That “Outward Sign of an Inward Grace”

“An outward sign of an inward grace” is not in the Bible and not from the Bible. What does “an outward sign of an inward grace” mean? How does someone come to this conclusion? This phrase is usually used to console the consciences of others by defining baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace that was already given.

More Than a Sign

Baptism is not just a sign or pattern of the Gospel. Baptism partakes of the reality signified in the Gospel — Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. This is the Gospel that saves (1 Cor 15:1–4; cf. Rom 6:3–6; Col 2:12–13).Baptism is a command of Christ, “While going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matt 28:19) and “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Which baptism is this? Baptism in the name of the Lord is water immersion (Acts 10:47-48). The believer washes away sins at baptism (Acts 22:16). God forgives sins at baptism (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the exact moment that one goes from self-condemned to God’s forgiveness. Baptism is a passive act where God saves and not for one to saves oneself by any works. This baptism is an act of subordination.

Baptism in Jesus’s Name

Is there anything special about the water or the one baptizing? No. However, there is something special and vital about Jesus’s name and His command for the believer to be baptized in His name. A person does work forgiveness of one’s sin as though baptism is a work. In baptism, Christ saves, “…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25–27). Paul expressed, “He [Christ] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9).

Being saved by grace and not by works is not contrary to submitting to Christ in baptism. Baptism is not an individual’s own work since one does not baptize oneself and baptism is from God. Therefore, these Scriptures present that baptism is the point at which Christ cleanses believers of their sins and makes them without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. If what is referred to as an inward grace is the forgiveness of sins by Christ, then this would be true of baptism, but some refer to inward grace as the forgiveness of sins before baptism or a moving of the Holy Spirit to cause repentance and faith. However, many stretch scriptures to make such implications.

One Baptism

Some say, “Well, I was already baptized after I was saved” or “I did not feel anything at my baptism like when I was saved.” Both of these baptisms are not Christ’s baptism. For Christ’s baptism in His name is the moment in which one is saved. Twelve men who were baptized in John the Baptist’s baptism had to be baptized again into Christ’s baptism (Acts 19:1–7).

How do you know if you were baptized into Christ correctly? There is only one baptism that is the baptism of water in the Lord’s name (Eph 4:4; 5:26; Acts 10:43, 47–48). Peter’s preaching in Acts 2:38 provides the instruction and perfect test to know if you were baptized correctly. Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” There are three things here and a fourth point in Acts 2:41 and 47 that were necessary for the first converts to Christ. (1) These first believers were submerged in water as baptism in Jesus’s name (cf. Acts 8:38–39; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12–13). (2) Baptism was in Jesus’s name as Jesus and His apostles instructed (Matt 28:19–20; Acts 2:38). (3) Baptism was for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). (4) Through baptism, God adds the believers to the church (Acts 2:41, 47).

Considering Baptism

Today, church leaders will add believers to their churches apart from the believer’s salvation. However, God adds to the church and any church that one joins apart from salvation is not the church that Christ built and bought with his blood (Matt 16:18; Acts 20:28). If one was baptized apart from any of these commands, then he or she was not baptized as God commands and this person has not been forgiven and cleansed of sins. No one should wait for baptism. “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16; cf. 16:25–34).

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
This entry was posted in Gospel, Salvation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

147 Responses to That “Outward Sign of an Inward Grace”

  1. Interesting blog! Is your theme custom made or did you
    download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my
    blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design.
    With thanks


  2. Carol says:

    2Pe 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.


  3. donald hanson says:

    if you have become unsaved you could not have been very saved in the first place. the whole concept of losing your salvation is rediculous.


    • “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”, Galatians 5:4.


      • Anton Fredrickson says:

        We are not seeking to be justified by law. We are trusting in Christ to save us. Baptism is not a work. In this same letter, earlier, Paul said, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” His point is that when one is baptized they are no law seeking to be justified by works of law but instead they are putting their faith in Christ to save them. Baptism is not a work and Paul made this very clear in this letter. You may call it a work by which man is seeking justification but the Bible does not!


  4. Bible Study says:

    Thank you Scott. Did you have anything to add?


  5. Bible Study says:

    Just to make clear what walking is the light means. What is the light? It is God’s law, Jesus. Jesus is the law of God in flesh. The law is a “light unto our path”, and Jesus is the “light that lighteth everyman”. IF we walk in Jesus, in him is no sin. Therefore, when we walk in the “light” which is JEsus, we are not walking in any sin at all, for in him is no sin. If we are not walking in JEsus, the light, we are sinning, then the blood does not cleanse us. It is clear that if we are in sin, we are in trouble, regardless of whether or not we deceive ourselves into thinking we are ok. No unclean thing will walk on the highway that is holiness. We are called unto holiness, not uncleanness in the flesh where sin dwells. If we continue in the flesh, we shall die, but we are to crucify and put to death the flesh wherein dwells all sin. If we ever walk in the flesh, it is not truly dead. For a dead man cannot move. So i guess the question is are we a dead man walking, or have we died to sin?


