Dear radio friends,
Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?
If so, what does that mean to you?
Today, in our message, we want to rejoice and bow before the wonderful truth of God that is taught in Christian baptism. The basis of our message will be Romans 6:3, 4 where we read: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Paul, in Romans chapter 6, is teaching us the kind of life that comes as the result of having been justified freely by grace; the kind of life that flows out of being united to Jesus Christ; the kind of life that leads to heaven, and only that kind of life.
He begins by asking the question (a question that must have been asked of him a thousand times): “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In Romans 5 Paul had taught clearly that we, as children of God, are justified, that is, made right with God—saved—not on the basis of any work we have or could do, but solely upon the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. He put it this way in verse 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience [that’s Adam] many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [that’s Christ] shall many be made righteous [or right with God].” In fact, he went on to say in verses 20 and 21 that the law (the Ten Commandments) entered that the offence (or sin) “might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Paul is saying there that grace abounds. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is greater than all of our sins. Emphatically he teaches that we are saved by grace. What takes away our sin and makes us able to stand before God? Not our works, not anything in ourselves, not anything we did or can do or that any other human did or can do—nothing but the grace of God, in the work of Jesus Christ, once performed upon Calvary’s cross.
Now in the sixth chapter, Paul deals with the question that would often be put to him as a result of that teaching. He asks: How are we going to respond to that wonderful grace of God? What is the implication? What shall we say to this? Shall we continue, then, as children of God, in sin that grace may abound? May we continue in sin so that the grace of God may simply increase?
There is the great objection to salvation by grace. The objection is this: If you say salvation is entirely by the grace of God and not upon any human merit, does not that open the door to a life of rampant sinning? In fact, does it not invite more sinning, for the more sin there is, the more must be forgiven and the more (it is claimed) that God is gracious. That reasoning lurks deep within us, deep within the sinful nature that is ours. That sinful reasoning comes right out of the bowels of hell. It is the thinking of the devil. It is what he tries to spawn in our hearts and mind. He tries to say to us, “Well, if it is all of grace, you are saved by grace, then you can certainly live right now as you want. There are no consequences for sin.”
And the answer of the Word of God (Rom. 6:2) is: “God forbid [that is, let it never be!]. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” By which Paul is saying that the justified sinner, the one who has been made right with God by grace and saved entirely by grace and forgiven—that justified sinner cannot live in sin. Paul’s question, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” is a rhetorical question. Paul does not expect an answer. He puts the answer in the question. Rhetorical questions do not expect answers. They make statements. For example, with you children, your Dad says to you, “How can you keep your room clean if you throw your clothes on the floor?” Or your Mom says to you (her daughter), “How can you expect people to be friendly to you if you aren’t friendly?” Now, when they talk that way to you, they are not looking for an answer. They are making a statement: You cannot keep your room clean if everything is all over the floor. You cannot have friends if you are not friendly. Paul’s question is not looking for an answer. It is making a statement. And the statement is: You cannot. If you have been saved graciously and united to Jesus Christ who died for your sins, and if that truth lives within your soul, you cannot. You are dead, says Paul: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Dead to sin. Notice, the apostle did not say that sin is dead. Sin is very much alive in you and me. But we are dead to sin, that is, our stance, our attitude towards sin has changed. We have died to its dominion, to its service. And dead people do not live for sin.
Then, in our text on baptism, Paul refers to a knowledge the Christian has that contradicts the idea of ever living a life in sin—something that a Christian knows that makes living a life in sin abhorrent. He says, “Know ye not [don’t you know?], that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [in a new life].” Paul is saying “when the testimony of your baptism is heard, when you understand what your baptism means (that you are united to Christ and raised), then that will motivate you to live a new and godly life. The point of the passage is simply this: The baptized walk in newness of life.
Paul is teaching that holy baptism, the ceremony of baptism, represents the reality that grace has united us to Jesus Christ. He says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” We were identified with Christ. We were joined or united to Christ.
