We do, of course, need to remember that when the word “baptism” refers to the water ritual, the writer is talking about baptism and not merely water. The word “baptism” in this sense is not even equivalent to the action of pouring water or dunking in water. We cannot reduce a wink to a blink, or a wave of the hand to a nervous twitch of the arm, or an execution by lethal injection to a murder…These actions are different because of the intentions and authorization of the actors. So also, baptism involves a particular use of water, a use authorized and commanded by Jesus Christ, and baptism is always done in connection with the word Therefore, the question is never “Can water do this?” but always “Can baptism do this?”
Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007) 32-33.