I have heard many Protestants say that "baptism is not necessary for salvation". They follow Paul I guess, who says all works including Baptism or circumcision are optional. But having read the following I am not sure how Protestants justify not doing baptism.
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Great commission was given to baptise disciples in all the nations:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
"It is not possible to receive forgiveness of sins without baptism" (Exhortation to the Martyrs 30 [A.D. 235]).
"‘I have heard, sir,’ said I [to the Shepherd], ‘from some teacher, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins.’ He said to me, ‘You have heard rightly, for so it is’" (The Shepherd 4:3:1–2 [A.D. 80]).
"Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none" (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203])
"Perhaps someone will ask, ‘What does it conduce unto piety to be baptized?’ In the first place, that you may do what has seemed good to God; in the next place, being born again by water unto God so that you change your first birth, which was from concupiscence, and are able to attain salvation, which would otherwise be impossible. For thus the [prophet] has sworn to us: ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you are born again with living water, into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ Therefore, fly to the water, for this alone can extinguish the fire. He who will not come to the water still carries around with him the spirit of insanity for the sake of which he will not come to the living water for his own salvation" (Homilies11:26 [A.D. 217]).
Even Martin Luther affirmed the necessity of Baptism
"Baptism is no human plaything but is instituted by God himself. Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. We are not to regard it as an indifferent matter, then, like putting on a new red coat. It is of the greatest importance that we regard baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted."
Large Catechism 4:6
So it baffles me how many Protestants teach that it is not necessary for salvation. How would they address the above? What is their biblical basis for this belief?
It seems to me that many people accept the free gift of Jesus on the cross because they do not want to go to hell. Even though they may have some doubts, they choose to believe and become Christians because the stakes are so high. Protestants exhort them not to trust in universalism but in fact repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness in order to get saved. Similarly, then, wouldn't the same arguments apply to baptism? Where is the difference? The same Church fathers and universal traditions in the first few centuries they use to establish the trustworthiness of the books in their canon also affirms the necessity of baptism. And yet they confidently tell people it's totally optional?