Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is about Paul’s challenging question, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
¶“3Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death? 4We were buried with him therefore by immersion into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).
The scope of this lesson: we consider three different schools of thought on baptism: Protestant evangelicals; the Roman Catholic Church; and Paul the apostle.
Protestant evangelicals commonly teach that one is saved immediately upon believing the gospel. Baptism, they say, illustrates and demonstrates the salvation received at the first moment of faith.
Note: I am using the term “Protestant evangelicals” as a convenient general reference to people who teach “faith only” —that people are saved, forgiven, and blessed with the Holy Spirit by faith alone, without baptism being necessary to that salvation. However there are some who might style themselves as “protestant” or “evangelical” who don't teach salvation by “faith only”.
Now note Paul’s question again: “Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
How can people already be in Christ and in his death before baptism, when Paul says they are “baptized into Christ” and “baptized into his death;”?
If I said, “I was wheeled into the doctor’s surgery” would you understand that I was already in the surgery before I was wheeled into it?
So Paul says that we are baptized into Christ whilst the Protestant evangelicals say we are not. They say you enter into Christ’s death by faith alone. Paul says you are baptized into Christ’s death.
Protestant evangelicals say we cannot be baptized into Christ and into his death, because that would add a work of ours to the death of Christ, making his death insufficient.
So, in order to add nothing to Christ’s death, they subtract or negate Paul’s teaching that we are “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).
Paul teaches that we are “baptized into Christ... baptized into his death... buried with him by baptism into death... united together [with him] in the likeness of his death... our old person crucified with him” (Romans 6:3-6).
Paul is not teaching that we add anything to the death of Christ or the redemption price. He is simply telling us that we enter “by baptism” into that death, to be redeemed by it.
Imagine you are broke but want to go to Spain. A kind person pays your air fare in full. Now you must do something —you must board the plane. It's essential that you do it, but it contributes nothing to the fare.
We now turn to the Roman Catholic teaching which is known as “baptismal regeneration”. This adds to Paul’s teaching that we enter “by baptism” into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-6)
The following is quoted from the Catechism of the (Roman) Catholic Church, ARTICLE 1, THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
“1238 The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer of epiclesis (either at this moment or at the Easter Vigil). The Church asks God that through his Son the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that those who will be baptized in it may be 'born of water and the Spirit.'”
The addition here is that the “baptismal water” is influenced by the Holy Spirit so that it becomes no longer ordinary water but holy water imbued with divine power. This is the usual water used for baptism, although ordinary water is allowed in some circumstances.
In the Roman Catholic tradition special prayers by a priest and the church cause the Holy Spirit to imbue the baptismal water with power to cleanse and forgive. The power of the blood of Christ is transferred mystically to the water.
Paul teaches that we are “baptized into” Christ’s death where his blood was shed. However, Paul does not teach that the water, as the element or “matter” of baptism, has any power.
Whilst the Roman Catholic Church teaches correctly that baptism is necessary to salvation, it teaches several traditions on the subject that wrongly add to the word of God.
The work of redemption, which Jesus accomplished on the cross, was complete. Jesus paid it all. However redemption is not granted without “obedience to the faith” (Romans 1:5).
Being baptized is an act of humble obedience. It is not a proud attempt to contribute our works to the price of atonement. We know the death of Christ was the full redemption price. But we must enter into his death.
Paul teaches that through baptism, preceded by hearing, faith, repentance, and a confession of Christ, we enter into Christ’s death, and through that death we are redeemed.
Paul teaches that baptism is the likeness of Christ’s death and resurrection. Through baptism we die with Christ and are raised with him to walk in newness of life. This is “regeneration” or new birth.
The power for this regeneration is not in the baptismal water, the symbolism of baptism, or even in the act of baptism itself. The saving power is in Christ’s death and shed blood.
Paul would recall his own conversion when he became a believer on the road to Damascus. Later he received an instruction from Christ through Ananias...
“And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
At that time, Paul did not yet have his sins washed away. But he could wash away his sins by being baptized calling on the name of Christ. Paul understood that he was “baptized into christ... baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).
Paul asks, “Do you not know...?” Some want to change what we know and learn from Paul —that people enter into Christ by being “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).
|“Do you not know?”|
Romans 6:3-4, Acts 22:16
|BLESSING||“wash away your sins”|
|ACTION||“by baptism into”|
|THIS TEACHING MUST NOT BE CHANGED|