Baptism unto the Death of Jesus Christ.


H. A. Ironside

Baptism unto the Death of Jesus Christ.

We will quote the passage referring to this in full.

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid (or, by no means). How shall we that are dead [or, died] to sin live any longer therein2 Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into* Jesus Christ were baptized into* His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into* death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom.6:15).

(* "Unto" is probably a more suited word here. The Greek preposition will bear either rendering. See 1 Cor.10:2. Israel are said to have been "baptized unto Moses." It is the same word. They were separated to Moses as leader; and we to Jesus Christ as Lord.)

Here all would seem to be simple; but, alas, even over so clear a Scripture there has been much conflict of opinion. The doctrine of grace in the previous chapters, which show that a man is "justified by faith without (or, apart from) the deeds of the law" (Rom.3:28), with the additional teaching of the change of Headship, from Adam to Christ (Rom.5:12-21) ; that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience unto death] of One shall many be made righteous" (v.19), might lead some one to ask: "If all be of grace why not indulge myself as I please? The greater my sin, the greater the grace that will bring me through." For answer, the apostle makes an appeal to the foundation truth symbolized in baptism at the very beginning of the Christian course.

"By no means," he exclaims: "We died to sin," i.e., died out from under its dominion, because Christ with whom we are now identified died to it (v.10). It must then no longer control us. We are not to live in that to which we died. Was not our baptism a burial unto His death? Did it not say we had died with Him and were now buried with Him? "Know ye not that so many of us as were immersed unto Jesus Christ were immersed unto His death?" Here definite knowledge is connected with the ceremony-- "Know ye not?" They should have been aware of this at the time. He is surprised at the ignorance of any among them who does not realize that his former condition is over forever.

In baptism I own that in myself I have no hope. Death is my just portion. But Christ has died, and that for me. His death is my only ground of confidence. Therefore I am buried to it. But not that alone. His death is my death. I died with Him. All that I was by nature God dealt with judicially in the cross of Christ. So having died it is right that I should be buried. My old condition is at an end, and of this the watery grave is witness.

Faith says: "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal.2:20). Baptism is the confession of burial with Him. Henceforth "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;" or, as we have it in the chapter before us, "Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

If sin would seek to control me, I am to point back to the grave and say, I was buried there. I died with Christ from under your authority. You cannot expect my service this side of the tomb. I am a resurrection man. Baptism has outwardly separated me from your sphere. (It was a fine answer a brother once gave when the question of secret societies was being discussed. Turning to him one said: "But you are a Free Mason, are you not?" "No," was the reply; "I am not." "But you certainly were once; and a Free Mason once, a Free Mason until death," was the retort. "True; but I buried the Free Mason in Lake Ontario," he answered; and it was evident that he at least had entered into the purport of Baptism.)

In Colossians the same truth is enforced, more briefly, yet with perhaps added pungency: "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the flesh ("The sins of" is generally considered an interpolation, and should probably be omitted), by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein [or, in whom] also ye were raised together with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead" (2:11,12).

Here it is clearly taken for granted that all who are rightly subjects of baptism have been raised with Christ "through the inwrought faith of God," as some would translate it. Not that this is true of all the baptized, but it is God's order -- not man's confusion -- that is in view. According to the divine pattern the baptized are a company of people who are actually circumcised with the circumcision made without hands-- that is, have seen the end of the flesh (as before God) in the cross, and now stand on resurrection ground. Circumcision was a cutting off of the flesh. But Christ was cut off for me. So the flesh is gone from God's viewpoint. I died when Christ died, and so I have been circumcised in His death. As to baptism and circumcision viewed as one ordinance succeeding the other, it is enough to say that of old, a natural-born Israelite was to be circumcised the eighth day; in the present dispensation the one who, by new birth, is brought into God's family, is to be baptized. There is a similar thought in Peter's first letter. Commenting on the typical aspect of Noah's deliverance through water (saved by the waves of judgment which, while they overwhelmed the ungodly, carried him and his over to a new earth) he says: "The like figure [antitype] whereunto baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer [demand] of a good conscience toward God) ... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21).

Noah saved through the flood of wrath in the ark shadows forth the believer's deliverance from judgment, as baptism clearly expresses, i. e., salvation by the work of Christ. He endured all the curse, even as the ark bore all the brunt of the storm; but the believer can say, "His death was mine." It is not to baptism that any efficacy attaches; that could only put away outward filth. There is not the slightest justification here for the ritualistic dogma of baptismal regeneration. The only thing that gives the answer which a good conscience demands, is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. That apprehended, baptism is full of meaning. "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom.4:25).

Connecting closely with the scripture from Peter's epistle is the question of