“?An outward sign of an inward grace” sounds biblical but this wording is not in the Bible. What do many mean by “an outward sign of an inward grace”? This phrase is usually used to console consciences in the definition of baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace meaning that baptism is more about the heart. However, Jesus commanded baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be His disciple (Matt 28:19–20). Furthermore, the apostle Paul noted that there is one baptism (Eph 4:5).
More Than a Sign
Baptism is not just a sign. Baptism is more than the pattern of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ where the old self is buried and rises to a newness of life (Rom 6:4–5). Furthermore, baptism unites repentant believers with Christ (Rom 6:3–6). Baptism partakes of the reality signified in the gospel of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. This is the gospel that saves (1 Cor 15:1–4). 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). Jesus taught, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Which baptism is the one that Jesus commanded? 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 the believer goes from self-condemned into God’s forgiveness. Baptism is a passive activity where God saves and not for one to save oneself by any works. This baptism is an act of subordination and the Bible never calls it “a work.”
Baptism in Jesus’s Name
Is there anything special about the water? No. However, those who baptize are leaders of faith. 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 for the forgiveness of one’s sin as though baptism is a work. Baptism is passive in that the believer submits to participate. Christ does the saving, “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 does not contradict submitting to Christ in baptism (Eph 2:4–9; Col 2:12–13). Baptism is not an individual’s personal 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 and the change of the believer to a new life, Christ is the source of grace at baptism. Some refer to “inward grace” asserting the forgiveness of sins before baptism or others teach that a moving of the Holy Spirit causes repentance and faith before baptism. However, no scriptures teach that salvation is complete without God raising believers from burial in baptism in newness of life (Col 2:12–13).
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 the baptism that Christ commanded to be 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 correctly? The Scriptures reveal only one baptism which is immersion within 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 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.” Acts 2:41 and 47 were necessary for the first converts to Christ. Here are four observations from Acts 2: (1) The first believers repented to be baptized in Jesus’s name (cf. Acts 8:38–39; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12–13). (2) Baptism is in Jesus’s name as Jesus taught (Matt 28:19–20; Acts 2:38). (3) Baptism is 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. Who authorized them to add people when Acts 2 teaches that the Lord adds to the church? 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). Believers want to follow Christ and obey the baptism that He commanded. No one wants to be baptized apart from what Jesus taught, so repentant believers do not want a manmade baptism with invented teachings about cleansing without the forgiveness of sins. Repentant believers do not want to wait for manmade time to be baptized. Believers in the Bible were baptized immediately (Acts 16:25–34). Paul was commanded, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).