Note that Paul assumes that all Christians will have been baptized and will know what their baptism means. Paul assumes baptism to be practiced in the Christian church and that the Christians will be taught the significance of their baptism. Paul is writing this letter of Romans to the believers in Rome. He had not been there yet. He is writing to the church composed of converts: adults, aged, young people, and children. And he assumes that they have been baptized. He is speaking to us as justified believers in Jesus Christ. He is speaking to us and he says, “What shall we say, we who, by the grace of God, have been justified? Shall we continue in sin?” And then he says in verse 3: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized….” So the point is simply this: He is assuming that believers and their children have been baptized. He says, “Shall we, God’s people: adults, children, youth, the church, shall we continue in sin? No, we cannot do that. Why? That would contradict the meaning of our baptism. No,” he says, “those who are baptized will understand that that cannot be, that they continue in sin. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” So he is assuming that baptism has been performed and that it is common knowledge as to what that baptism means. You have been taught, then, what it means. That is fundamental. He is assuming that the duty of the Christian church is to teach what baptism means—not to some advanced class, not to a church “graduate-school.” But this is the basics. You were baptized and you must know the meaning of your baptism.
The fundamental truth of baptism is that it represents our union to Jesus Christ. He says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” Real baptism, of which the ceremony or sacrament of baptism is a sign, is the permanent change that you have been placed by God’s grace, through the blood of His Son, into Christ, into union with Christ. You have been identified with Christ. The use of the word “baptism” in Scripture shows that. We read in I Corinthians 10:1, 2: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” You read there: “baptized unto Moses.” What does that mean? That means that they were identified with Moses. By passing through the Red Sea upon dry ground, they were identified with Moses. The Israelites were baptized. (They were not immersed, by the way. They didn’t even get their feet wet. The only ones who were immersed were the Egyptians.) But coming back to the passage, the passage through the Red Sea was a permanent identification of the people of Israel with Moses, the type of Christ. Before, they were slaves in Egypt. They were under the bondage of Pharaoh. They could have returned and sworn their allegiance to Pharaoh. But when they passed through the Red Sea, they left Egyptbehind and were identified as those who were joined to Moses on the journey to Canaan.
So our text. We have been baptized unto Christ, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. Baptism represents the truth that the grace of God comes to separate us from the world, to identify us with Christ, so that we cannot go back. We have been taken out of the realm of the service of sin and now belong to Christ.
Another passage: Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Put on Christ. You have clothed yourself with Christ. You who have been baptized unto Christ are now identified with Christ—just like a little child identifies herself with her mother when she plays dress-up in mother’s clothes, or as a soldier identifies himself with his country when he puts on that uniform of the army, so those baptized unto Christ are marked, have been identified as the ones united by grace to Christ, as the ones who have died to the old life of sin and are transformed to a new life in Christ, or been placed in Christ, identified with Christ in every respect.
The question is: Shall we continue in sin? God forbid! “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ!” The meaning of baptism is that you have been joined to the Savior Christ—taken out of one realm (sin, the dominion of sin) into a blessed realm (forgiveness and the service of God).
Understand that baptism, then, is not quasi membership in Jesus Christ. If you are baptized, you do not have some half-way status between the world and the church—in a little bit of no-man’s-land. No! The reality of baptism is that this person is identified with Christ.
The question is this: With whom are you identified: with the world? or with Christ? When Israel stood on the other side of the Red Sea, it was very plain where they stood. They were identified with Moses. They were on their way to Canaan, no longer in bondage of Egypt. So also those who are baptized. It is very plain where they stand. They stand with Christ.
Now we must understand that this reality of being united to Christ is not accomplished by the sacrament of baptism itself. But the sacrament of baptism is the sign and pledge of what the Holy Spirit performs when He unites us to Christ. There is much misunderstanding here. The sacrament or the ceremony of baptism does not itself have power to unite us to Christ. It is a sign. The sacrament does not effect our union to Christ but is a symbol of what the grace of God does. The sacrament is not the instrument to join us to Christ. It is the symbol that the renewing of the Holy Spirit alone can do that. The sacrament of baptism is, of course, important in that Christ wills to give to us, His children, a visible sign and pledge of the spiritual reality that He has united us to Himself. But the sacrament in itself has no power to perform that union.
