Hi everyone, welcome to the second instalment on baptism. This week we are looking at what it means to die with Christ, I hope you enjoy the read and also that you are challenged and encouraged on your journey with or to Jesus our King.
Like the last message on Baptism it would be helpful if you read Romans 6 and Colossians 2-3 (or even just the whole book)
Just last week we began a series looking at Baptism. Baptism is one of two important symbolic rituals that Jesus gave to the Church. The other ritual is the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate on a regular basis.
Last week we heard that Baptism was very important for a number of reasons. Firstly the act of Baptism proclaims to the world that the person being baptized has accepted Jesus into their life and has pledged their allegiance to Him.
Secondly, borrowing the idea of a street sign, Baptism is a street sign that points to Jesus. This means that the act of baptism is an act of Gospel proclamation.
The being submerged under water, the being raised up again, is re-enacting; or, like a street sign, pointing to Jesus. Jesus died and was buried, symbolized in the going under. Jesus then rose again, symbolized in the coming out of the water.
When we are baptized we are telling the world that Jesus, who I now follow, died so that our sins could be forgiven, and he rose from the dead so that we could have new eternal life.
This re-enacting declares what Jesus has done, but not just that, it declares what Jesus has done for the world, and also what Jesus has worked out for the one being baptized.
Baptism also draws our attention to what took place on the cross. The waters of baptism are symbolic of the cleansing that Jesus’ death made possible. Baptism is like a bath, we go in dirty we come out clean. Jesus on the cross turned dirty humans into new cleansed people, and Baptism represents that.
So while there is nothing magical about baptism in and of itself, it is a very important sign-post that points us toward Jesus and the Gospel, and our allegiance to Him.
But the sign-posts of baptism doesn’t stop there, Paul says in Romans 6:3-4, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Baptism points to Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, but it also points to the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection too.
Now to unpack what dying, and being buried, and being raised means for us we are going to digest it piece by piece. This week we are going to explore dying with Christ.
But before we start looking at the death Baptism points to, let’s bow our heads and pray that the Holy Spirit might speak to us through the Scriptures.
[Excerpt from Rodney Reeves’ book Spirituality According to Paul] A young family was driving though the country side one summers morning, when as they passed an old cemetery, with big crosses and angels, their young six year old asked, “Mummy, Daddy, who lived there?” pointing at the cemetery.
The dad quite humorously and ironically said, “dead people live there darling.” The irony was lost on the little girl, and the wife responded with an unimpressed look, but none the less the dad, as dads do, thought it was funny.
Anyway, the girl curiously wanted more information, and asked, “What do you mean?” And the dad quickly answered, “When we die, our souls go to be with Jesus in heaven but our bodies stay here–so they have to be put somewhere until they are raised at the end of time.”
The mum quickly interrupted the dad’s indelicate theological answer and gave a more gentle, tactful answer. “Most of the time the body is placed in a box called a ‘casket’. Then the family and friends go to the cemetery to have the funeral, and the casket is placed underground.”
No response, the little girl seemed satisfied with the short info session on death, and so she went back to looking out the window. A few minutes later though, the little girl again interrupted. “Then why does our church have a cross on it? Dead people don’t live there too, do they?”
At cemeteries crosses show where the dead people live. And just like cemeteries, when we hang crosses around our necks, or mount them on top of church buildings, we’re telling to the world: “Dead people live here.”
Baptism then acts like the cross, when we are submerged under water we are telling the world that we have died. It is a sign we wear that says to all, “Dead people live here.”
But how can we be dead, what death does baptism actually point to? In Romans 6:4 what does Paul mean when he says, we are baptized into death? To answer this question we need to back track a bit, and look at the beginning of this chapter.
Chapter 6 starts with a rhetorical question: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? As we read Romans we see Paul coming up against a group of people. This group were those that took Paul’s teaching about grace to a so called logical conclusion.
