“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into 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.” —Romans 6:3, 4
Although this portion has implications pertaining to water baptism, and though it is very appropriate to make application to this text when baptizing believers, I believe this text isn’t speaking of water baptism as an ordinance; and having said that, I will indeed say that the truth of this text is one of the reasons why I am a Baptist, holding to believer’s baptism as the Biblical truth, also known as credo-baptism. Nevertheless, I believe this passage speaks more particularly of identification with Christ through repentance. This is an expression of regeneration and the reality of being born-again unto the newness of life in the Christian experience.
Because of what we examined some time ago with regard to imputation, my sin and your sin, being applied to the righteous Christ as He hung upon Calvary’s tree, and Christ’s righteousness applied to my account and your account, we saw that justification was God’s legal declaration; and imputation is how He carried out His justification. Identification is the spiritual reality that takes place in the life justified by grace, and is carried out in regeneration through repentance. Now, we must understand that justification and regeneration happen as spiritual miracles and supernatural graces that proceed from heaven by the power of God; therefore, they happen simultaneously, so to speak, because these are eternal works, springing forth from God in eternity. But for the purpose of our understanding, these truths are revealed verse-by-verse, precept upon precept, and line upon line so that our frailty of our finite minds can gain an understanding of the infinite without going insane.
Our baptism, then, is the immersion into the true reality of what Christ has accomplished upon the Calvary’s tree: we “were baptized into His death!” When the Holy Spirit brings this revelation truth to our souls, awakens us from sleep to consciousness, raises us from death unto life, this is known as regeneration. We are born-again. Though we may not have a full understanding in words, neither capable of articulating that experience in order to explain it to others, we have been identified with Christ, identified with Christ in His death for our sin because God has imputed our sin to Him and Christ’s righteousness to us. You might say that identification is the soul’s reality of imputation… and the result: regeneration. You and I are a new creatures in Christ, new creations in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). My sin has died with Christ and is buried so that, as Christ was raised from the dead for the Father’s glory, so are we also raised to walk in a brand new life for the Father’s glory. We are born-again as children of God.
Now, with a word concerning baptism and the historic faith of particular Baptists, of which belong such notables as John Bunyan, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, and John Broadus, just to name a few, we believe that the baptism of believers is a testimony of the faithful believer’s identification with the righteous Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This corresponds to the righteous Christ being baptized at the beginning of His earthy ministry in the Jordan River, identifying with sinners such as you and I in our need for repentance and surrender to God, as well as identifying with sinners in our just penalty for sin in death, the reality of sin’s consequences in our burial and becoming dust, and the promise of God in redemption by rising from the waters in faith toward God and newness of life in Christ.
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, basically Christ, and Him crucified as the gospel truth condensed in a phrase (1 Corinthians 2:2), is so magnificently glorious that it is the singular reason why we, as historic puritanical and particular Baptists, observe the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper in our assemblies. Baptism is the initial testimony of repentance of sin and faith toward God in Christ for the believer, as well as the believer’s identification with Christ in His death burial and resurrection, and it marks the beginning of the believer’s service to God in Christ, just as Christ was baptized with no need of repentance, marking the beginning of His earthly ministry in His identification with sinful man, as a Man, God incarnate.
And on a closing note, we observe the Lord’s Supper because it is a perpetual witness among believers of the righteous Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, for when we do participate and partake, we “do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
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Read the previous article in this series, “What Shall We Say Then?” (Romans 6:1, 2).