Our Baptism Unites Us with Christ!
In our first hymn we sang: Buried with Christ and dead to sin. Your Spirit now shall live within (294:4). We will sing at the end of this service: Baptized in water, Sealed by the Spirit, Dead in the tomb with Christ our King: One with his rising, Freed and forgiven, Thankfully now God’s praise we sing (297:2). Seems a little strange doesn’t it? After all, it was two thousand years ago and half a world away that Christ physically walked this earth. And yet we are claiming that we were crucified with him on that cross, that we were buried with him in that tomb, and that we rose with him that Easter morning? These are truths that fly in the face of human understanding. But these are also truths that are boldly affirmed in Scripture. These are exactly the truths that that Apostle Paul writes for us this morning. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that Our Baptism Unites Us with Christ! We are united with Christ Into his death. We are united with Christ In his resurrection.
Paul’s letter to the Romans has often been called the doctrinal book of the New Testament. In this book, Paul lays out in a very clear way the doctrines of Christianity. In the chapter right before our lesson this morning, Paul reminds us that sin entered the world through one man. He doesn’t stop there; Paul says that through sin death also entered our lives. In fact, Paul writes that because of sin there is “condemnation for all men” (Rom 5:18). This is nothing new to us – we see the effects of sin all around us and even in ourselves! We know that sin is not something that we grow into, but that our sinful nature is with us from the very beginning. For example, take the kids in Loving Arms. They may look innocent, but it doesn’t take long to see their sinful nature. We know that what God said after the flood is true: that “every inclination of our heart is evil from childhood.” We say along with the Psalmist, “Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Paul calls this sinful nature our old self. In the verses right before our lesson this morning, Paul says that our old self is God’s enemy! Its every desire is to rebel against the Almighty God in heaven; its will is the complete opposite of God’s will. It’s a further opposite than hot and cold or sunshine and rain. Because he breaks the law of God, our old self is a criminal. He is guilty of breaking God’s law, and therefore you and I deserve the punishment that God has declared – eternal death in hell.
It is for that reason that Christ Jesus came. The death we deserve because of sin was not Paul’s only topic in the verses leading up to our text. No, that was only his lead in to the beautiful message he was proclaiming! Paul wrote that just as sin entered the world through Adam, so also salvation and eternal life was won for all because of Christ! While our old self disobeyed every aspect of God’s law, Christ Jesus obeyed that same law. He pinch hit for us and hit a home run with his perfection. Jesus came to be our substitute; he died the death that we deserve. His death paid for the sins of the whole world – past, present, and future.
My fellow Christians who have been baptized into the name of the triune God, the Apostle Paul has a wonderful message for us this morning. Listen to how our lesson this morning begins: Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (v.3) What a wonderful truth! Paul is saying that baptism is so much more than a symbol – he says that our baptism is a means of grace, that it does something! He says that at our baptism, at that font, we were intimately joined to Christ. When that water was poured on our heads, when those words were spoken, we were made a partner in the works and life of Jesus Christ.
When I say partner, I do not mean that we are partners in the sense that we did something to help Jesus in his saving work. Rather, we are partners in the sense that we are brought along. In other words, we receive the benefits of Jesus life and death without having done a single thing! Think of a child getting a piggy back ride from their father. The child does not do anything while getting that ride – they don’t direct their dad, they don’t move his legs – they are simply along for the ride on their father’s shoulders. In a sense, he is a partner in the ride, but their dad does all the work and they are simply brought along. So also, through our baptism we are brought along in the life and death of Christ without having done a single thing! The righteousness that has been credited to us is based solely on Christ’s death and resurrection.
We have been made partners in Christ’s death in our baptism. In our baptism a complete identity has been formed between Christ and us. In the sacrament of baptism each and every one of our sins became Christ’s; in turn Christ’s righteousness became ours. Because of our baptism, we are constantly surrounded by the forgiveness won by Jesus.
As partners in Christ’s death, we know that our old self was crucified with Christ at our baptism (v.6a). That criminal we call our old self deserved to die a criminal’s death. That is exactly what Paul said happened at our baptism – he died a criminal’s death and was nailed to the cross with Christ! Paul writes that this was done so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless (v.6b). Since our old self was crucified in baptism, it is now powerless. Our old self no longer has any power over how we live; it has been defeated in baptism. We are now no longer slaves to sin (v.6c). As partners with Christ in his death, we have power over sin. We have been given a new man – the will of this new man is completely in line with God’s will. Yet while, on this side of heaven, sin will always remain, we know that it has no power over us. Through our baptism we have been given the power, the desire, and the weapons to defeat our old self – the very word of God.
