Question:

What is meant by Colossians 2:12, "in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead"? Is it teaching the efficacy of our baptism lies in our faith in God? If so then one of the faith only might say that "Faith is what is more important and not baptism?" Thanks for your time.


Answer:

The fact that faith is essential does not lead to the conclusion that faith is exclusive. Without faith, baptism is nothing more than jumping into the swimming pool. You get wet, but it doesn't do anything else. It is no different than someone saying they want to be saved from sins, but refusing to leave their sins. Repentance is essential for salvation, just as faith is essential.

"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:11-13).

Notice that there are several interconnected things being discussed. There is the putting off sin, a burial with Christ in baptism, and a raising up with Christ. This is exactly the same thing Paul discussed in Romans,

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:3-7).

In baptism we are:

  1. Baptized into Jesus' death,
  2. Buried with Jesus through baptism, united in the likeness of his death, and
  3. Raised from the water in the likeness of Jesus' resurrection.

At the same time:

  1. We die to our old life of sin,
  2. Which is spiritually cut off and buried, and
  3. We rise to a new life, having been forgiven all our trespasses and made free from sin.

Yet, we recognize that the power for all this is not in the water or in ourselves.

  1. Our sins were cut off by circumcision made without hands -- it was spiritually done by Christ.
  2. It is God who makes us alive
  3. It is God who forgives us of our sins.

How do we know this? We have "faith in the working of God" (Colossians 2:12). "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" (I Peter 3:21). Baptism doesn't save through some physical action. Baptism is appealing to God for salvation through the resurrection of Christ, because God commanded it, to receive a good conscience. Thus, baptism immediately saves because the believer acts on his belief to obey God and as a result God saves the obedient believer. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6). Notice the same phrasing: God made us alive with Christ having raised us up together -- Paul is alluding to baptism. It is God who saves and the basis for which we are baptized is our faith in God. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Man obeys and God saves. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

If faith is more important to salvation than baptism because it comes before baptism, then learning God's word is more important than faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). But the truth of the matter is that none of God's teachings are insignificant. It is not for man to rate the importance of God's teachings. ""Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20). Baptism is commanded by Christ along with hearing, faith, repentance, confession, love, and obedience. "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:23).

I thank God for how He has helped me through you. Continue the fight for truth, and keep me in your prayers and I will do the same for you.