The legitimate act of water baptism that every serious disciple of Jesus Christ undergoes is a tangible expression and consolidation of their faith and subsequently acquired position in Christ. It speaks of the disciple’s unbreakable union with the death and resurrection of the Saviour, an identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. It is a major landmark in the life of a disciple because it represents a reference point to that union with Christ that the believer has achieved through faith in Him.
Baptism, along with the Lord’s supper, are the two external acts which the Lord clearly identified and commanded His disciples to practise. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ represent the central realities or truths of the Christian faith. These are the two key things Jesus has given His church as public declarations of the realities of the Christian faith. Baptism marks a transition point, a crossing over from the old into the newness of life God has made possible through the resurrection of Christ. It is like the starting point from whence the disciple of Christ is now expected to run the race that is set before them with endurance.
What the baptism of others does is remind us of its significance and meaning in our lives and our responsibility in its aftermath.
In Romans chapter 6 the apostle Paul builds and argues his case for transformed lives post baptism based on the reality that is represented by baptism. Based on what has actually taken place in the act of baptism and the purposes accomplished therein, Paul tasks his readers with the necessary actions they must now engage in themselves. In Romans 6:3 — 4 the apostle makes a factual statement of what, in actual fact took place, followed by the reason why, its objective.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
His rhetorical question, “Do you not know…” clearly implies that what follows is a well known and established fact or truth, a universally accepted and indisputable fact – being baptised into Christ is de facto being baptised into His death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead we too might walk in the newness of life. Our baptism into Christ was not merely a symbolic act but one that is loaded with significance and purpose the foremost of which the apostle Paul identifies as to “walk in newness of life” following the parallel of Christ’s resurrected new life. God has done His part. As we stepped into the water to get baptised in obedience to Christ’s command, we did so in agreement with His death, so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” For the end goal of walking in newness of life to become a reality for us, we needed to partake in His death.
But what does this “newness of life” consist of and what does it, in practise, look like? Paul unpacks this further and its implications for us in Romans 6:6
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Again, to make it absolutely clear that we are here dealing with facts and not wishful thinking or anything that needs further corroboration, Paul starts his statement with, “We know that…” to communicate without a shadow of doubt that he is making factual statement. He then goes on to establish the reason why this took place. The fact that our old self was crucified with Christ was in order “that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The twin purpose for the crucifixion of our old self with Christ was so that:
- “…the body of sin might be brought to nothing”, so that it would be taken out, disbanded and disabled, and, as a result,
- “…we would no longer be enslaved you sin”, so that we were no longer helpless victims to our sinful nature.
The truth of our old self being crucified with Christ was an absolute necessity in order to bring the body of sin that had previously run riot and wreaked havoc in our lives to nothing. Only crucifixion with Christ could deal with the old self, the body of sin hence the reason why God arranged for us to be crucified with Christ – to deal with the body of sin. Only when the body of sin was brought to nothing could freedom from sin truly be achieved. It is so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin that the body of sin had to be brought to nothing by the crucifixion of our old self with Christ on the cross. We are no longer slaves to sin, sin has no power or dominion over us.
But in order for these outcomes to become reality in our lives, we too have a part to play. These represent actions we need to engage in to reflect the current state of affairs as a result of our faith in Christ which was tangibly professed in the act of baptism.
- The first is to change our perception of ourselves; how we see ourselves must now change and cannot continue to be as before. Romans 6:11
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Important as changing the perception of ourselves is, it does not stop there however. We are further commanded to take ownership and responsibility about the activities we engage in rejecting anything that is unrighteous and ungodly and in its place giving ourselves to God to use us for righteous deeds and acts. Romans 6:13
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Similarly, referring to their being raised with Christ as symbolised by baptism, Paul exhorts the Colossian Christians to be intentional in seeking and setting their minds on the things above as a result of the fact that they have now been raised with Christ. Our entire orientation in life has to now change as a result of our commitment and union with Christ. We are now united, one with Him and our life is hidden in Him with God only to be truly and totally revealed when Christ Himself is revealed. Colossians 3:1 — 3
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Paul was building on his earlier comment on baptism in Colossians 2:11 — 12 where he clearly indicated that Baptism was a type of circumcision that represented a putting off of the body of the flesh. That which tied and enslaved us to sin was now put off and we have been raised with Christ through faith in the powerful working of God who raised Him from the dead.
In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Now that this has taken place (the body of the flesh has been put off and we have been raised with Christ), we are to be heaven-oriented in our thinking and emotions. It is here that we have to be intentional and proactive and this is best done in community, together with others. This seeking the things above and setting our mind on them is what we do when we gather together and encourage one another to do the same on our own too.