Well, that (which comes from the NIV) is actually an even worse translation and distortion of the text of Scripture. The main clause of the sentence of 1 Peter 3:21 is “Baptism now saves you.” That’s precisely what the text says, not a symbolic salvation, but a real salvation. A better translation may be rendered: “Baptism, which corresponds to this [that is the flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Yes indeed, you are saved apart from anything you do in life. Even “not rejecting God” is not a work anyone can claim… but that’s not the point either. If someone says “what confidence do you have that you will be saved?” An appropriate response is “I am baptized into Christ.” This is the language faith speaks. It trusts in the promise that God makes and the salvation that God accomplishes alone without anything that you or I do.
Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
Messiah Lutheran Church
La Crescent, MN