…Romans 6:1-7 tells us that we all died to our sins – and to sinning, through the cross.
The means of our “death to sin” is amazing. The apostle Paul makes the case that every believer in The Christ shares in what Jesus has done. When He died on that cross, those who believe in Him also died on that cross. His death provided the means for our own death – to sin, and to its crippling effects upon our lives. The apostle defines the way of applying this gracious provision as “baptism.”
There are two prominent possibilities concerning the term “baptism” here.
First, baptism could simply be a reference to water baptism – as the divinely-decreed ordinance for a profession of faith in The Christ (this particular view gains more support in the parallel passage of Colossians 2:12). This “baptism” is the occurrence of being baptized (usually immersed) in water.
If this is the case, then we observe within these verses, that baptism is not just a symbol of cleansing from our sins, or even a symbol of death and burial. The apostle is telling us that there is a real work that occurs, within the spiritual realm of things, that is applied to our lives when we are baptized because of our belief in Jesus. To be water-baptized actually affords us major spiritual benefits. If this is the apostle’s focus, then the sacrament of water baptism is able to produce these profound benefits within those who truly believe in Jesus.
But the apostle’s mention of “baptism” could refer us to another possibility. His use of term “baptized” could be to focus our attention upon the depth and breadth of our connection with Jesus. In the original language, “to baptize” literally means “to immerse.” The apostle may be instructing us in the fact that, in receiving Jesus (and what He has done for us) we are actually immersed into Jesus Himself. We are plunged into Him. We are actually bonded and connected to Him. And, because of this connection, when Jesus died, we actually died with Him. We are sharers, and actual participants, in His death.
And also, because of that same spiritual bond, when Jesus was placed in that tomb, we were also buried with Him. “We were therefore buried with Him through (or “by means of!”) baptism into death…” (Romans 6:4) If “being baptized” refers to being immersed into The Christ Himself, then the emphasis is upon God’s divine enabling that causes each of us to actually share in all that Jesus has accomplished.
In the end, whether Paul’s focus is upon the sacrament of water baptism, or upon our personal immersion into Jesus Himself, we are brought to the same conclusion. The means of applying all of the spiritual benefits of the work of Jesus is baptism. The final result is that we, who profess belief in Jesus, actually share in what He has done.
This is the apostle’s inspired point. Each of us who have come to faith in Jesus, and His atoning work, have spiritually shared (and are sharing) in, and personally experienced (and are experiencing), a bond or connection with The Christ – and with His death and burial. This spiritual bond, with Jesus, and with His work on our behalf, is what provides the foundation for the true Christian experience.
Being baptized into Jesus – being in Christ – is an irreplaceable part of God’s gracious provision for His New Covenant people!