Summary: What was confessed through baptism reflects your understanding of relationship to Christ.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
When you were baptised, you made a statement reflecting your understanding of the Faith. Of course, I am assuming that you were baptised; however, if you have not been baptised, please do not tune out, as the message will address an issue of greatest significance. Assuming that you have been baptised, precisely what did you say through the act of baptism? Baptism pictures one’s belief concerning Christ and expresses the candidate’s relationship to Him. Because this is true, baptism speaks of what the one baptised holds to be true. While multiple images might be suggested as being portrayed through baptism, the Word of God informs us that we make a definite statement of what we accept as true through baptism. Whether the declaration of baptism is in unison with the Word of God, or whether it merely reflects a pious mythology, in no small measure determines the validity of the rite.
To be certain, many people do not remember the rite they called baptism. Perhaps they have seen pictures or heard accounts of the event, but they were infants and their parents or some other adult answered questions concerning the Faith in their behalf. Though others were perhaps older when they were baptised, the motive for receiving baptism has dimmed with the passage of time and they are unable to state with precision why the ritual was performed.
Some people were baptised in order to join a church. Others were baptised out of fear of judgement; they sought to ensure that God accepted them; they felt that through the ritual they could coerce God. Others were baptised because, well, because their friends were baptised or because they calculated that it would advance a career or open the door to a coveted relationship. I trust that most sought to honour the Saviour through choosing to receive baptism.
Undoubtedly, the motive for receiving baptism is important. In a similar manner, the mode of baptism is important. If baptism is neither an act to compel God to accept the candidate nor a means by which an individual joins the church, then of necessity the rite must convey some significant truth. According to Paul, baptism does convey multiple truths that are interrelated. Join me in study of the words he wrote to the Christians in Rome while providing instruction concerning the salvation we have received.
BACKGROUND — The Letter to the Christians of Rome would not be mistaken for a treatise on ecclesiology; the primary instruction provided in the letter revolves around the issue of salvation. This does not mean that other doctrines are ignored—after all, all theology is interrelated. Whichever doctrine happens to be studied, we realise that it ultimately derives from the relationship of God to His redeemed saints. Consequently, there is no teaching of the Word that is unaffected by our understanding of salvation.
In the case of the text for this day, the Apostle is focusing on a philosophy that theologians have described as antinomianism. Like an untreated infection, antinomianism has resided among the churches from earliest days. The word “antinomian” is derived from two Greek words that are roughly translated “against law.” The concept of antinomianism expresses the view that since the believer is saved by graced, she is free from moral law. Antinomianism could be described as a sort of Christianised Epicureanism or Christianised hedonism. Antinomianism promotes the idea that because one is saved by grace, he need not submit to the righteous expectations of the Word. After all, the redeemed individual is forgiven all sin. Since the sins forgiven were future at the time of Christ’s sacrifice, therefore there is no requirement to live according to the righteous decrees of the Bible. The antinomian would argue that since good deeds do not promote justification, neither do evil deeds hinder justification.