So, therefore, we do not boast in the sacrament. We do not say that we have nothing to worry about because the water was sprinkled, or given to me. No, but we say, I belong to Christ. I walk in newness of life. By the grace of God I have been united to Christ, and Christ has given to me a sign and a pledge of that blessed reality: Christian baptism.
The implication of your baptism is the most profound thing that you could possibly imagine. It means that now you are dead to a life of sin and alive to God. In the words of verse 11 of Romans 6: “Reckon yealso yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Reckon, consider, think. You have been baptized into Christ. What does that represent? It represents a spiritual truth that the Spirit has united you to Jesus Christ, identified you with Him for time and eternity.
You are identified with Christ. What did He come to do? He came to die on a cross for sin. He was buried. He arose the third day. And all this He did in order to wrench us free from the condemnation and the service of sin, from the guilt and the dominion of sin. Baptized into Christ means that you are now dead to sin. The guilt of it removed? Yes, but your standing towards sin, your relationship towards sin, has forever been changed. Belonging to Christ means that your relationship to sin is forever changed. You are not on the side of sin. You are no longer its willing ally. There is a fundamental change. You are dead to it. You cannot go back to the old relationship in which you lived for it. Baptism means that, because we are united to Christ, that old relationship that we had towards sin is dead and we are now alive unto God. There has been, then, a profound break with sin’s dominion. That is the implication of baptism.
Therefore, says the apostle, we are bound with Christ by baptism unto death. We are buried with Christ. He says that baptism is really like a burial. Burial is unchangeable. Burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. We view a dead body of our loved one. We bring flowers. The body is there. But then the body is buried. It is placed in the ground and covered with earth. It cannot come back to this life.
Paul wants to emphasize the finality of our being removed from the dominion of sin unto the blessed rule of Christ. You have not only died to sin but, in Christ, you have been buried to it. You cannot go back, willingly, to the service of sin. Oh yes, sin is there. Sin still wars. Sin still attacks us in our flesh. And we fall foolishly. But in Christ that old relationship is broken. We are buried with Christ. That is the implication of baptism. We are alive to God.
Do you think that your baptism is relatively unimportant? Do you think about it occasionally? Do you say, “Oh yes, my family tells me that when I was a little girl I was baptized.” The Word of God says that baptism is a sign and a pledge to the believer that God has united me, identified me, with Jesus Christ irrevocably. And God has separated me from a life lived under the bondage and folly of impenitent sin. And now, God has irrevocably given to me to live in Christ.
Perhaps in Paul’s day baptism was viewed as more significant, more dramatic, than it is by us. Imagine, if you will, that you are in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Iraq, and that you are baptized there. What would it mean to you then if you were taken, by God’s grace, out of the bondage of false religion in those countries and brought to the Christian church so that you could be seen listening to the preaching. Perhaps others saw you attending a Bible Study, having fellowship with other Christians, and having the minister over to your house. And then, if you were baptized, your baptism would be understood to be the clear confession that you are now loyal to the King of kings, Jesus Christ, above all else, regardless of the outcome. So also in Paul’s day, baptism was the confession: Christ, not Caesar.
Perhaps today the profound significance of baptism is blurred. But let the Word of God awaken us. Baptism is as dramatic as the Red Sea. That was dramatic. The people who passed through lived. They were separated forever from bondage in Egypt. So also dramatic is our baptism. The purpose of our baptism: that we should walk in newness of life.
Our walk, very simply, is our life as we live it from our heart. We walk in the newness of the life of Jesus Christ—the resurrection-life of Christ.
Child of God, do you know what your baptism means? Baptism is a most profound and blessed truth. It represents to you the truth that the grace of God, by His Spirit, has united you to a living Lord who not only paid for the guilt of your sin but tore down the bondage and the bars of sin and now lives in you so that you live for and to Him.
The great evidence of your baptism, of its reality, will be this: God will give you daily repentance—to know your sin, to hate your sin, to flee from your sin, and to find the inestimable joy of living in Christ.
God bless His Word to our hearts.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for the Word, and again we ask for its blessing upon our souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.