“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.
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).
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).