“Grace” is one of the most frequently used biblical words. At the same time, it may be one of the most commonly misunderstood biblical words. Many religious people mistakenly believe that grace refers to something that is free but also something that is unconditional. It is true that the grace of God, by which we are saved, is free. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” And Romans 3:24 says, that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” However, the fact that one is saved by the grace of God and that His grace is freely available does not mean that salvation has no conditions. In other words, the freeness of salvation by God’s grace does not mean there is nothing a sinner has to do to be saved.
This misunderstanding (or intentional distortion by some) of the meaning of “grace” has created a huge problem regarding the salvific works of the church. The misconception of the word has been used by its religious proponents to dissuade people from being baptized. They argue that, if one is saved through baptism, then salvation is not free, and baptism is a meritorious work to earn salvation. Such a claim is a misunderstanding or distortion of the truth that is hindering people from being saved.
The fact that the forgiveness of our sins is a free gift bestowed upon us by God’s grace does not mean that we don’t have to meet conditions to receive it. The Bible teaches that salvation is in fact conditional. The “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” is a condition (Mark 1:4;). This is evident when the Jews, after hearing Peter’s Pentecost sermon, asked “What shall we do,” and Peter instructed them to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Why is baptism a condition? It is because the washing away of sins happens only by the blood of Jesus, and baptism is the means by which one can come in contact with the blood of Jesus and “wash away [his or her] sins” (Acts 22:16). It is also because baptism is the only means God gave for sinners to die and be buried into Christ’s death so that they can be “raised…[to] walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Thus, Baptism is the condition to receive the redemption of Jesus that ultimately justifies us according to God’s grace (Romans 3:24). And such a condition does not contradict the freeness of grace of God for salvation.
Therefore, it is a misunderstanding or a distortion of the word of God to say that the freeness of God’s grace for salvation also means unconditionality. Such a belief nullifies the true meaning of God’s grace because it dissuades people not to receive it on His terms by, meeting its conditions, namely baptism. The tragic result of this misconception is that many will believe they are saved by God’s grace even though they are not. The deception is simple, but the effect is devastating to so many souls.