Summary: For Christians, dying to sin and sinful behavior is something that we will wrestle with till we die.
DYING TO SIN
It is said that Martin Luther once gave an interesting analogy. The analogy goes like this "The old Adam is a mighty good swimmer". The point of the analogy is that the old Adam "… doesn’t drown easily in the baptismal waters". (William H. Willimon. Worship As Pastoral Care. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979, p. 159). That point is well made and runs parallel to the saying, "die hard" which means to hold on to life and to fight to the last. When old and bad habits die, it is a good thing. When old and bad habits "die hard" it is a bad thing because the old Adam is still swimming in the waters of baptism.
Dying to sin and sinful behavior is something that we will wrestle with till we die. When I was twelve, I once asked my mother what I had to do to get the Devil to leave me alone. She answered, "The Devil will keep trying to tempt us to sin until we die".
Baptism marks the end of the old way of life when we were slaves to sin. Baptism also marks the new life that we live in Christ as we die and continue to die to sin. Baptism gives us the gift of life through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism gives us a new understanding wherein we live our lives with an attitude of gratitude. Baptism is also the place at which we begin a journey of living a sanctified life that lasts a lifetime.
THE GIFT OF A NEW LIFE
Baptism illustrates the death of an old way of life and the beginning of a new life through faith in Jesus Christ. There are a lot of people who live their lives as if their baptism were like insurance against the fires of hell. Baptism represents a new way of life that is a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus died for our sins on the cross so that through His atoning sacrifice we could be become slaves to righteousness where we were once slaves to sin apart from the righteousness of Christ.
I used to work with some people that were Christians or at least claimed to be. They went to church on Sunday. However, they used to argue with me that they could sin now and get forgiven for it later. That kind of thinking cheapens the costly sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us---as He paid the price for our sins. That kind of thinking is more like "fire insurance" than anything else. To have a relationship with Jesus means that we should "die to sin" and not continue to "live in it" (Romans 6:2 (quickview) ).
By traditional definition, "Baptism is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace". There are people who will tell you that unless you are immersed that you have not been baptized. Those people are arguing about the mode of baptism. There are three modes of baptism, sprinkling, pouring and immersion. It is not the mode of baptism that matters so much as what the baptism is symbolizing---the place at which the old way of life dies and the new way of life through faith in Jesus Christ begins. Regardless of the mode of baptism, there is nothing magical about the water that one is baptized in or with.
There is the story about a Presbyterian pastor and a Baptist pastor who got to talking about Baptism and how it should be done. The Presbyterian pastor asked the Baptist pastor "if it was enough to baptized up to the chin?" He said "no." "How about up to the nose?" "No." "The eyebrows?" "No." Finally, the Baptist minister said, "You don’t seem to understand, he must be immersed in water completely until his head is covered." "That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along, said the Presbyterian pastor, "it’s only a little water on the top of the head that counts." (Eleanor Doan. Speaker’s Sourcebook. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, pp. 27-28).