Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Reformer Martin Luther makes the point that after Jesus rose from the dead, He paid no attention to what might be going on back at the tomb. He was only interested in what was happening in the hearts and minds of His followers.1 In the same manner, once our old carnal nature is buried in Christ, the new person must not become preoccupied with what was done in the past. They should put their trust and energy in what is expected of them in the present.

John Calvin followed by saying that the object is that when we become dead to our old selves, we might then become new creatures in Christ. For Calvin, Paul makes a transition from a fellowship in death to a fellowship in life. These two things are tied together with a tight knot – that our old sinful nature is destroyed by the death of Christ, and that His resurrection brings righteousness, and renders us, new creatures. Says Calvin: “Surely, since Christ has been given to us for life, to what purpose is it that we die with him except that we may rise to a better life? And hence for no other reason does he slay what is mortal in us, but that he may give us life again.2

Between the Reformation period and the Wesleyan Revival era (AD 1500-1800), some scholars expressed doubt that baptism by immersion was demanded here by Paul. For instance, John Bengel (AD 1687-1752) says: “The fruits of the burial of Christ. Immersion in baptism, or at least the sprinkling of water upon the person, represents burial, burial is a confirmation of death.3 Adam Clarke suggests we look at it as drowning the old sinful nature. He writes: “Drowning among the ancients was considered the most noble kind of death; some think that the Apostle may allude to this. The grand point is that this baptism represents our death to sin, and our obligation to walk in newness of life: without which, of what use can it or any other rite be?4

Great Methodist preacher Joseph Benson joins Paul in asking if any believer can be ignorant of this great and obvious truth, that so many of us as were baptized, were baptized into Christ. By that he means, all baptized believers have openly professed their Christian faith and by faith have been made part of the mystical body of Christ by baptism. It also implies that all who engaged in baptism are thereby conformed to His death, by dying to sin, just as He died for sin. In doing so, they crucified their flesh with its affections and lusts, just as His body was crucified on the cross. This allows them to then become partakers of all the benefits thereof, one of which is the mortification of sin and all sinful passions. Says Benson, being baptized into Christ, or ingrafted into Him through faith, we draw new spiritual life from this new root, through His Spirit, who fashions us like unto Him, and especially regarding His death and resurrection.”5

Then Albert Barnes notes that it is altogether probable that the Apostle was referencing the custom of baptizing by immersion here. Barnes agrees that this cannot be proven beyond doubt, but he says: “I presume that this is the idea which would strike the great mass of unprejudiced readers.” Although Barnes agrees that this may be true, he is confident that Paul’s main scope and intention was not in trying to describe the mode of baptism; nor to affirm that that mode was to be universal. Instead, it was to show that we mean the solemn profession we make before our baptism, That we had become dead to sin, the same way Christ died to the world around Him when He was buried. And that as He was raised up to life, so we should also rise to a new life. A similar expression occurs in Colossians 2:12, ‘Buried with Him in baptism.6

Preacher Octavius Winslow, in one of his sermons on Sanctification, point to the phrase: “Planted in the likeness of His death’ ‘our old man crucified with him’ ‘the body of sin destroyed’ ‘that henceforth we should not serve sin.’7 By this, says Winslow, the atoning blood of Jesus lays the foundation of all future degrees of sanctification. It all begins at the cross of Christ, he says, it is the starting point for the soul in its holiness journey, and the goal to which it often returns. At the cross, the body of sin is fatally wounded, and from it, pardon, and peace, and holiness flow; and through it, the soul daily rises to God in a holy surrender of itself to His service. Says Winslow: “Let no man dream of true mortification of sin, of real sanctification of heart, who does not deal constantly, closely, and believingly with the atoning blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the cross into the soul and lays it upon the heart to be the death of sin. ‘I am crucified with Christ.’8 ‘That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.’9 ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus’10 – and see how the cross lifted Him above the world and deadened Him to it – “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’11 Thus did Paul breathe after and attain unto holiness.12

Robert Haldane gives us something interesting to think about concerning baptism in that the death of Christ was meant to destroy sin, and His burial to prove that He really died. For Haldane, Christians are represented as being buried with Christ by baptism. This signifies that actually died with Him. As such, if they were buried with Him they will surely not remain in the grave. Just as Christ arose from the dead, so shall they also rise. