old like a garment; and its inhabitants shall die in the same way. But My salvation [yeshuah] shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be broken. 7 Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My law [torah]; do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but My righteousness shall be forever, and My salvation [yeshuah] from generation to generation."