Paul in verse 20 of chapter 5 says, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” The so called logical conclusion that people were jumping to was: the more we go on sinning, the more grace Jesus will give us, so lets go on sinning.
Paul thinks this is a ridiculous idea, but why? What makes it so ridiculous? It makes sense that the more we sin, the more grace Jesus will extend to us, doesn’t it.
Yes it does, but we are missing one crucial piece of the puzzle. “Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Paul continues, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3 NIV11) The act of baptism for the believer is a sign-post that points to the death of our old sinful nature.
Our old sinful nature, when we become a Christian has been done away with, as Paul says in verse 6-7, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
This is no small matter, dying with Christ is a big and costly deal; It means putting our old ways behind us because on the cross Jesus took our old ways upon himself. God took our old self, our sinful self, and nailed it with Jesus to the cross, so that it would die and be done away with.
In Romans 7:2-3 Paul gives us an example of what this looks like, “…by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.”
Paul then goes on to say in verse 4 “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
When we become believers we die, our old life is done away with, and by dying we are then set free from the bondage of sin. As we just heard, in 6:7 “anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
Now this idea of dying might come as a shock to many of us, we may ask, “Why do I have to die when I become a Christian?” We sometimes convince ourselves that we can just add Jesus to our lives. We think to ourselves that all I need to do is add Jesus to my list of beliefs and keep going?
But for Paul that is a foreign idea, a false assumption. When Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road something changed for him. And it didn’t just change, as in, “Now I’ve added Jesus to my life.”
No, because of Jesus his world was now over. His life had come to an end. His traditions, keeping the Law, had come to an end. Up to the point of meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul was convinced that he was in the center of God’s will, doing exactly what God wanted him to do–arresting Christians, persecuting the church.
And when he did these things he considered himself to be blameless. And yet when he met Jesus on the road he found out he was doing the exact opposite to what God wanted.
Paul new what this meant, he knew what this conversion experience would do to him. That day he lost everything. He had been wrong about God, he had been wrong about the law, wrong about Christians, wrong about the cross.
When he met Jesus he realized nothing would be the same again. In an instant the old things passed away and everything became new. It was an unbelievable reversal.
The rumor spread quickly, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:23 NIV11) For Paul embracing the Cross of Christ, and accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior meant turning away from his previous life.
Paul writes in Philippians 3:4–8 “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Giving up our old life is a costly experience, we loose our identity, we maybe loose our friends, maybe loose our family. In countries where christianity is illegal people may loose their jobs, or freedom, they may even loose their life.
As we think about the cost of following Jesus, I have to ask myself, what has it cost me, what does dying with Jesus look like for me? What have I actually give up? Has anything I do now become incompatible with following Jesus? For me, I need to think and consider what has been crucified with Christ.
Following Jesus is not all about death though, while we constantly need to be putting to death our old self, it is not the end of the story. Just like in baptism where we are raised out of the water, so too in life we are raised anew, to live a new life in Christ. Dying is preparation for the new life we begin.
In verses 8-11of Romans 6, Paul writes, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
So what does all this have to do with baptism? Well, as we are baptized we tell the world that a dead person lives. We tell the world that we have died to our old selves, and by dying to our old selves we are free to live a new life in Christ (which we will find out more about in two weeks time).
So back to one of our first questions, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase?” Of course not.
In closing I want to acknowledge that this is a journey, dying to ourselves is a process. And so while crucifying our old self is a decisive act, it is also a process that takes time. And so yes I have died to my old life, but at the same time, I am putting to death my old ways.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry… You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:5, 7-10 NIV11)
As those who have told the world we have died with Christ through the Act of baptism I want to challenge us all to encourage one another on this journey of putting to death our old ways. This is a life long journey, but one that leads to new and abundant life with Christ.
For those who are not yet baptized, if you have believed and in believing have crucified your old self, why not tell the world. Why not put on the sign that says “dead person living here”? Why not be baptized? What is holding you back?
If you can’t think of anything then come and speak to me, If there is something holding you back come and speak to me.