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Commentary on Rom. 6:3-5 [baptism into death]

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) 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. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection." (OGIB)

Synopsis: baptism into death, referred to in Rom. 6:3-5, describes repentance by which believers undertake a character change, i.e. they reject (kill) their previous deeds and corresponding personality traits, so that through the spirit of love of the truth they are reborn to new life by deepening their understanding of God's Word. This process of immersion into death of the old man and emergence of the new one concerns all believers without exception, making them participants in the Body of Christ. The symbolic representation of repentant faith is water baptism - the baptism of complete immersion.

In the lecture I wrote that personality (soul) includes spirit and body - reason and character. Justification, as a process of real reform, must therefore include personality in both aspects. The means to this end is baptism, i.e. our immersion in the spirit of Christ (Greek baptisma), but it is worth seeing the meaning of baptism separately for body and spirit. The Bible also uses the concept of baptism in the spirit, which is not related to the subject of Rom. 6:3-5. Spiritual baptism, as the term implies, concerns the spirit (reason) and means our immersion in the depth of knowledge of the Word of God. The experience of spiritual baptism is the experience of the "spirit of wisdom and revelation," through which we learn "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" (Eph. 1:16-18, 3:14-19 OGIB). Baptism in the spirit places believers in the highest class of God's people - among antitypical priests - so this is not the beginning of our calling, but rather its crowning.

In Rom. 6:3-5 the apostle Paul does not speak of baptism of the spirit, but of baptism of the body - what is a necessary condition, "so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4 OGIB). The body in the Bible is a synonym for character - these are mechanisms of conduct that we perform automatically in repetitive situations. The problem with the body, however, is that its instructions often do not conform to Bible principles of justice. Hence the necessity of subjecting the body to the slavery of the spirit. The apostle is most explicit about it in Rom.6:6 - "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (OGIB). The destruction of the 'body of sin' is not so much physical annihilation as subjecting the body's tendency to spiritual control, and then developing new reaction patterns after the pattern of Jesus Christ's character. Hence the concept of the Body of Christ, which appears in the New Testament, describes the process of our identification with the Lord precisely in the element of the body - the transformation of character (; 1 Cor. 12:12,13).

Baptism of the body was presented in the Bible in the form of full immersion in water. In Rom. 6:3,4 Paul writes that our immersion represents death - burial of the body, so that it can be followed by a new life. The water baptism presented in the element of immersion and emergence illustrates repentance and conversion. Repentance (Greek metanoia) means a change in thinking and causes the end of life of the body (character) in death, when through faith in Jesus Christ we turn away from what is contrary to God's law. On the other hand, after immersion there comes emergence and similarly repentance must always be accompanied by conversion (Greek epistrofe), i.e. turning towards a new way of thinking and acting (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Hence, water baptism in itself has no power to change the soul of man, but it is a representation, a symbolic expression of the decision we made by repentance and conversion in the name of Jesus Christ. Everyone who accepted Jesus Christ should undergo water baptism as a sign of his faith (Acts 26:18-20).

How does baptism into death lead to the newness of life (Rom. 6:4) - in the basic sense this term indicates conversion in which we actually change the direction of our lives, which become different, new. There is something more to it, however, because the elect who take up faith symbolized by baptism become recipients of the spirit of the divine agape love - the love of truth - through which they experience the new birth (Rom. 5:5; Acts 2:38). The spirit is the "glory of the Father" of which Rom. 6:4 speaks and through which we are born again as God's spiritual children (Rom. 8:14-18). There is a difference, however, between the Lord and us because he has received a full measure (Jn. 3:34) while we receive an earnest (Eph. 1:13,14). Hence our Lord was appointed Son at baptism, whereas we become spirit-begotten new creatures with the right to become children, provided we grow in knowledge (Jn. 1:12,13; Rom. 1:1-4; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:12,13; 1 Pet. 2:2).

An important element of Rom. 6:3-5 is the identification of our baptism with the baptism of the Lord. Our baptism into death is also baptism into his death, which clearly shows that the experience of fighting the body was also his experience (Rom. 6:3). Jesus was a man like us - the son of Mary and Josef from the home of David (Mt. 1:16). However, he was not conceived naturally, but through the holy spirit; apparently so that he could receive this spirit in full measure at his baptism (Mt. 1:18-23; Rom. 1:1-4). The spirit of sacrifice that Jesus received gave him full control over his body, which does not mean that it was a simple task. In order to accomplish his mission, he had to subordinate to himself the natural instincts of the body, in which his spirit was "locked", including the self-preservation instinct. He was the most experienced at this point (Mt. 26:39; Mt. 27:46), "yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:8,9 OGIB).

In this sense, we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ - because we share Lord's experience of conquering the body. However, according to the quotation from the letter to the Hebrews, salvation in Christ is for those "who obey him" - who follow in his footsteps as their Master and Teacher (Heb. 12:1,2). This involves sacrifice - subjecting ourselves to the death of the body (character), but there is also hope: "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection" (Rom. 6:5 OGIB). The Lord's hope for which he suffered this life's shame, was a future life in the glory of the Divine nature (Heb. 1:3), and such is also the hope of the faithful Lord's people, called "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4 OGIB). An indispensable condition, however, is surrendering this earthly body, immersing it into death following the Lord's example, "if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17 OGIB).


Keywords: Rom. 6:3-5, baptism into death
 
Bible translations used in the commentary:
OGIB - Online Greek Interlinear Bible


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