The one instructed for baptism will have
comprehended the basic “first principles” concerning the act itself.
Therefore these matters need not be raised here. But what a mere factual
presentation on baptism may fail to make clear is the revolutionary nature of
the act of baptism. It is called in Scripture “a new creation”, or a
spiritual creation, after the pattern of the physical creation in Genesis.
Christ is the “Creator” in that he is the beginning and the source
of this spiritual “creation”; it is only through him that we have
any new life — that we become new men and women, with a new family and new
goals and ambitions:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on
sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live
in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him
through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the
dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new
If we have been united with him in his death,
we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that
our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered
powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who
has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we
will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he
died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin
but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your
mor-tal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your
body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God,
as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your
body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master,
because you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom.
As these verses so beautifully express, baptism
is an end as well as a beginning. It is necessary to see both sides of the
picture. The whole background of baptism is death. The act of baptism is a
recognition that the end of natural man is death — that all are under the
power of the great enemy — that death casts a shadow over all life’s
hopes and joys.
But this is only part of the picture. This is the
natural side. While baptism is a recognition of this state, and all the vanity
and sorrow surrounding it, its principal purpose is to manifest the great
deliverance from it that the love of God has, through Christ, provided. Baptism
is a “death” whose purpose is to make way for a glorious new
Romans 6 is an intense exhortation to holiness,
based on this “death-and-new-birth” symbolism. A natural son of
Adam, a creature born under the shadow of death and bound by the dominion of
sin, reaches a stage of development where he is drawn by the power of God
voluntarily to choose the good and holy and divine, and to reject all that is
related to the “kingdom of sin”. This he does not from fear of
consequences, nor even just from desire for reward, but rather from pure,
transforming love for a glorious Father.
Baptism, while only the beginning, is the great
turning point in life. The act of baptism is unquestionably the greatest and
most important single act and moment of one’s entire lifetime. From this
one act, and the repentance and commitment that lead to it, arise all subsequent
meaningful experiences in the believer’s life.
The baptized believer is a brother in Christ
— he has a guaranteed part in the final victory over sin and death —
as long as he truly abides in Christ. Jesus said to his disciples, on the night
before his death:
“Abide in me, and I in you...He that
abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit...These things have
I spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is my commandment: that ye love one another, even as I have loved
you” (John 15: 4,5,11,12).
It is an essential requirement of discipleship
that we, as brethren, love one another in the same way he loved us. Of that love
which he has given us as a pattern, he says, as he continues:
“Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends” (v.
This is the love and fellowship to which baptism
opens the door. And the new brother, as he rises from the cleansing waters, says
“I am crucified with Christ.
Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I
now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,who loved me and
gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).