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Baptism: Romans 6:1-5.
June 10, 2018

A bucket list, is a list of things that people write down that they want to do before they die, otherwise known as “kick the bucket”. It can be a desire to visit an exotic country, drive a particular car, see an entertainer or sports team that they always wanted, or any number of other activities. People often cite things like having kids, work commitments, poor health, or just plain laziness as reasons why they never got around to these things.

For the things of the faith, baptism can be like one of those things. A person who claims to be a Christian that has not been baptized fits into the following categories: 1) They may be unaware of the command to be baptised. That is, they've never been taught about baptism, and some have been taught wrong. Secondly, for some, pride is an issue. People who have allowed a long period of time to go since their conversion, they named the name of Chris for a long time, they are involved with the church, they're known as Christian people, but they've never been baptized. It's a little bit embarrassing to acknowledge that failure and that disobedience for such a long time. And so, they're not willing to humble themselves, admit they've been disobedient, and be baptized. For others, it could be indifference. There are plenty of people who just can't be bothered. They can't find a spot in their day timer for it. Doesn't fit into their schedule. It's not a priority. They know it's commanded in the Bible. But obedience isn't the main thing with them. They have other priorities. That's a sad situation to be apathetic towards a specific command. To be indifferent toward a very direct command from our Lord himself, which brings honor to him and blessings to the one is obedient. But there are people who are just indifferent. They just can't get around it. I've been planning to do it. I've thought about it. It just doesn't fit on the priority list.  Some are just defiant people. Those who basically aren't baptized because they are just rebellious. They refuse to obey. And usually, those kinds of people are sinning. They're in a pattern of sin. And it would just sort of elevate their hypocrisy if they were to have to come up and give a testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ and celebrate his wonderful redemption on their behalf. Finally, it's possible that they are just unregenerate. You're just not a true Christian. You have no desire to make a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ because you don't want be identified with him in a public way. You may come, and you may like to come and hang on the edges and on the fringes here. But you're not about to take your public stand with Christ. In all of these reasons, it may be a combination of several of those things, in some cases. (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-190/baptism-a-matter-of-obedience)

The New Testament has no concept of an unbaptized Christian. When people repented and believed in Christ, they were baptized—often immediately—as a public profession of their faith and to identify with the body of believers. This pattern followed throughout the early church (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38). What we see are people, upon repentance and faith in Christ, publicly professing this belief by obeying the Lord’s command to be baptised. It is the believer’s baptism by submersion in water which is consistent with the metaphor the apostle Paul used in Romans 6:3-7. Although he wasn’t referring to the ordinance of baptism, but the spiritual reality of union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Water baptism is the outward symbol of that unityyour physical baptism signifies the spiritual baptism that’s already taken place. It’s the public, ceremonial depiction of believers death to sin and your new life in Christ.

In Romans 6:1–5, Paul shows three results that should be evident in a believers life because of the death of Christ. Baptism points to 1) The Antagonist (v.1), 2) The Answer (v.2), and 3) The Argument explaining and defending that Answer (vv.3–5) of the spiritual reality shown in the public act of baptism.

 

First, the spiritual reality shown in the public act of baptism, points back to:

1) The Antagonist (v.1)

Romans 6:1   [6:1]What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (ESV)

 

“What shall we say then the apostle Paul asks rhetorically to the foolish assertion:, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound/might increase?” Epimenō (to continue) carries the idea of habitual persistence. Paul was not speaking of a believer’s occasional falling into sin, as every Christian does at times because of the weakness and imperfection of the flesh. He was speaking of intentional, willful sinning as an established pattern of life. Essentially, Paul argues that the law could never curb sinning; and the reign of grace, far from encouraging sin, is the only means by which sin can truly be defeated (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 356). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Please turn to Colossians 2 (p.984)

 

Before salvation, sin cannot be anything but the established way of life, because sin at best taints everything the unredeemed person does. But the believer, who has a new life and is indwelt by God’s own Spirit, has no excuse to continue habitually in sin. Can a believer then possibly live in the same submissive relationship to sin that he had before salvation?What he does present here is not the impossibility of committing a single sin, but the impossibility of continuing in a life dominated by sin.( Harrison, E. F. (1976). Romans. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Vol. 10, p. 68). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

 

Baptism pictures union with Christ, which separates us from the dominion of sin:

Colossian 2:8-15See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 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, 12 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. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (ESV)

  • Baptism is no mere human tradition.  As the head of the Church, Christ submitted to the Father’s will, and fulfilled the requirements of the law. In that obedience, He himself was baptized (Mt. 3:13-16). Baptism pictures putting off the body of the flesh, in dying to self and being raised with Christ. This is the work of the Father in forgiving our trespasses against Him. Coming out of the water pictures the triumph of life over death in being united with Christ’s resurrection.

