I was part of a discussion recently in which we were speaking of baptism. When you get a group of baptists together and start talking baptism, the conversation always seems to get to Romans 6, in particular verses 3-5:
“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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
My dear baptist brethren(it’s okay if I pick on them, I am one) love to take these verses and start proof texting believer’s baptism by immersion. Not only that, as we continued, and I think many people make this mistake, as we went on through verse 11, it seemed that what we we’re being told is that the resurrection that Paul is talking about is our resurrection from the dead at the end of the age, or our “going to heaven”.
In my estimation, this is a horrible, and dangerous misunderstanding of the text. While I believe that we do see an apt description of what baptism is, and an illustration of how it was and should be done, I don’t believe that is the point Paul was here trying to make. Paul’s main point here, and throughout Romans 6, is the “newness of life”(v.4) we have in Christ. Yes we do hope in the resurrection, and we do have that hope because as Christ was raised from the dead, we too can look forward to the day when we too will rise. (1 Cor. 15:20-23) The “newness of life” Paul is talking about here though, is now. Paul is here, and throughout Romans 6 talking about the “new birth” Jesus refers to in John 3. Paul himself also refers to this in 1 Corinthians 5:14-17:
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
You see my friends? Our newness of life starts at the new birth. When Christ saved(saves) us, we are new creations then and there. If we’re all sitting around, waiting for Christ to come back, or for the rapture, or whatever your eschatology leads you to believe, then you are missing it. Right now you are a new creation. You have already died with Christ. The death Paul speaks of isn’t our physical death at the end of our lives, he is speaking in Romans 6 of our deaths to ourselves. He is speaking of our being “dead to sin” and “alive to God”(v.11)
Context is so important. Before telling others what a passage is talking about…Read the entire passage, read the chapter, read the book, cross-reference, but don’t miss the point. This is such a crucial passage in the book of Romans, if you miss this point, you miss so much, maybe even the entire point of the book. I believe Romans is really Paul’s understanding of the Gospel, and how that works itself out in our lives. If you think the Bible, and the Gospel is all about some future time when we are going to leave earth and go to heaven…You are missing out, you are missing the point.
The Gospel is now. You must live the Gospel in your life. You must not only know the Gospel, you must “BE” the Gospel. Allow the “newness” of life that Christ has already given you to overwhelm you. That is what Romans 6 is saying…Please don’t miss the point.