Baptism: Being United With Christ in His Death and Life
Since Christ’s death led to His resurrection and a new life, in the same way, our union with Christ will lead to a new life in Him. Paul said in Romans 6:4-5,
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rm 6:4-5)
Again, for us to believe in Jesus means that we’re spiritually united with Him, not only in His death to sin, but also in His resurrection to life.
All that is true of Jesus is true of us, so we know that we are living a new life because He rose to new life. We now live new, changed lives in the world.
This new life makes us focus on our glorification, the future state of perfect glory, that we will ultimately experience in Christ. We live a new life in Christ here on earth with the hope that we will eventually be united with Him in His resurrection on the last day.
The event that best shows our spiritual union with Christ is baptism. Baptism is the event in which we experience being united with the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
Even though the methods of baptism differ depending on Christian denominations, the basic meaning of baptism that Christians profess based on the Bible is the same. Baptist churches baptize by full immersion.
In this type of baptism, which is the closest to what the Bible describes, people are entirely submerged in water and come back out of the water. Early churches thought of the meaning of water in two ways.
The first meaning of water is a tomb. Being completely immersed in water means that our old self, the body of sin, dies completely with Jesus.
The second meaning of the water is a womb which gives birth to life. The water is the water of life and gives us a completely new life. When we’re fully immersed in water, we experience death with Jesus. But when we come out of the water, we also experience resurrection with Jesus.
Therefore, baptism is not only the event of dying with Jesus, but also of being born again in Him. Through baptism, we’re united with and join Jesus Christ in His death and life.
Paul talks about both concepts. Verses 6-7 focused on what has happened to us—we died with Christ. Our old self was crucified with him. We’re no longer slaves to sin because we became free from sin. We’re no longer under the reign of sin, because we were transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of God. We’re now under His reign, and we stand in His grace.
Then, verses 8-11 talk about the new life we have in Christ. We live with Him and are alive to God in Him. This is the new spiritual status we’ve come to have in Christ.
Count Yourselves Dead to Sin But Alive to God
After explaining our union with Jesus, Paul said this,
“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rm 6:10-11)
Here, Paul challenges us to live as Jesus lived. What is true of Him, is true of us. We must accept the change Jesus brings us and try to experience it in our actual lives. Just as Jesus died to sin, we must take actual action to die to sin as well. Jesus lives to God, and in the same way, we should be alive to God.
If we truly believe that we’re united with Jesus, we must pursue what Jesus pursued on earth. We must be able to reflect His image to those around us through our lives. That’s another aspect of baptism. Paul beautifully describes it as being ‘clothed with Christ.’
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27)
Baptism is the event in which we clothe ourselves with Christ. Clothes are a powerful way to express who we are. The clothes we wear greatly impact what others think of us.
Then, what is the meaning of being clothed with Christ? If we are clothed with Jesus, we will seem like Him to others. It means that we become like Jesus so that other people can find the image of Him in us and in our lives. That’s the goal we should pursue as Christians—to actually live out the truth that we’re united with Jesus.
For that to happen, we should always intentionally continue to consider ourselves united with Christ. As you know, there’s a huge difference between knowing the truth and actually living it out.
Even though we agree on the fact that we’re spiritually united with Christ by believing in Him and that we’re dead to sin and alive to God just as Jesus is, we must continuously remind ourselves of the truth until it’s naturally experienced and shown in our lives because unless we keep acting on this great privilege, it will not be carried out in our lives.
There are times when we feel like what we know is the truth isn’t actually being carried out in our lives. We know that we’re dead to sin in Christ, but we also know in our real experiences how powerfully our sin still affects our lives. We know that there’s eternal life in Christ and in the kingdom of God, and that His kingdom will eventually come true on earth, but the real world we live in seems too far away from it.
When we face those moments that the truth in the Bible doesn’t match our actual lives, we’re tempted to just think, ‘it’s only true in the Bible. The real world is different.’ This thought eventually makes us adapt ourselves to the world, rationalizing the difference between the truth and the way of the world.
That’s why Paul urges us to continue to focus on the truth and not on our thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Beyond what we think, see, feel, and experience, we must continue to consider ourselves united with Christ in His death and life, so that the truth can really change our lives and make us into the person whom we believe we are in Christ.
In Romans 6 verses 1-11, Paul repeatedly uses the verbs ‘know’ and ‘believe’.
“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rm 6:3)
“We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rm 6:6)
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Rm 6:8)
“We know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” (Rm 6:9)
It seems like Paul really wants us to know and believe who we really are in Christ. As Christians, we must never stop building ourselves up on the basis of the truth of God’s word. As Paul said, “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Co, 5:7)
What really moves, affects, and motivates our lives should be the truth of who we are in Christ—we’re united with Him in His death and life. We’re dead to sin and alive to God. We should continue to make an effort to engrave this fact in our hearts, so that it can continue shaping our actual lives.
The reason we repeatedly go back to sin doesn’t come so much from our lack of willpower, but from a lack of understanding our position—who we really are in Christ.
We should continue to remember that we were cleansed and bought with Jesus’ blood. If we remember that, we will not act as if we are the lords of our own lives. We owe Jesus Christ our lives because He has given us salvation, and we cannot live in disregard to His will because He’s not only our Savior, but also our Creator and Lord.
We should continue to be reminded that we have been delivered from the dominion of darkness—sin. This means that the Holy Spirit is within us. Even though sin may seem too powerful for us to resist, that is not the case. When our sins overwhelm us, we should hold onto the truth that we are children of God, not slaves to sin.
We should also remember that we have been given a new life in Christ and that there will certainly be a time when we will join in His resurrection and eternal life. This truth will help us turn our eyes from this world which is temporary, to what is eternal, and allow us to put our hope in His kingdom, seek His righteousness, and follow His will first in the world. That’s how we should build our lives on the truth. We should let the truth transform our lives by continuously and intentionally remembering it and trying to live it out.
The more we do this, the more we will clothe ourselves with Christ and become like Him in the world.