Illustration: Baptism is like a wedding ring: they both symbolize transactions. A wedding ring symbolizes marriage, just as baptism symbolizes salvation. Wearing a wedding ring does not make you married any more than being baptized makes you saved. To extend the parallel, if a person, especially a woman, does not wear a wedding ring you can almost always assume that the person is not married. So it was in New Testament times. If a person was not baptized, you could probably assume that he or she was not a believer. On this we must be clear: baptism is a symbol of salvation and only a symbol. But, like a wedding ring, it is such an effective symbol (and a command from Christ) that it should never be taken for granted. (Michael P. Green. (2000). 1500 illustrations for biblical preaching (p. 27). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

Second, the spiritual reality shown in the public act of baptism, points to:

2) The Answer (v.2), that should be evident in a believers life because of the death of Christ.

Romans 6:2  [2]By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (ESV)

 

Immediately answering his own question, Paul exclaims with obvious horror, By no means/May it never be! (Mē genoito) This is a rare OPTATIVE form which was a grammatical mood or mode used of a wish or prayer. It was Paul’s stylistic way of answering a hypothetical objector. It expressed Paul’s shock and horror at unbelieving humanity’s misunderstanding and abuse of grace (cf. 3:4, 6).( Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 6:2). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)

 

Please turn to Acts 2 (p.910)

 

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost explained the reality of the necessity of the death of Christ for sin. The only reasonable action in comprehending the severity of this act due to the severity of sin, is repentance and faith. Obedience to Christ’s command to be baptized is an appropriate response to repentance and faith. Peter explained this reality:

Acts 2:36-4136 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent 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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (ESV)

  • God’s promise extends throughout the generations (time) until the end of the world. It also reaches people (place) from every nation, tribe, race, and language, wherever they dwell on the face of this earth. Baptism is the New Testament ordinance that pictures a believers identification with Christ until He returns.

 

Back in Romans 6:2 Paul does not respond with reasoned argument to why believers will not continue in sin, but with a brief and arresting rhetorical question: How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Paul does not recognize his antagonists’ assertion as having the least credence or merit. He does not now argue the truth but merely declares it. The person who is alive in Christ has died to sin, and it is inconceivable and self-contradictory to propose that a believer can henceforth live in the sin from which he or was delivered by the death of Christ. The death of Christ, where God the Father gave His son as a ransom for many, is a picture of grace. God’s grace is given for the very purpose of saving from sin, and only the most corrupt mind using the most perverted logic could argue that continuing in the sin from which he has supposedly been saved somehow honors the holy God who sacrificed His only Son to deliver men from all unrighteousness. By simple reason it must be admitted that the person who has died to one kind of life cannot still live in it. The apostle Paul was speaking of the past act (apothnēskō, second aorist active) of being dead to sin. Paul is saying it is impossible for a Christian to remain in a constant state of sinfulness.  Living a life pleasing to God flows from the real experience of liberation from sin’s domain secured by God for us in Christ (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 359). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Illustration:

It has been said, that a baptized believer is one that has gone public in declaring that they are wedded to another—to Jesus Christ. We would think it odd if a husband never wanted to go out in public with his wife. He might say, “I’ll eat dinner with you as long as it’s at home,” or “I’ll watch a movie with you as long as it’s at home,” or “I’ll talk to you as long as it’s at home.” That kind of behavior would be an insult. Jesus Christ is insulted regularly by His children because in private they will identify with Him, but in public they don’t want folks to know that they are associated with Him. (Evans, T. (2009). Tony Evans’ book of illustrations: stories, quotes, and anecdotes from more than 30 years of preaching and public speaking (p. 17). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.)

 

Finally, the spiritual reality shown in the public act of baptism, points to:

3) The Argument explaining and defending that Answer(vv. 3–5). that should be evident in a believers life because of the death of Christ.

Romans 6:3-5   [3]Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4]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.   [5]For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (ESV)

 

Many people interpret Paul’s argument in Romans 6:3–10 as referring to water baptism. However, Paul is simply using the physical analogy of water baptism to teach the spiritual reality of the believer’s union with Christ. Water baptism is the outward identification of an inward reality-faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Paul was not advocating salvation by water baptism; that would have contradicted everything he had just said about salvation by grace and not works in Romans 3–5, which has no mention of water baptism. Water baptism is a public symbol of faith in God. The apostle Peter said baptism is a mark of salvation because it gives outward evidence of an inward faith in Christ (1 Pet. 3:21). Titus says the same thing in Titus 3:4–5: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Paul says in Acts 22:16, “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Those verses are not saying a person is saved by water but that water baptism is a symbol of genuine saving faith.

 

The Roman believers were well aware of the symbol of baptism. When Paul says do you not know, he is in effect asking:Are you ignorant of the meaning of your own baptism? Have you forgotten what your baptism symbolized?” They were unaware that water baptism symbolizes the spiritual reality of being immersed into Jesus Christ. The tragedy is that many mistake the symbol of water baptism as the means of salvation rather than the demonstration of it. To turn a symbol into the reality is to eliminate the reality, which in this case is salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.

