Grace For The Journey
From my viewpoint, one of the great tragedies of American Christianity is that so many who profess themselves to be Christians do not seem to have even a basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian. For many, they are “Christians” only in the general cultural context that they were born in America and are not pagans, Islamic or Hindu. Others were born to parents that professed to be “Christians,” and they would go to a “Christian” church of some sort at least once in awhile even if only at Christmas and Easter. Others are very active in their churches and may even be very conscientious about fulfilling their religious duties. However, in all reality they live in utter defeat when it comes to actually following Christ. Why? Because they are not following Christ but the religious system they been taught. And take heed, this can be as true for someone raised in a Fundamental or Baptist Church as in the Catholic church.
The issue of
Jesus Christ Himself.
I think I am on safe ground to assert that most people who call themselves Christians do so on religious grounds and not because of any actual personal relationship they have with the Lord Jesus. Then there are the many that have been marketed a fire insurance policy to escape Hell or they have had Jesus sold to them as a means to a better life here on earth. Tragically they have never read the policy or had the instruction manual explained to them. Because of that, the vast majority live without the real benefits of being a Christian. Their lives are marked by many things other than the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22-23). Many will find in the end that they will not even escape the fires of Hell, because they have held to false beliefs about Jesus, who He is, what He has done, and what it means to believe or have faith in Him.
What does the Bible say about all this? What is the purpose of salvation?
What are we saved from? Paul addresses these questions clearly in Romans 6 as he continues to deal with the ramifications of being justified before God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember . . .
That Paul has been showing
That the Gospel message is
About the righteousness of God
Demonstrated in calling
A people to Himself
Based in His own
Justification of them through
Faith in Jesus Christ.
Man does not meet God’s perfect standard nor can he earn the favor of God
through his own efforts, all of which are filthy before the Holy One that created us. Paul has demonstrated this in Chapters 1-3. Every single person is naturally unrighteous before God. The ungodliness of the immoral is obvious, but the outwardly moral are also ungodly demonstrated by their hypocritical criticism of others while they are condemned by their own conscience for failing to do what they know is right. Religious people demonstrate their unrighteousness by failing to keeping their own religious standards. There are none who are righteous. There are none who even seek for God. Man cannot be made right with God by his own works. God’s righteousness is demonstrated in that out of His great love He Himself provided the means to redeem man from sin and save people from His wrath through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of our sin on the cross that we could be made right with God. Jesus Christ is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Him. The nature of this kind of faith is demonstrated by Abraham, which Paul points out in Chapter 4.
There are many ramifications
Of being justified by faith.
We have already looked as some of them in chapter 5 among which are having peace with God, being able to exult in God and our hope in Him which even allows us to exult in the tribulations we face because of the foundation of God’s love demonstrated in Jesus Christ. I can never question God’s love for me because He has already proven it in Jesus dying for my sin even while I was still a sinner. Because I know I am loved, I will always have hope, a confident assurance in Him and His promises for the future. Because I have hope, I can persevere in trials and mature in my character becoming what God wants me to be. James 1:2-4 says essentially the same thing, “I can consider it all joy when I face trials in this life because I know that God will make me more like Jesus Christ through them.”
Though I am condemned both through my sin nature inherited from Adam and from my confirmation of that with my own sin, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, my guilt is taken away, and I am given a new nature that no longer has to sin. This is the context of Romans 6.
The common, but incorrect, view of Christianity is that it is about saving people from Hell. Yes, salvation in Christ does include escape from God’s wrath which includes Hell, but that is only a side benefit to the main issue. If you reject the main issue, then you cannot enjoy the side benefits.
If you want the benefits of marriage, you have to get married. You cannot have one without the other. Those that try to get the benefits without getting married only end up with heartache and tragedy because the foundation necessary for the building of the benefits is never laid, therefore the house crumbles when tested. Marriage is about a lifelong commitment to love your spouse by giving of yourself to them for their benefit.
Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is about an eternal relationship with Him in which He redeems you from your sin, gives you a new nature, and changes you to be like Him. If that is not what is taking place, then you have a counterfeit ticket and your destination will be Hell, not Heaven.
Notice the question that Paul is answering in verse 1 as he begins this passage, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” There were those who wrongly concluded that God’s righteousness is demonstrated in His forgiving sin through faith in Christ, then why not just continue in sin and let God’s glory be manifested in His grace which abounds all the more where sin increases (5:20). While there are few that actively sin with the perverse idea that in doing so they can bring greater glory to God because His grace to cover it will be even greater, there are many that do live that way for all practical purposes. They do not consider their sin to be any big deal. Why be concerned about it if God’s grace will be greater and will cover it? Why bother to pursue holiness? Why not enjoy the things of this world and what God will give us in the next too?
