“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)
“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.” (Romans 6:4)
Having begun an exposition of our text verses, we’ve noted that the Apostle Paul presents the believer’s baptism to be a public profession of Faith in our Union with Christ. This Union has been stated in a twofold manner: (1) Our Representative Union with Christ, which we profess as a creed; and (2) Our Realized Union with Christ, which we are to experience by the Life of an Overcomer. The former indicates Christ’s Life for us; the latter indicates His Life in us. We will now take a closer look at these points.
First, then, our Representative Union with Christ has to do with His Substitutionary Death for us. Christ’s Death was on behalf of, and in the place of, His People. Our Justification before the Divine Tribunal rests on the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of Death for our sin by becoming our Sacrifice therefore. He represented His People on the Cross of Calvary through His own baptism into Death (Luke 12:50). We identify with Him as His People – and the beneficiaries of all His Death merits – by our baptism “into his death.”
So, by the baptism ordinance, we show our Faith in Christ’s Death and Burial on our behalf. We say that He approached Calvary for us; bearing our sin; suffered in our stead; grieving for our soul; being bruised for our iniquity. We say that He was One with us in everything He endured; and that we were in Him as He so endured all things as our Representative. Therefore, we believe that we also experienced a Death in Christ, being crucified with Him; and that all our salvation has been so purchased. Our obedience to the command to be baptized is a symbol of our belief in this Representative Union.
The picture presented by believer’s baptism is that, first of all, of a burial: “buried with him.” But why should a living man be buried? There’s not even a basis for our burial, simply because another died on our behalf. Rather, our burial with Christ acknowledges our Death in Him. We’ve died to sin as our former master (Romans 6:6-7). And so our Death with Christ as our Representative requires our Burial with Him. As our Head, Christ suffered on behalf of His Body; so that His Body, being put to Death, must needs to Buried with Him.
Think of this teaching’s implications: as our Representative, Christ has suffered all things on our behalf. We so readily acknowledge Christ’s sinless Life; how that He fulfilled the Law of God by keeping its many points. By this, He demonstrated His Sinless Perfection. But even further did our Saviour go in His Passion. It were not enough to live according to the Perfect standard of God’s Law, but Jesus Christ Himself paid the penalty of the Law’s violation, and suffered Death for us. The Law therefore, being fulfilled in precept and penalty, has no more effect on His Body.
What rejoicing should fill our hearts when we meditate upon the wonders of God’s Love – “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…” (1 John 3:16). The “us” there being referenced is His Body – the Church – those of us who have, by Spiritual immersion, been joined together with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17; 12:13); which Union we believe in, and testify to, by baptism. In Christ we lived; we kept the Law; we died, and satisfied the demands of Justice. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, so “…that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is the Message of God’s Sovereign Grace. A Holy and Just God must punish sin wherever it is found. To forgive sin, without payment of its penalty, is to relax the severity of God’s Justice, and to defile His Holiness. No, my Friend, God’s Holy and Just Nature could not just overlook sin; He had to pay the penalty Himself. This He did on Calvary’s Cross, where He bought us with the Price of His Death. As His Body, we are so One with Christ, that we must regard His Death as our own. Through no merit of our own, but by His Grace, He has reconciled us to Himself, when He represented us in Death.
But Christ’s Representation of the saint does not stop in His Death and Burial. The Apostle Paul tells us that “we are buried with him by baptism into death [with a view]: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead… we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Our Representative Union with Christ (as displayed in believer’s baptism) confesses Faith in our Oneness with Him in His Death and Burial, and also in His Resurrection. Baptism gives testimony to the fact that, as Christ died for us, so did we die with Him; as Christ was buried in Death, so is our body of death put away (Romans 7:24); and as Christ rose again from the dead, so we have been “risen with Christ” (Colossians 3:1).
The sentence of the Law demanded the death of transgressors. If I were to die for my own sin, I would first have to die an unblemished death to purge my sin, so that I could then die an unblemished death. Otherwise, my death would be corrupted by the very sin I was dying for. But the Sinless Christ “needeth not… to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s” (Hebrews 7:27); and so could die an unblemished death for us. But suppose I could die for my own sin; suppose that my death was not corrupted by my depraved nature; and suppose that God’s Righteous Law accepted my death as payment for sins – then I would still be under the eternal penalty of Death; that is, separated from Life.
Oh, how great a Truth this is! Child of God, you could not die to make atonement for your own sin, because you would then forevermore be separated from God by Death. You would be dead to the sentence of the Law, but you have no power to give yourself life. Thus in our Representative Union with Christ, we are One with Him in His Resurrection. We’ve been given a New Life – the Life of Christ – and as He lives, we live with Him, being raised up from the dead with Him (Colossians 3:3).
Our New Life is the Life of Christ. This Life is Spiritual and Heavenly (1 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 2:6). In Christ we have died to sin; the body of Death has been buried; and we have come forth to walk in Newness of Life. “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ” have said to the world: ‘Although I am in the world, I am dead to the world; I am alive anew – in a New Heaven and a New Earth; I am a New Creature.’
How is it then that so many professors of Christ live in worldliness and sin? We will address this in the next devotion. For now, we note that believer’s baptism professes our Representative Union in Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection.