Baptism: The Proclamation and Affirmation of the Gospel
This morning as we continue in our attempt to think through how the gospel relates to the church, we come to the glorious ordinance of baptism. Now, the underlying principle I have attempted to show in each of these sermons is the fact that every facet of the church’s existence and life is based upon the new birth that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When we spoke about church membership, we saw in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that to be a member of the church, one must be born again. Last week, in discussing the examination for faith, we see that it is required of us to test ourselves and each other to make sure we are born again. This week, we will hopefully see that the ordinance of baptism is grounded upon and proclaims the new birth in Jesus Christ.
So, to draw this all together: the foundation upon which the church is built is the new birth through salvation in Jesus, and if the new birth is the basis of the church’s existence and the qualification for membership, then we must examine ourselves and one another to see if we have been born again, and finally: baptism is the way that a believer personally proclaims that they have been born again, and the way the church affirms that this person has been examined and shown fruit of the new birth. The church is made up of those who have been born again through faith in Jesus, and because this is the case we must examine each other to look for evidence of new birth, and thus baptism becomes the ceremony in which the believer publically and finally proclaims that they have been born again, and the church corporately recognizes that this is true. Therefore, baptism is the ordinance that allows the believer to identify themselves as being born again, and allows the church to place their approval on that believer’s faith after having examined them.
Now, in our passage this morning, what we are going to see is that Paul is painting a picture of the gospel, and the example he uses is that of baptism. The imagery of baptism is dripping with the gospel, and it is beautiful! We observe baptism so that a believer can say: “This is the gospel I have believed.”, and so that the church can say, “Yes! This is the gospel we affirm.”
READ Romans 6:1-11 & Pray
Summary: Baptism into death & raised into life (3-5)
Now, in these first verses, Paul ties baptism to the gospel. He makes reference to 2 things: Christ’s death, and Christ’s resurrection, because these are the central elements of the message of good news. We’ll see more precisely what Paul is talking about in just a moment, but what is important to recognize is how Paul relates baptism to what Christ has done.
According to Paul in these verses, when a person is baptized, it is a demonstration of the transaction which has taken place between themselves and God through Jesus. Christ died, and our baptism shows that we have somehow participated in that death. Jesus was raised, and we have participation in that resurrection also. So there are two central elements of the gospel which baptism proclaims: Jesus death and resurrection.
Ah my friends, set your mind to see what this means for the act of baptism! It is not simply a rite of passage for someone to become a church member. It is not simply a nice ceremony when we get to congratulate the believer on making a public display of their faith. Brothers and sisters, the full weight of the precious cross lays upon the ordinance of baptism! When our Lord was carried to the grave, they sealed his lifeless body behind a massive wall of stone. But at the proper time, the glory of the Eternal God filled the tomb so powerfully that the very earth shook. THAT is the glory which shines through in baptism. We’ll see it more clearly in the coming verses.
Crucified with Christ and free from sin (1-3,6-7)
These verses speak to one of the deepest truths of the gospel. If I were to ask you what the main problem of mankind is, what would you say? If you had to point out the greatest problem in all of human history, what would it be? The Bible speaks very clearly about this: the greatest problem in all of human history is the fact that every single human ever born is separated from God because of sin. EVERY other problem we face here on earth comes from that. Sickness, natural disaster, emotional pain, weariness, fear, even death itself…all of that comes from the fact that sin has entered the world and broken the relationship between man and God. And this problem extends far beyond the pain and difficulty which we experience in this life. The fact that we are separated from God because of sin poses a HORRIFYING threat for ETERNITY, because if we are not somehow reconciled to God, if our sin is not somehow dealt with, we will spend eternity being punished for sin. Eternity.
But oh! My friends! This is PRECISELY why Jesus came! All of the guilt which I have heaped up before God, all of the sins – from the smallest lie to the most awful thing I’ve ever done – everything which separates me from God…was laid upon Jesus on the cross, and God’s FULL wrath for MY sins broke upon Jesus. My guilt was destroyed. My sins forgiven, all because I have gone to the one who hung on the cross and said, “Oh Lord, forgive me! I commit my life to you!” And so, the old self which was condemned to die for sins, was crucified with Christ! The body of death is done away with! We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are free!
THIS is what the believer is proclaiming in baptism. When the physical body is immersed under the water, the truth being proclaimed is that the body of sins has been crucified and laid in the grave. When the believer goes under the water, they are proclaiming that their sins have been buried. When the water covers them, it shouts to the world that they have been cut off from the kingdom of sin and death. The placing of a person under the waters of baptism is the beautiful, glorious proclamation that Jesus has died for their sins, and so their old way of life is as good as buried.
“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole was
nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!”
Raised with Christ and done with death (4-5,8-9)
But it doesn’t stop there. READ 4-5,8-9. The gospel does not stop with the destruction of sin. The gospel goes FAR beyond that. Jesus held out sins on the cross, and the wrath of God fell with infinite fierceness upon Jesus as He carried our guilt, and so our sins are destroyed, but then…oh beautiful!…the power of God filled the tomb with infinite glory so that the sacrificial Lamb might become the Risen Lord! And Jesus, after taking our sins away, gives us that glorious resurrection power in return! The gospel is not simply that Jesus takes away our sins, it is that He GIVES us life so that we might walk as born-again, new creations!