Paul’s answer is strong as he can make it in verse 2, “May it never be!” The reason is that such is contrary to who we are in Christ. The faith that brings salvation in Jesus Christ is not an intellectual exercise, but one by which we enter into a new relationship with God. We are radically changed by it. As Paul puts in verse 2, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
That is as strong a statement as you can make.
You are no longer what you were.
The concept here is extremely radical.
What you were is dead, why then
Would you want to keep living as
A dead man in sin when you can
Now live as a new man in Christ.
This would be like someone who escaped from the Taliban in Afghanistan and came here, rejected Islam, became an American citizen, yet continued to wear a burqa if a woman, or refused to shave their beard if a man, for fear of the Taliban. The change that is made in us when we come to Christ is more radical than when a refugee from a communist country or other dictatorial regime becomes an American citizen.
Starting in verse 3, Paul uses baptism as the illustration of the radical change made in us. In doing this, Paul also teaches about what Christian baptism actually is. This is important for us since this is a doctrine that is horribly perverted by the Roman Catholic church and many other denominations. Let me digress here a bit so that you will understand what Paul means when he is talking about baptism here.
History of Christian Baptism.
Christian baptism arose from Jewish baptism rituals. Levitical law demanded that unclean things, including humans, were to be washed for ceremonial cleaning. Leviticus 15:13 even speaks of the person bathing in “running” water.” Jewish proselyte baptism was a sign that the convert had changed from a Gentile to a Jewish orientation of following the God and laws of Israel. The baptism of repentance practiced by John and Jesus was symbolic of the cleansing away of sin. The baptism itself did not take away sins, but it symbolized the righteousness and cleansing given to the individual as they confessed their sins and placed their trust in God alone.
Christian baptism arose out of these as an identification with Jesus Christ who cleanses us from our sin. This is also in keeping with the very meaning of the word “baptize.”
Meaning of Baptism
Our word, “baptize,” is a transliteration of the Greek word, which means to “dip” or “immerse,” and is in fact translated that way in John 13:26 and Revelation 19:13. The baptized object becomes identified with whatever it is “dipped” or “immersed” into. For example, a piece of cloth “immersed” into indelible dye will always be identified with that dye. When the Bible teaches that the Christian is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27), it is showing that the Christian is spiritually identified with Christ in death (Galatians 2:20), burial (Colossians 2:12), and resurrection (Colossians 2:12; 3:1). The word is also sometimes used in the sense of “washing” with water. Christian baptism also includes the idea of spiritual cleansing or forgiveness of sins (Acts 2”38; 22:16, cf. Titus 3:5). The spiritual, inward, and personal change experienced by the believer in Christ is
pictured in a physical, outward, and public way through water baptism.
Mode of Baptism
There are three different modes of baptism that are practiced in Christian churches, but only full immersion is in keeping with the meaning of the word and the historical practice of the church. The Roman Catholic Church, as well as most of the mainline denominations, currently practice sprinkling as the method of baptism, and a few churches practice “pouring,” which is in reality just sprinkling with a lot more water. While the mode of Baptism is not critical, it is important that we should do our best to follow the examples given in Scripture and use the method that most clearly illustrates the meaning and purpose of the ritual.
To “baptize” something was to immerse it. When Jesus was baptized by John, He went up from the water (Matthew 3:16). We also find that John would baptize in a place where there was “much water there” (John 3:23). John would not need “much water” and Jesus would not have to “come up from” the water if sprinkling or pouring was used. The practice of the early church was immersion. When Philip baptized the Ethiopian in Acts 3:36-38, they stopped the chariot when they came to some water and went down “into” the water. There is no Biblical text that even suggests another method was practiced.
Historically, the Christian church practiced only the mode of full immersion until the Middle Ages. While there is evidence for Baptism by pouring being used in the second century, that was only done when water was scarce. The Roman Catholic church did not recognize other forms of baptism except immersion until 1311. The Lutheran and Reformed churches inherited the form of sprinkling from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) did not begin sprinkling until 1645. The case for sprinkling is weak – it goes against the meaning of the word and the obvious examples of Scripture and church history.
There is also the symbolism involved. Catholic Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.” We agree. We practice baptism by full immersion here at First Baptist Butler, MO because it best fits the meaning of the word, the historical practice of Jesus and the early church, and best fits the symbolism involved.
Purpose of Baptism
It is also important to understand the purpose of baptism. The Bible is clear on the issue, but theologies developed by men who seek to overturn the Scriptures have confused many. In Roman Catholicism, and in some other Christian religions, baptism is the means by which the individual is cleansed from Adam’s sin. That is why they baptize infants. However, there is nothing in Scripture to even suggest this idea, much less teach it. This practice sprang up from the idea that the ritual of baptism itself is a means of gaining God’s grace. However, the only means by which we can be cleansed from our sins is through being justified by faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed as the atonement for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Those who do not have the Son do not have the life, and those that do have the Son have the life (1 John 5:11,12). That has been the thrust of Paul’s message here in Romans 1-5.
Other groups have taken this same idea and teach that unless you are baptized, you cannot be saved. They cite 1 Peter 3:21 as Biblical support, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter makes a similar statement in Acts 3:37 in response to the people asking what they should do in response to his sermon that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” While it may appear at first glance that baptism is necessary for salvation, even in both of these passages it is not baptism itself, but what it represents that saves – belief and identification with the resurrected Christ. The Bible is clear in many places that no act of righteousness which you can do can save you from your sin. For example, Titus 3:5-7 says, “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, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.”
A person should not be baptized as an effort to gain or to keep salvation. Water baptism does not save! Salvation is completely by grace through faith in Christ as Savior (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by good works including water baptism. Baptism should be a result of salvation. Note the order in Acts 8:12, “when they believed, . . . they were baptized” (see also Acts 16:31,33, 18:8).
Baptism for it is important, and there should be serious questioning of the salvation of a person that refuses to be baptized. In the New Testament we consistently find that those who come to believe in Jesus are baptized. However, baptism does not save or add to salvation. That is not its purpose.
Among those holding to reformed or covenant theology, there is the idea that baptism brings a child into the covenant relationship the parents have with Christ. For these groups, baptism is essentially the New Testament replacement of the Old Testament ritual of circumcision among the Jews. That is an interesting concept, but not one that can be demonstrated by Scripture. That is not the purpose of baptism.
The purpose of baptism is to identify the individual with Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Here we come back to Romans 6. Paul presents baptism as an outward ritual of something that reflects an inward reality. Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also [in the likeness] of His resurrection.”
Baptism is a public profession of a person’s faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. They are proclaiming that they have turned their back on their former life of sin and have begun to walk in a new life of righteousness for God. That is why we encourage those that are going to be baptized to also give their testimony of salvation. Going down into the water is identification with His death and burial and represents the death of their old self. Coming up out of the water is identification with His resurrection and their being raised to walk in newness of life.
Paul expands on this idea of newness of life in verses 6-12 with a practical conclusion and admonition in verse 12-14. Paul says in verses 6-7, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him,] that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
Why should the Christian take sin seriously, and to eschew it – to use an old word for abhor and flee from it?
Because through our faith
In Jesus Christ
We have been changed.
When Jesus died, He not only paid the penalty of my sin, but He also put to death my old self, that sinful nature I inherited from Adam. It had been my master, but now I am free of it. The nature of my identification with Christ is so complete that Paul expresses here that I have been freed from sin because I have died with Christ. It is an axiomatic statement that those who are dead no longer sin, but that is applied to me while I am still alive for that is the application of my identification with Christ’s death. My old self was crucified with Jesus so that sin in my life would be done away with and I would no longer be sin’s slave. To continue to live in sin is to live as the dead man I was, not as the new man I am. Paul speaks further of this in verse 8-11, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
My identification with Jesus also gives me positive hope in a new life in Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death. It no longer has any power over Him. Jesus will never die again. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sin once for all. God accepted the payment and raised Jesus back to life demonstrating His victory over sin and death. Jesus lives to God.
Our identification with Jesus is to be such that we also consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. This spiritual reality is something that we are to live out in the here and now. This does not come automatically. Paul uses the word “consider” here because this is something we have to think through and apply in daily life. As each decision comes up, as each temptation is faced, I must think back to the reality of who I am now in Jesus Christ. Whereas I was a slave to sin, I must remember that it is no longer my master and I do not have to obey it. Whereas I was controlled by the inherited sin nature of my old self, I must remember that my old self is dead and I am now to live in the new self of a nature identified with Jesus Christ.
Christians take sin seriously because of who they have become in Jesus Christ. Paul expands on this further in verses 12-14 with a practical admonition. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”
Paul’s is clear here. The one who has faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is radically changed. If the Christian sins, it is because they are living as if the old sinful self were still in control. That may be due to ignorance or stumbling, but in either case, it is not living in the benefits we have in Jesus Christ. Remember I said earlier that if you want the benefits, you must have the main issue settled first. Many professing Christians live in sin because they have not been changed and their old sinful self is still who they are and sin is their master. Their profession is false.
This issue of identification with Christ is the major difference between the Christian and those who are not true Christians. Sin is the master of non-Christian, for the old sinful self is still alive. The will of those who are in Adam is bent only toward sin. The Christian will still sin (1 John 1:8-10), but the old self has died with Christ and along with it the mastery of sin. Those in Christ have a new self that is alive and can obey God and walk in righteousness.
What is your own attitude toward sin? It is very revealing about where you really are spiritually. The true Christian struggles against sin. The non-Christian does not. The Christian finds that it is now against his very nature. The sinful things this world offers have less and less attraction. Sin bothers the Christian and he desires to change and be different. Like the teenager who begins setting aside childish things in order to enter the world of adult responsibilities, the Christian increasingly sets aside the fleeting
sinful pleasures of the world in order to pursue the greater satisfaction of a life pleasing to God.
As a conclusion, let me make some closing comments about baptism, for we take seriously this important ordinance in which the individual identifies themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should a Christian be baptized and what are the Biblical requirements?
Motive for Christian Baptism
Why should a Christian desire to be baptized? True Christians have a genuine love for Christ which motivates them to obey their Lord’s commandments (1 John 4:19, cf. John 14:21, “He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me,“). Christians should be baptized as an act of obedience to express the reality of their love for Christ (Matthew 28:19, cf. John 14:15). Jesus’ own baptism “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15-16) gives an example of obedience for the believer to follow in Christian baptism.
Christian baptism is like a soldier who puts on his uniform, not to become a soldier, but because he is a soldier and wants to publicly identify himself as a soldier. In Christian baptism the believer publicly identifies himself with Christ and His people (cf. Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Let me add here that this is also really the first step in identifying with Jesus Christ. Baptism is a serious matter and should not be done without great consideration of its meaning and your commitment to live for Jesus Christ. At the same time, there is also solid reason to question the validity of the profession of faith of someone who has not been baptized. Frankly, those who are afraid to obey the Lord and identify themselves as belonging to Him in baptism, should be even more afraid of falsely professing themselves to be Christians to others. The only condemnations we find Jesus made on people during His earthly ministry were on those who claimed to show others the way to God yet refused to obey God themselves (Matthew 23). Those who are not baptized should be even more afraid of partaking in Communion since Paul specifically warns that those who partake of it in an unworthy manner bring condemnation upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27,28). To want to identify with Jesus in the Lord’s Supper and yet refuse to identify with Him in baptism is inconsistent at best, and a reason for God’s condemnation at worst.
What then are the Requirements for Christian Baptism?
The New Testament teaches that only true believers in Christ should be baptized. First, Jesus’ command in the great commission is to baptize people after they have become disciples (Matthew 28:19). Second, baptism is reserved for believers because only believers have been spiritually baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”). In the book of Acts, people expressed repentance or faith and received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts 2:38,41; 8:12; 10:47-48; 16:31-33; 18:8). Spiritual baptism must be a reality through trusting Christ as personal Savior before water baptism can have its true scriptural meaning for a person. A person baptized before salvation becomes just a wet unsaved person instead of a dry one.
This means that baptism should be limited to people who are old enough to know Jesus as their personal Lord and savior. This excludes infants since they cannot understand these things. In addition, the Bible does not give even one clear example of infant baptism.
While an infant cannot believe, a small child can. Jesus Himself spoke of “these little ones who believe in me” (Matthew 18:6). If a child gives clear testimony of saving faith in Jesus Christ and shows a basic understanding of Christian baptism, then such a child is eligible for baptism, just as an adult would be.
The principle to remember is that genuine belief in Jesus must precede Christian baptism if it is to be scriptural and meaningful, and those who have genuine faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ are to identify themselves with His death, burial and resurrection through baptism into His name.
Have you been Scripturally baptized for the right reasons? Then rejoice in what Jesus has done for you and pursue living for Him with all your heart. Sin is not your master, Jesus is.
Do you profess faith in Jesus Christ for salvation from your sin that separates you from God? Then you need to be baptized. Talk with me or one of our church leaders after the service so that we can arrange that for you.
Are you still living according to your sinful nature inherited from Adam? Are you still estranged from God by your sin? There is forgiveness and a new nature awaiting you in Christ. Talk with me or one of our church leaders and let us show you how you can become a new creature by faith in Jesus.
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!