Buried and Raised with Christ
God has always used illustrations, or object lessons, to teach people spiritual truths. Two such illustrations are considered to be sacraments (also called ordinances1) in today’s Protestant churches. One of these two is baptism.
The word baptism2 is used many times in the Bible. Literally it means, “to immerse” into something. In the context of water baptism, the word means “to immerse into water.” More specifically, being plunged or dipped completely below the water threshold. In the Bible, this was the way that John the Baptist and the early Christians baptized, and the way Jesus was baptized.
The act of baptizing is symbolic of the deep, spiritual truth of being born again. In baptism, people choose to identify themselves with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Water baptism illustrates the spiritual transformation that has already taken place in the soul of the repentant sinner who submits to the authority of Christ. Paul describes it in Romans 6:3-4:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.”
Just as Christ died, was buried, and rose again, we too die to our sin and are raised in a new life because we are now identified as being in Christ. Physical baptism illustrates the reality of the spiritual baptism of the person being baptized.
In his letter to Titus, Paul says that baptism represents the washing away of our sins and the renewal of the Holy Spirit which occurs at regeneration.
Baptism does not convey grace to the sinner and thereby regenerate the soul. It is not necessary for salvation. It is an outward sign of an inward transformation that has already happened. Therefore, baptism should occur after a person is born again – not before. And when baptism is performed, it should be immersion and not sprinkling. Any other ritual would not symbolize the truth it represents.
Verses for Further Reflection
- The words sacraments and ordinances can be used interchangeably to describe the practice of baptism. For years, Protestants have declined to use the term ‘sacrament’ when describing baptism in order to prevent confusion with the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of the Sacrament of Baptism, which holds to the conveying of grace and not the symbol of such a reality.
- Baptism comes from the Greek word ‘baptizo’ which, when translated, means: “to plunge, dip or immerse.” Baptizo is consistently used in this context throughout ancient Greek literature, both inside and outside of the Bible.