We are no longer slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (v.7). If any of us were to die today, we would no longer have any obligation to this life. No debt collector would knock on our gravestone in attempts to collect a debt. Such an idea is ridiculous to even think about. Nor do judges waste their time sentencing a dead person for some crime they committed while they were living. So also, through our baptism, we have been cleared of our sins. Because baptism connects an individual to Christ’s death, Satan and sin no longer have a claim to a baptized individual. We have been baptized into Christ’s death. We have been made partners in his death and that means that all the debts of our sin have been satisfied!
When someone dies, their body isn’t just left alone. It is prepared for burial and ultimately lowered into a grave. It is no different with our old self. Paul writes that we were therefore buried with him through baptism (v.4b). Since our old self has been crucified and executed as a criminal, it is now buried. For us Christians, funerals and burial services are mainly an opportunity to celebrate God’s grace in the deceased’s life. It is an opportunity for us to praise God for taking that person into eternal glory. And yet, there is a secondary purpose for funerals. Funerals serve as a way to acknowledge that a death has indeed happened. Baptism is that funeral ceremony for our old self. Through baptism it is proclaimed and verified that our old self has indeed died.
Paul has already told us that we have been baptized in Christ’s death and buried with him through baptism. Now he uses a conditional statement to advance his though. He says, if we have been united with him like this in his death (v.5a)… This conditional thought is not some iffy condition such as “If I had collected Boardwalk and Park Place, I would have won one million dollars.” Instead, we see from the context that Paul is saying that this is a sure thing. That means we could translate this verse, since we have been united with him… Paul advances his thought by saying because Jesus triumphantly rose that Easter morning we are also united with [Christ] in his resurrection (v.5b).
Because Christ was raised from the dead (v.4b) we have been assured his sacrifice paid the punishment our sins deserved. God would not have raised up a failure. Christ’s resurrection is proof that he was a success. Paul says that we have been united with Christ, not only in his death and burial, but also in his resurrection in order that we too may live a new life (v.4c). In other words, just as Christ rose after being crucified and buried, so also God resurrected our new man after our old self was crucified and buried in baptism. This new man who has been resurrected is in the image of God and desires to do God’s will. Our baptism is not just a one time event that no longer has any significance for our present-day life. Instead, our baptism means that from the instant of our baptismal washing until the day we die we live a new life. When Paul wrote the words live a new life, he had the image of a person walking around in that new life. That means that all we do after baptism is no longer tainted by sin in God’s eyes, but instead is a reflection of Christ himself.
Not only does our baptism mean that we have a new sanctified life, but also that we are also united with him in his resurrection (v.5b). Just as our baptism means that we are partners in Christ’s death and burial, baptism also means that we are partners in his resurrection. That means that baptism gives us forgiveness and salvation itself. We are assured that we too will rise from death to live forever in heaven.
As human beings, it is natural for us to celebrate our birthday. That is the day that we were brought into the world and it marks a new year of our life. As Christians, it should be natural for us to celebrate our baptism. And yet, how many of us know the date of our spiritual birth into God’s family? The day of our baptism is the day that our true life in Christ began. It is the day that we received forgiveness and eternal life. That is why we as a congregation have set aside this Sunday to remember and give thanks the blessings of our own baptism. Because of our baptism, we now live a new life.
Paul tells us what being united with Christ in his death and resurrection means for our new life. He writes: now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (v.8). Our baptism means that we not only died with Christ but also that we live with him. Living with Christ means that we stay in touch with his word. In baptism we are saved and given the gift of the forgiveness of sins. In baptism we are made partners in the death and resurrection of Christ. However, we must be careful that we do not throw that gift away by neglecting to stay close to Christ. Living with Christ means that we stay connected to him by staying connected to his Word. That means that as adults we stay connected to Christ by daily studying his word and through worship services. That means that we also need to teach the younger generation the truth’s of God’s Word. Baptism is only the beginning. We can throw away the blessings we receive in baptism. There are many baptized people in hell to prove it. We do this by having daily family devotions and encouraging them to attend Sunday School, EPIC, Pioneers and many other programs that Messiah offers for the youth of our church.
As we stay connected to Christ, as we live with him, we are reminded that our baptism means that one day we will live forever with Christ! We are reminded and assured that Christ will come again and will take us to heaven to live forever with him. There we will be completely separated from our crucified old self. We look forward to the day that we will live with Christ forever.
Now that you’re connected, strengthen that connection. Connect your kids through baptism, and make sure to keep their connection strong. And then share the joy and comfort of being connected to Christ through others, so that more and more might rejoice in truly being united with their Savior – now and for all eternity!