Or 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.
It is always interesting to me that when some people hear the word baptism they immediately smell water. When I was a boy in Montana, I had a horse that could smell water from farther away than any animal I ever saw. There are people who are like that. Whenever they read these passages, and see the word baptism, they smell water, but there is no water here. This is a dry passage.
This passage is dealing, of course, with the question of how we died to sin, how we became separated from being in Adam, how we became joined in Christ. No water can do that. That requires something far more potent than water. It is, therefore, a description for us of what is called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink,” (1 Corinthians 12:13). He says twice that all believers were baptized into one body. We were placed into Christ. You are not a Christian if that isn’t true of you. People today who say you need to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit after you become a believer do not understand the Scriptures. There is no way to become a believer without being baptized with the Spirit.
Notice some things that Paul says about the baptism of the Spirit in this passage: First, he says that we are expected to know about it. “Don’t you know…” Paul asks. He expects these Roman Christians, who had never met him or been taught personally by him, to know this fact. It is something new Christians ought to know.
Notice also that the apostle says, “This is how we died to sin.” The great statement of this passage is that when we became Christians, we died to sin. Paul is still discussing the question, “Can a believer go on sinning?” “No,” answers Paul, “because he died to sin.” How did we die to sin? This is how, Paul explains: The Spirit took us and identified us with all that Jesus did. That means that somehow this is a timeless event. The Spirit of God is able to ignore the two thousand years since the crucifixion and resurrection and somehow identify us with that moment when Jesus died, was buried, and rose again from the dead. We participate in those events. That is clear.
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Therefore this is not theological fiction; it is fact. Adam sinned, and we sin. Adam died, and men ever since have died. The apostle is saying that what was true in Adam has now been ended and now we are in Christ, by faith in Jesus Christ. Once Adam’s actions affected us; but now what Christ did becomes our actions as well. Christ died, and we died; Christ was buried, and we were buried with him; Christ rose again, and we rose with him. So what is true of Jesus is true of us. Here Paul is dealing with what is probably the most remarkable and certainly the most magnificent truth recorded in the pages of Scripture. It is the central truth God wants us to learn. We died with Christ, were buried, and rose again with him. That union with Christ is the truth from which everything else in Scripture flows. If we understand and accept this as fact, which it is, then everything will be different in our lives. That is why the apostle labors so to help us understand this.
Lord, thank you for this assurance that, having been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I can rest assured that I am dead to sin and alive to you.
Can water baptism bring us out of our death in Adam and into new Life in Christ? What is its purpose? What essential and transforming truth does the baptism of the Holy Spirit signify?