“Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”
Romans 6:3-4 NLT
Paul introduces what must have sounded a bit strange to his Roman readers. He said that they “were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism”. What is that all about? Perhaps we should pause in our journey through this Epistle, and consider what baptism really means. In a Christian sense, the word “baptism” means immersion in water. It doesn’t mean sprinkling a few drops of water on a baby’s head. But liturgies over the years have perhaps tried to make baptism more convenient and socially acceptable. After all it is not particularly easy to have to change clothes and get into a tank of water, or a river, or a swimming pool, and undergo a very public display of being immersed in water.
We read in Mark that John, nicknamed “John the Baptist”, associated repentance from sins with the act of baptism. “All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptised them in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5). And Jesus Himself, even though he was the sinless Son of God, also submitted to the process. We read in Matthew 3:13-15, “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptised by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptised by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptise him”.
Why should Christians be baptised? The main reason is that it is a very visible and public expression of a person’s faith and belief in Christ. So it can only really take place when the person is old enough to know what they are doing and what it means spiritually and practically. The pastor and theologian, David Pawson, who sadly died last year, says that baptism is one of four essential steps in becoming a Christian. The four steps are,
Repentance of sins towards God.
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being Baptised in Water.
Receiving the Holy Spirit.
David’s book “The Normal Christian Birth” is well worth a read.
Paul wrote in Romans 6:3, ”For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism”. The symbology is that we identify with Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and that through the act of baptism, they are washed away and remain in the water, as we emerge a new person “… created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24). Our “old man” has died. Let’s pray that he or she stays that way!
Has anyone reading this today, someone believing in the saving and redeeming grace of Jesus, and has not been baptised? Pray about it. As Jesus said, “we must carry out all that God requires“. And find a church or fellowship that will help you.
Dear God. We want to be obedient to Your Word. Please speak to us about baptism, leading and guiding us in the right paths. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.