ILLUSTRATION – Think of it this way: suppose you have the worst year of your life financially. You find yourself not only with no job and no money, but because of how the year has gone and some bad luck, you have racked up extraordinary debt…debt that you couldn’t pay back even if you gave your entire salary towards it for 50 years. You can’t pay anything. You are going to lose literally everything you own. You find yourself in court, standing before the judge with no less than several dozen creditors accusing you. And as you feel the terror of what is to come, knowing that there’s no way out, you hear someone from the back of the room speak up and say, “Judge, I would like to pay the debt.” Flabbergasted, you turn around, thinking maybe it’s a cruel joke. And you watch, stunned, as this man goes to each of your creditors and pays what you owe in full, no questions asked. He even pays the court and legal fees. You have literally no financial burden. And you break down in tears, weeping in thankfulness, because this man has just lifted you out from under the burden of your debt. Still weeping, you reach out to hug the man, but he holds up a hand and speaks again. “One more thing, Judge: I would like transfer my entire fortune to them.” A wave of adrenaline chills sweeps over you, not believing what you just heard. You watch, weak in the knees, as the proper calls are made, realizing that you are now in possession of a fortune so vast that you could not spend it all in 50,000 lifetimes. The payment of debt was incredible…but this! This borders on unbelievable. You went from having nothing, to having EVERYTHING!
My friends, this is the gospel! Not only will Jesus pay every ounce of debt you owe for your sins, He will also give you a treasure that eternity will not be able to deplete. Jesus was raised from the dead and lives on for eternity, and He offers us this same eternal life in the gospel.
And so, in baptism, after the brief moment of burial, there comes resurrection! Our faith unites us to Jesus’ death, and our faith unites us to Jesus in His indestructible, eternal life! Coming up out of the waters of baptism proclaims the gospel truth that we born again into new life even now, and that one day we will walk the golden shores of eternity with our Risen and glorified King.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
Coming up out of the waters of baptism is the joyous and glorious proclamation that Jesus has given us new life, and will sustain that glorious life throughout all eternity.
Conclusion: Sin is done, life is Christ (10-11)
Paul’s summary of the passage comes in these verses. Jesus died to sin once for all, and so the life He lives, He lives to God. Sin has nothing to do with His existence, and God has everything to do with His existence. He is dead to sin and alive with the Father.
And Paul says that our lives should reflect the same thing! Not only are we forgiven of sins; not only do we receive the promise of eternal life and resurrection, but even now in this very moment we live to God! This goes back to the first thing Paul says in this chapter: “Shall we go on sinning so that God’s grace can increase? BY NO MEANS! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
ILLUSTRATION – In my travels, I have met a number of people who converted to Christianity out of another religion. In some of those circumstances, the person did so at great personal cost. A number of Christian brothers who come from a Christian background have told me things like this: “When I became a Christian, I wanted my family to know the truth about Jesus as well. But when I told them about these things, my father said ‘You are dead to me. If I ever see you again, I will kill you.’” There was a divide between them that was so deep that the father was willing to say that it was as if they no longer existed.
In the same way, we should look sin in the face and say, “You are dead to me.”…because it is! When we place our faith in Jesus and ask His forgiveness, it means that our sins and sinful way of life was crucified to death with Jesus. Gal 6:14 – “by [the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
And thus, as we walk out of the waters of baptism, we leave our sinful way of life behind. The sins of our old life are buried beneath the waters with Christ, and we are born again into new life which we live for the glory of God. Baptism illustrates the gospel in this way: like Christ was buried, we are buried in the waters of baptism. Like Jesus was raised from the grave, we are raised out of the waters. And just as Jesus now lives eternally for the glory of God the Father, so now WE must live for the glory of God. We are buried, raised, and then set out on a Christ-exalting, God-glorifying life.
Guard against error
Baptism does not save. Salvation comes BEFORE baptism, and is finished and accomplished before we go beneath the waters of baptism. Jesus saves, not baptism.
It is also necessary to point out, however, that baptism ALWAYS follows belief. Every time we see someone come to faith in Jesus in the New Testament, they are immersed in and raised out of the water in order to proclaim the gospel of their salvation.
So then, as a believer comes to the waters of baptism, they come to proclaim the most precious truths of the gospel. And as they go under the waters, they proclaim “I have cast my sins on Jesus, who died for them so I would not have to.”, and they church affirms: “Yes! This is what Christ has done.” As the believer comes up out of the waters, they proclaim: “My Lord did not stay in the grave, but was raised in victory, and so I too will be raised with Him and by His power.”, And the church affirms: “Yes! This is what we have believed.” And as they stand and leave the water, they proclaim, “I have passed from death, and now walk in the new life I have in Jesus Christ.” And the church affirms: “Yes! This is what we have believed!”
Oh precious is the sign of baptism, because it proclaims the work of our beautiful Savior on our behalf! He died for our sins, and just as surely as He went to the grave, so our sins were buried with Him. And, oh glorious thought! – just as surely as He was raised, so also have we been given new life, and so shall we also be raised to finally be with Him one day.
As we have said many times already: every facet of the church’s life and existence is founded upon the new birth in Jesus Christ. To be a member of God’s church, one must be born again into it. Since that is the qualification, we examine ourselves and each other to see if we have indeed been born again. And those who profess faith in Christ, who have been examined by the church to see if they have been born again, proclaim the gospel of their new birth through baptism as the church affirms that gospel and the believer’s faith.
–Have you been born again through faith in Jesus?
–Have you obediently, joyfully come to the waters of baptism to proclaim that your sins have been buried and that you have been raised with Christ?
–Won’t you come? Why delay? Come and proclaim the saving truth of the gospel through baptism! Come so that we as a fellowship of saints might affirm your faith and rejoice with you.
–Won’t you come to the gospel waters of baptism?