A gracEmail subscriber in the Northwest writes: “In Romans 6, Paul seems to tie baptism to our death with Christ, then speaks conditionally about our resurrection with him. Please comment.”
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The gospel tells us that Jesus died on the Cross, then arose from the dead to live again (1 Cor. 15:1-4). To live again after death is to live outside the limit of Sin’s jurisdiction, for Sin has no power beyond the grave (Rom. 6:6-7). Because Jesus died and lived again — and because he did so as our representative — his people also died and arose with him (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Thus freed from Sin’s power, believers can and may live holy lives dedicated to God (Rom. 6:4b-6, 8-10). The key is continually to reckon that we died and rose in Jesus our representative, and to present our bodies to God for righteous living on that basis (Rom. 6:11-14; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:1-3).
Baptism is the believer’s personal affirmation of faith in the gospel. It remembers the gospel. It declares the gospel. It portrays the gospel. It formalizes the believer’s union by faith with Christ who died and arose for us (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptism does not point to itself. It does not point to our faith. It points away from us to Jesus Christ, the object of our faith. It points to the death and resurrection of Christ — a finished, perfect, complete and sufficient work — by which God set sinners right with himself.
Today, we need to recover the central gospel message that the work which set us right with God happened outside of us, for us, in the person of Jesus Christ our representative (2 Cor. 5:18-21; Col. 1:19-20; Heb. 1:3; 10:12-14; 2 Tim. 1:8-10). We need to recover the New Testament practice of promptly baptizing those who come to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Acts 2:41; 8:36; 10:47-48; 16:33; 22:16). And we need to recover the New Testament emphasis on personal holiness and obedience — consequences which flow from the fact that we died and rose with Christ our representative (Rom. 6:1-10; Col. 3:1-15).