  6. Frelon says:

    Good post Bible Study On Line!

    Hi Scott
    It is true that I John is speaking to children of God. Yet he is reminding them of the message that they heard from the beginning; turn from their old ways and obey the Lord. As I said before, a Christian can act in a manner that is displeasing to God. So when they do commit a sin, what condition are their souls in? No scripture in John’s epistle teaches that the blood of Christ cleanses a person when they commit a sin if they confess ( admit ) that they do sin.

    John teaches that we all have sin ( not we all commit sin ). Sin (the flesh or carnal mind) is our warfare. We either give in to the temptations or we fight and suffer through them.

    If anyone will confess ( acknowledge ) the fact that they “have” sin ( and forsake it), then they can be forgiven and are walking in the light. This is how the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. The Proverbs writer stated, ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Then also the child of God who does commit a sin must acknowledge his sin and forsake it. Then he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Walking in the light does not mean that a person remains being a Church member, but it means that a person is following after the spirit and not after the flesh. Obedience is the key word. Yielding to the things of God instead of the things of the devil.

    Here is one example we could use:
    A child of God can choose to lie. If he did not act in a manner that displeases God, then we must say that God favors lying. Will one lie cause a person to lose his soul? Yes. So then the one who lies must acknowledge that sin and turn from it back to the things of God or else he is in danger of losing his soul.

    There may be many people who continue in the Church who hide their sin from others, but they cannot hide it from God.

    Paul wrote, ” There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. ”

    II Peter 1:4-10,
    4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
    5. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
    6. And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
    7. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
    8. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
    10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:



  7. I have seen the argument many times “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves”, gone on and complete this verse that tells us when we confess our sin, Jesus will cleanse us from all sin. This verse is speaking to the lost, however when they confess their sin and trust in Jesus, they will be cleansed from all unrighteousness which the bible tells us is sin. We are to be cleansed in sin. This is the only verse that appears (note appears) to teach us to continue in sin, but it must be taken out of context for the reading of the rest teaches us that when we confess our sin (when we are lost) he will cleanse us. There are many others that tells us that when we abide in Christ, we sin not. If we are sinning, we are not in Christ, plain and simple. A good tree (cannot) i repeat (cannot, not possible) bring forth corrupt fruit, if we do, we are a corrupt tree. Also Jesus told the adulterous woman “go and sin no more”, why would he command the impossible? With God all things are possible, for in Christ we have “received the power to become the sons of God”, the “power to cease from sin” as found in scripture. There are many verses that teach us to (cease, which means to stop completely) from sin. Others that speak of those who cannot “cease” from sin as being double minded and unstable following the way of Balaam going astray. In Christ is no sin, if therefore we abide in him we do not sin. If we do sin, abide not in Christ in whom is no sin, John 15 tells us we are cast forth as a branch into the fire, if we abide in Christ, the vine, we will not sin, for in Christ is no sin. Oh, but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of god, that’s right, but when we are saved we become the glory of God, one with Christ. Christ is the glory of God, if we are in Christ, we are not falling short of him, for he that says he abides in him should walk even as he walked. What do you think these false teachers will teach, to continue or not to continue in sin? they teach to continue in sin, let us not be deceived but make our calling and election sure, not deceiving or justifying ourselves to no profit. He that says he loves God and does not keep his commandments (all of them) is a liar and the truth is not in him. His commandment is to believe in Jesus and love one another. If we love, we are in God, in Christ, again and in him is no sin. If we love, we will not sin. For God is love. There are so many more that teach us to cease from sin, but people because they don’t want to face truth will hang on to one or two verses taken out of context. Also 1 John chapter 2 tells us to sin not, and if “any” man sin, any lost man, let him know Jesus is the propitiation not for the sin of those who are in the church of Jesus, but he can cleanse any man of sin, anyone in the world who will come to him. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, if you sow to the flesh (walk in sin) you will of the flesh reap corruption. The bible tells us to be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect, and to be holy. If we sin, we are not perfect and not holy. Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that few find, who are able in the power of Christ, to cease from sin. If we cannot stop, or cease from sinning, it is a sign that we are unsaved, not having the power of God. For it is truly impossible for man to cease from sin without the power of the holy spirit. the bible tells us God has called us not unto uncleanness, but holiness, he that despiseth, despiseth not man but God who has given us of his holy spirit. With God all things are possible though many don’t believe this, it is even possible for us to cease from sin through the power of Christ. Let us not doubt that God has power over all flesh as written in scripture, even ours that he can perfect it. Greater is he who is in us (Christ) than he who is in the world (us). If Christ is in us, he is greater than us and can stop our sinning for us.


    • I do agree that we cannot continue in sin and practice sin. Yet, 1 John is not speaking to the lost. John says “we”. The antecedent is essential to Greek even more than English, and thus the pretext is very clear.

      May God bless us all with in the study of His Word.


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