Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our baptism means we must die to each other

We baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because in becoming disciples, we have been placed into (spiritually baptized) fellowship with the Trinity, specifically, we have been placed into Christ. This reality is noted in Colossians 2:11-12:

“11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Then Colossians 3:1-3:

“1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

In our circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11) we have been placed into Christ. Christ's circumcision on the cross (Col. 2:11; also Is. 53) has become our heart circumcision (Col. 2:11). This is the heart circumcision that had been promised in Deuteronomy 30:6 and Jeremiah 31: 31-34, 32:37-41. We have been united to Christ by virtue of His death and resurrection on our behalf (Col. 2:12, see Rom. 6:1-5). The life of the church is a life that is forever hidden in and united to Christ. His death became the death of our corporate old man. Christ’s resurrection became our regeneration and our new life in the new creation that the church celebrates every time it gathers coram deo.

Water baptism externally and visibly speaks to the reality of this inner heart circumcision, the inner work of the baptism of the Spirit which unites us to Christ. When we are plunged into the water, we declare and we speak to being plunged into Christ and his death where the old man, the old self, died in judgment. Water baptism speaks to this internal reality. Baptism declares that we have been united to Christ by faith and are now part of the New

Romans 6:1ff tell us that our water baptism signifies our union with Christ:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Why is it we are to no longer live in sin? Because in having our hearts circumcised by Christ’s circumcision on the cross, our old man died. And how is it that we keep each other accountable to no longer live in sin? Because in our water baptism, we declared that we have died with Christ to sin. The old man is buried. Our sins have been washed. We are alive as a new creation to live the life more abundantly given to us by He who was resurrected on our behalf.

And in Romans 6, already we’ve begun to touch on the outworking of being placed or plunged into Christ via the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Because we have received the inner baptism of the Spirit, because we have been plunged into Christ, we have been placed into Christ’s Body, his visible representation on earth.

Our water baptism not only proclaims Christ’s death, it also proclaims our death with him and our raising up to new life with Him. If we have died to sin, and if this is an entrance into the community (Acts 2:38-41), as we say we have done in baptism, then we must be a people who are marked by lives that die to each other. Baptism is not something that occurs in isolation. We cannot baptize ourselves. Christ, in his providence (the way he has ordained and orchestrated things to be) has inwardly baptized us. He has given us a visible picture, a visible mechanism, whereby he is gathering people to himself. Through this picture He places us into visible community through His church. We have been gathered together with others who like us no longer have the old man. Our old man, corporately, has died. So, we must die to each other. This is a new creation. Our baptism unites us.

Every week we gather as a baptized people to celebrate the new creation. And as we do so, our community will be marked in consideration for one another, a preference for one another, a dying to one another because our old man has died and we have been raised in baptism to walk in newness of life. -- crb, "The Entrance into the Community - Baptism", mp3