W W Fereday.
Where Baptism puts us
Thoughts on Romans 6:1-4.
by W W Fereday
I am oppressed with the necessity of reminding ourselves in a practical way of the position in which our Baptism has set us. There has been no lack of controversy concerning the ordinance itself from the days of the apostles until now, and perhaps no subject has developed more heat in its advocates. Amid the dust of controversy the significance of the ordinance is apt to become obscured, with the most serious results for us all. For nothing is more solemn in its application, nothing more conducive to the deepest exercise of heart and conscience in regard to the whole practical life than Christian Baptism, rightly understood.
It is interesting to note the moral connection between Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Both are ordinances of the Lord for His people; the one instituted after His resurrection, and the other before His passion. Both were intended by Him to be observed by us until His return. Both Baptism and the Lord's Supper point to His death. It is of the utmost importance to keep this in mind. Under the pretence of magnifying the Lord Jesus great emphasis is today being laid upon His life (as an example for us to follow) to the slighting of His death.
The death of Christ is the foundation of everything both for God and for man. Apart from that death blessing would be impossible for any. By the death of Christ every claim of divine righteousness has been once for ever satisfied. More than this. Not only have the sins gone, but in the death of Christ the man who committed the sins has gone also from the eye of God. "Our old man is crucified with Him" (Rom. 6:6).
Baptism is for the individual; the Lord's Supper is for the assembly. Baptism is once and for all; the Lord's Supper is continuous. But both point to the death of Christ. Baptism commits us to identification with His death; the Lord's Supper, in its touching remembrance of the One who died, is a frequent reminder of where His death has set us in relation to everything down here.
Let it be carefully noted that Baptism has a forward look. This is shown in the Spirit's use of the word "unto" in Rom. 6:3-4 and Gal. 3:27, unfortunately rendered "into" in both the Authorised and Revised Versions. In the ordinance of Baptism we renounce all that we were as men in Adam, and we commit ourselves to a position which should influence profoundly our whole after life. It is a small thing comparatively to be able to refer back to a certain date, and to say that at that time we were baptised in water; the great thing — the thing that should exercise us very seriously, is how far we have since lived according to the principles set forth in our Baptism.
Let us read Rom. 6:1-4. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we who died in sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised unto Christ Jesus were baptised unto His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto 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." The argument of the Apostle in this familiar passage is so clear that none can well mistake it. He has just been telling us (in Rom. 5:20) that "where sin abounded grace did much more abound." Here God's wonderful working is shown, wherein He has triumphed over all man's evil, using it as a dark background for the display of His rich grace to sinners who believe. Then the Apostle anticipates a cavil that some perverse minds might raise. If man's evil causes God's grace to abound, why should we not go on sinning? The Apostle proceeds to show that this would involve a flat contradiction of the whole Christian position. The believer is looked at by God as having died in the death of Christ; how then live in that to which Christ has died?
Frequently in his Epistles the Apostle finds it necessary to say "Know ye not?" From this we learn how easy it is to let slip truths once known and enjoyed; or, if we retain the truths themselves in the letter, to get away from the spirit of them. So the Apostle in this passage appeals to the admitted truth connected with Christian Baptism.
We are "baptised unto Christ Jesus." We have thus been set apart to Him. We have acknowledgment that our only hope is in Him. A living Messiah would be to us of no avail. Our part is with "Christ Jesus", the One who has passed through death, and who now lives in resurrection power before the face of God. The practical effect of this is that henceforward "Christ is all" (Col. 3:11). We which live, live no longer unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again. Thus the Apostle expressed it to the Corinthians in his second Epistle (v. 15).
Christ is worthy of our absolute devotion, and His will should be our deep delight. Those who came forth from Egypt were "all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:2). They were thus set apart to Moses, to hear the voice of God in Him, and to obey in all things his directions. Let us challenge our hearts at this point: are we, as "baptised unto Christ Jesus" absolutely and altogether devoted to Him, and is it our daily pleasure to do His will?
Further "as many of us as were baptised unto Christ Jesus were baptised unto His death". To introduce the notion of regeneration into Baptism is as absurd as it is misleading and destructive. Every Scripture passage which speaks of Baptism shows death to be set forth, therein, not life. In the power of a new life received we renounce the old, and we take our place in Baptism as once and forever outside all that Christ is outside of. This separates us definitely from the whole world-system. Its aims, its pleasures, its politics, its honours and rewards, are henceforward for us reckoned amongst the "things which are behind" (Phil. 3:13). But are we really prepared for such a clean sweep as this? This is what our Baptism means, but do we mean it? It is easy to boast of a correct mode, while in heart refusing all that Baptism stands for. This lands us in unreality scarcely to be distinguished from that which the Lord condemned so unsparingly in the Pharisees of His time.
Let us observe the way in which the resurrection of Christ is spoken of in this passage. He "was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father." The resurrection of Christ was the Father's answer to all that He was as man down here. From first to last He glorified the Father. No scion of the first man (morally speaking) was He: He was Man of another order altogether "the second Man, out of heaven" (1 Cor. 15:47). No wonder that once and again the Father publicly expressed His pleasure in Him. But the resurrection was the full answer to His perfections. The Father could do no less than raise Him. In glorifying His Son the Father glorified Himself. The result for us is that we have a Man on high upon whom all the Father's pleasure rests, and He is presented to us as the model and object for our practical walk on earth. This "newness of life", means absolute separation from the whole order of things here below, and a career of growing conformity to Christ in glory. No lower standard than Christ glorified could ever satisfy God, and no lower standard will ever satisfy him who accepts what his Baptism sets forth.
The Lord preserve us from mere blind obedience to forms of which we know not the meaning and the power. With spiritual intelligence and with heart devotion to the Lord, may we do His will until His return from heaven.
W. W. F.