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The Spiritual Significance of Baptism

by Mark Larson
via Gospel Power, Vol. 16, No. 6, Feb. 8, 2009.

"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" (Romans 6:3,4).

Clearly, baptism is no mere symbol or ritual. Baptism is what enters us into union with Christ! Baptism into Christ establishes a real spiritual connection to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Baptism Into the Death of Christ

Baptism is not just about receiving the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), it is our union with the death of Jesus! "All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death" (Romans 6:3). Jesus the Savior died for our sins. Sin is what brought Him to the cross. Rather than a continued desire for sin after baptism, there should be a hatred and rejection of sin, the very thing that caused Jesus to die in the first place. "And He Himself bore our sins in HIs body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (I Peter 2:24). Baptism into Christ is absolutely essential to putting to death our sins: "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, 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" (Romans 6:5,6).

Buried with Christ

The word baptism literally means "Immersion." Every person including Jesus, who was baptized was immersed (not sprinkled or poured) in water (e.g. Mark 1:9,10; Acts 8:38,39). That is why the apostle Paul says to the Christians at Rome: "We have been buried with Him through baptism" (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:11,12). A burial best represents baptism (i.e., immersion). There is great spritual significance to being buried with Jesus. Just as a real burial involves a real death, so does baptism (which is a "burial" ) result in a real spiritual death to sin. Baptism is not merely a "good work" nor is it to be done as a public display of becoming a member of a local church. Baptism into Christ is essential to putting to death our sins!

Raised with Christ

Baptism into Christ introduces us to a new life! "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" (Romans 6:4). Baptism is necessary "so we too" may rise to live a new life. Just as Christ was raised or "born again" from the dead (Revelation 1:5; Colossians 1:18), we too are raised or "born again" to a new life after baptism (John 3:3,5). "Newness of life" entails all spiritual blessings that are given in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Specifically, we are not longer "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1,2), but instead "dead to sin" and "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). There is "newness of life" because each Christian is now a new person in Christ, living life in service to God, not sin: "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (II Corinthians 5:17). Only those who have been baptized into Christ are "in Christ" and are living the new life in Him.

Salvation Through Christ

"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" (I Peter 3:21). This straight forward passage about baptism makes it perfectly clear that baptism is fopr our salvation. Those who dismiss baptism as non-essential or optional, ignore this plain statement of Scripture. Baptism does not in any way diminish the achievement of Christ on the cross for our sins. Instead, baptism is a commandment we must obey to gain access to the saving power of Jesus. Notice what makes baptism powerful: Not the water itself ("the removal of dirt from the flesh"), but the appeal we make to God "for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). Jesus is still the means of our salvation, eternal life is still a free gift (Romans 6:23), we are simply meeting the Lord's condition for salvation as commanded in Scripture: "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelived shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

Added to the Body of Christ

When a person is baptized into Christ, they are also, at the exact same moment, added to the body of Christ: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:13). His body is the church: "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). To belong to the Lord's church, there is no waiting for a "church committee" to give their approval. Instead, when you are baptized into Christ you are automatically added to His church and belong to the saved! "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. ... And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:38,41,47). See also Hebrews 12:22,23.

Make Sure You Have Been Baptized Into Christ!

No one is a disciple of Christ until he or she has been baptized into His name (Matthew 28:18-20). No one is "in Christ", a part of Christ, or has fellowship with Christ until he or she comes to Christ in faith to be baptized into Him. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26,27). If you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 3:16; Acts 16:31ff), are willing to confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9,10; Acts 8:37), then you are ready to be baptized! If you have not yet done so, be baptized into Christ today!