I have used several illustrations, especially for showing that the MEANS of bringing something about is not the same as the TIME when it happens. My favorite is the simple process of getting light out of a lamp. Here we can distinguish three things, all of which are “conditions.” First, the SOURCE of the light is the electric power that comes through the wiring of the house. Second, the MEANS of transferring this power to the lamp is the insertion of the lamp’s plug into a socket. Third, the TIME when the light actually comes on is when you flip the switch on the wall (or on the lamp). As applied to salvation, the source is grace; the means is faith; and the time is baptism.
Another illustration is the happy occasion of eating lunch in a nearby restaurant. The SOURCE of the food is the Cracker Barrel (e.g.) down the road. The MEANS of transferring the food from the Cracker Barrel to your stomach is the gift card some kind soul gave you for Christmas. The TIME when the food fills your tummy is when you visit the restaurant and eat the meal. It is quite obvious that you do not receive the food just because (or just as soon as) you have the gift card in your possession. You have to take your gift card to the place where the food is served.
A similar illustration is actually seeing the Super Bowl live! You may have a ticket to the game in your hand; the ticket is your MEANS for seeing the game, but you do not see it AS SOON AS you have the ticket. You have to go the place where the game is played, at the TIME when it is played.
In these illustrations, the “means” transfers the desired effect (light, food, visual experience) into your life, but not AS SOON AS the means alone is present. Even if the lamp is plugged in, the light does not come on until the switch is flipped. Even if you have the gift card in your hand (free food!), you do not actually have the food until you go to the place where it is served. The same is true of the Super Bowl ticket. These are simply examples of our common distinction between a “necessary” condition and a “sufficient” condition. Something can be the former without being the latter.
As applied to salvation, the point is that the phrase “BY faith” is simply NOT the same thing as “AS SOON AS faith appears.” The means and the time are not the same thing, and they do not necessarily occur simultaneously. This is clearly seen in Colossians 2:12, which says the sinner is “raised up,” i.e., regenerated (see v. 13), “through faith in the working of God”; but this happens specifically “in baptism.” This is what the text says! Both faith and baptism are conditions for salvation, but not the same kind of condition. Faith is the means by which we receive saving grace (“by faith”), while baptism is the time during which we receive it (“in baptism”).