 

The first principle is that all true Christians have been baptized (baptizō )into Christ Jesus. In the first century, “baptize evoked associations of violence. It meantimmerserather than “dip”. It was used, for example, of people being drowned, or of ships being sunk (A Greek-English Lexicon, comp. H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, rev. H. S. Jones and R. McKenzie, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1940)). The Jewish historian Josephus used it metaphorically of crowds who flooded into Jerusalem and “wrecked the city” (Bell. 4.137; Loeb translation). It is quite in keeping with this that Jesus referred to his death as baptism (Mk. 10:38; Lk. 12:50). When it is applied to the Christian (ordinance) we ought not to think in terms of gentleness and inspiration; it means death, death to a whole way of life. It is this that is Paul’s point here. Christians are people who have died, and their baptism emphasizes that death. Death runs through this passage and is mentioned in every verse up to v. 13Paul is saying that it is quite impossible for anyone who understands what baptism means to acquiesce cheerfully in a sinful life. The baptized have died to all that (Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 246–247). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.).

 

That is the subject of “All of us”, that is, all Christians, have been baptized into Christ Jesus, thus permanently being immersed into Him, so as to be made one with Him. Paul is speaking metaphorically of the spiritual immersion of believers into Christ through the Holy Spirit, of the believer’s intimate oneness with his divine Lord.  The NT never contemplates the abnormal situation of an unbaptized believer. It assumes that those who are converted submit to baptism right away. Thus our Lord could speak of faith and baptism in the same breath: “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Though baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it should be the invariable public sign of it. (MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1701). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)

 

The second principle Paul emphasizes is an extension of the first. All Christians, because of Christ's sacrificial death on the cross not only are identified with Christ but are identified with Him specifically in His death and resurrection. The initial element of the second principle is that all true believers have been baptized into His [Christ’s] death. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him on the cross. And the reason is explained in Romans 6:4 that we were buried therefore with Him by/through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by/through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him in resurrection. Believers died with Christ in order that we might have life through Him and live like Him. By realizing that our sin is cosmic treason against God, repenting of that sin, and trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we were, by an unfathomable divine miracle, taken back 2,000 years, as it were, and made to participate in our Savior’s death and to be buried with Him, burial being the proof of death. The purpose of that divine act of bringing us through death (which paid the penalty for believers sin) and resurrection with Christ was to enable believers to walk in newness of life. The Greek word “newness” (kainotēti) speaks of life that has a new or fresh quality. The resurrection of Jesus was not just a resuscitation; it was a new form of life. In the same way the spiritual lives of believers in Jesus have a new, fresh quality. Also, a believer’s identification with Jesus Christ in His resurrection, besides being the start of new spiritual life now, is also the guarantee of physical resurrection. (Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 462). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

 

Please Turn to Acts 8 (p.917)

 

Quote:The noble theologian Charles Hodge summarized, There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are partakers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.], p. 195).

 

Baptismis an outward visible sign of participating in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through faith. This participation is seen here in the desire for obedience from the Ethiopian eunuch:

Acts 8:26-40 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (ESV)

  • Philip reached out to this Ethiopian to ascertain his understanding. He was most likely reading Isa. 53:7–8, a witness to Christ, attesting to the Holy Spirit’s leading. The direction of the Holy Spirit in this incident is apparent again as Philip and the eunuch arrive at a rare watering place in the desert precisely when the eunuch requested baptism. When the Spirit controls a life, they seek obedience, as illustrated here in baptism.

 

As Christ’s resurrection life was the certain consequence of His death as the sacrifice for believers sin, so the believer’s holy life in Christ is the certain consequence of their death to sin in Christ. This results in a newness of life. Newness translates kairos, which refers to newness of quality and character, not neos, which refers merely to newness in point of time. Just as sin characterized our old life, so righteousness now characterizes our new life. Scripture is filled with descriptions of the believer’s new spiritual life. We are said to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), a new spirit (Ezek. 18:31), a new song (Ps. 40:3), and a new name (Rev. 2:17). We are called a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a new creature (Gal. 6:15), and a new self (Eph. 4:24). New life in Christ follows death to sin as certainly as Christ’s resurrection followed his crucifixion.( Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

 

Continuing to affirm the truth that this union with Christ in His death brings new life and also inevitably brings a new way of living, Paul explains finally in Romans 6:5 For if we have been/become united with Him a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. This is a PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE which could be translated, “have been and continue to be joined together,” or “have been or continue to be planted together with.” This truth is theologically analogous to “abiding” in John 15. If believers have been identified with Jesus’ death (cf. Gal. 2:19–20; Col. 2:20; 3:3–5), theologically they should be identified with His resurrection life (Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 6:5). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).

 

John Piper summarized and gave thanks for this great reality when he said: “To be a Christian, is to live in the reality of what our baptism portrays: day by day we look away from ourselves to God and say, “Because of Christ, your Son, I come to you. In him I belong to you. I am at home with you. He is my only hope of acceptance with you. I receive that acceptance anew every day. My hope is based on his death for me and my death in him. My life in him is a life of faith in you, Father. Because of him I trust your working in me and for me. The same power and glory that you used to raise him from the dead you will use to help me. In that promise of future grace I believe, and in that I hope. That is what makes my life new. O Christ, how I glory in what my baptism portrays! Thank you for dying my death for me and giving new life to me. Amen.” (Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.)

 

(Format note: Outline & base commentary from MacArthur, J. (1996). Romans (311–323). Chicago: Moody Press).

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