Author: Ron Graham
Faith and repentance have their counterparts in acts of obedience. We don't surrender our hearts only, but our whole selves, soul and body. We don't respond to Jesus with faith alone, but with faith and obedience (James 2:24).
So far we have spoken of things done in the heart: believing and repenting. One would expect that these deeds of the heart would be expressed by appropriate deeds in the body. And that's exactly what we do find.
The faith in your heart is confessed with your mouth. According to Paul, this confession is "unto salvation". He says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9-10).
Paul does not teach here that confession with the mouth is just a formality you can dispense with, does he? The good confession is not merely an optional outward expression of of an inward condition. Just the same is true of the next requirement...
Just as faith in the heart has its equivalent expression in the body, so repentance in the heart also has its counterpart in the body.
Peter, after saying, "Repent..." then said, "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 2:38). You will notice that Peter links baptism with repentance just as strongly as Paul linked confession with faith.
Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and an enactment of the death and burial of our old self and the rising up of a reborn self —a great change wrought by Jesus.
Just as repentance is a change of heart, the decision to become a new person in Christ, so baptism is the act in which this renewal takes place. One is "baptized into [Christ's] death". Only by coming "into his death" (and into his resurrection from death) can one have the forgiveness of sins and be born again into newness of life (Romans 6:3-6).
When Jesus changes our hearts, it's meant to be a permanent change. Paul calls on us to make our bodies a living sacrifice to God and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We are to "continue in the faith, grounded and settled, not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23).
In most circumstances, confession of Christ, and baptism into Christ may be (and ought to be) accomplished the same hour in which you believe and repent. Not only are confession and baptism done quickly, they are done easily. In no way therefore can they be regarded as works of merit. They are significant however: they mark the beginning of lifetime in Christ, a lifetime of trusting, obeying, and following the Lord Jesus.