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Baptism and the Christian

O.K. When you became a Christian, you went through a check-list of things to do: Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. Then you were forgiven, added to the Lord’s Church, and put into Christ (whatever that means!). Now you are ready for the meatier things – like…. what?

When was the last time you heard a sermon or a class address the subject of baptism with the idea that you have been baptized. Now here is what that is supposed to mean in your life.

When you were baptized, you experienced crucifixion with Jesus. You were buried, as if you were in the tomb with Him. Then you were raised with Him into something called “newness of life” (see Romans 6:1ff).

Have you thought any about what that means?

Are you aware that after the Book of Acts, every mention of baptism in the New Testament is to Christians, those who have been baptized. It is not to persuade them to take this step. It is to tell them the significance of what they have done – and how they are to live as a result.

Since the Protestant Reformation, most of what has been said about baptism in the various churches has addressed these questions:

  1. Who should be baptized: infants or believers?
  2. How should baptisms be administered: by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion?
  3. Why should someone be baptized: as a sign of salvation or in order to be saved?
  4. Who should perform the baptism: anyone (even an unbeliever), any Christian, only a Christian man, or only ordained clergy?

In the churches of Christ we have also talked about whether or not we should recognize the immersion of believers who did not understand that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

Very little is said about baptism as the apostles who wrote the epistles talked about it.

To them, the Christian should have three things as a result of his or her baptism.

  1. Unity in Christ
  2. Purity in life
  3. Surity in salvation

Unity in Christ

Because we have been baptized into Christ, we are sons of God by faith. In Christ, we are members of His one body, the church. We were all baptized into the name of Christ – not into the name of some other person. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – but we are all one in Christ.

When the Corinthian church was divided, Paul called them to be united by reminding them of their baptism into the name of the One who died for them. He reminded the Galatian churches that they had been baptized into Christ where they are all one. In Ephesians, He included baptism among the seven “ones” of the unity of the Spirit. He reminded the Colossians that when they were baptized, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead also raised them – and in the next chapter began it by saying,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

A few verses later, he added:

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. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:9-14

In between he had talked about putting off some things. Many of the things (if not all) are things that break relationships among us here on earth – and our relationship with God. We are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We are to adopt a forgiving spirit and heart so that we forgive any grievance against another even as the Lord forgave us. Then, with all these virtues, put on love to tie them all together in perfect unity.

What would our church life be like if we focused more on these things – and less on fussing about instrumental music and how to care for orphans? We have a great propensity to take any difference we have and make it a matter of faith and of salvation. We find it hard to disagree with someone without warning him that if he continues on his path (of disagreeing with our understanding of the Scriptures), he is on the road to hell.

If we would go back and learn what Paul just taught us about our baptism and what it should mean to us, we would be much more likely to find unity even when we do not agree on every place to dot the i or cross the t in our doctrinal understandings.

Purity in Life:

Have you also noticed how much the apostles appeal to what happened when we were baptized to exhort us to live lives that are pure?

Think of Paul’s argument in Romans 6. He had just talked about God’s abounding grace in the end of chapter 5. He began chapter 6 by raising a not so hypothetical question: If what you say is true, then should we sin more so we can receive more grace? He said, “No” as emphatically as it can be written in the Greek language! Absolutely not! God forbid! May it never happen!

To explain his answer he reminded them that in being baptized that had shared death with Jesus, with the old man being crucified and a new man raised to new life. When Jesus died, he died to sin, and we died with him. For this reason, he said, we should consider ourselves dead to sin, so we should not – must not – let sin rule over us. Instead of using our bodies to sin, we should use them as tools in the hands of righteousness. Though the Christian is capable of sinning, he is not mastered by it.

In the same way, Peter spoke of baptism and how it saves us through the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:21). Jesus suffered in the flesh (4:1), and we suffered (died) with him. Therefore, we are “done with sin.”

As a result, he does not live the rest of his eartly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drundenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. – 1 Peter 4:2-4

Over and over, when an apostle speaks of baptism he follows it by speaking of how we are to live in purity because of what happened in baptism.

Surity in Hope:

We also have assurance of our hope because of what we are given in baptism. The hallmark passage on baptism for churches of Christ is Acts 2:38.

Peter replied [to the Jews on Pentecost], “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We have focused on the first part of this promise, which is important. However, in the epistles much more is said about the second part: You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit in us that marks us as children of God and is the seal of our inheritance.

Assurance is not limited to the fact that pre-baptismal sins are forgiven; it is also assurance of a continuing relationship to God that exists because of one’s baptism into Christ. Hebrews 6:1ff alludes to the nature of this relationship. Here, verses 4-5 declare the effects of those first principles (vv. 4f). These principles result in tasting the heavenly gift and becoming a partaker of the Holy Spirit. Among those principles that give these results is “instruction about baptisms.”

Paul said to the Corinthians:

For we were all baptized by [NIV footnote, “or with; or in”] one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. – 1 Corinthians 12:13

Here is the living water Jesus promised would flow from within those who believe in Him (John 7:38). This is the water Jesus told the Samaritan woman that if she would drink of it, she would never thirst again (John 4:14). This is what we are given to drink when we are baptized into the one body of Christ.

As Paul wrote to Titus:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

Did you see what he said? “Through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…we…become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

This is what he meant when he wrote in Ephesians:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14

When did we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit? Hear Paul again:

You are all sons of god through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ….

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, father.” — Galatians 3:26-27; 4:6

We are sons of God by faith because we are baptized into Christ. Because you are sons, God gives the Spirit to seal that family relationship.

Where is our hope? It is in the Christ who died for us and who is attested to us by His Spirit within us. It is in our relationship to God, our Father. That hope is certain – as long as we do not quench the Spirit by insulting Him because we trample underfoot the Son of God and treat the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing (Hebrews 10:29).


Do we in the Church of Christ talk about baptism too much? I do not think so. In fact, we do not talk about it enough – at least to ourselves. We do not remind ourselves enough that in baptism we share with the Christ in the awesome deed at Calvary and in His resurrection from the garden tomb. We do not remind ourselves enough of the gift we receive when we are baptized and clothed with Christ – the seal of the Holy Spirit of promise.

Because we do not remind ourselves of these things, we are not one, as He would have us be one. We are not pure, as He would have us be pure. We do not walk in Him with confidence because we know His Spirit is with us to guard, guide and protect us until we reach that blessed hope preserved for us in heaven.


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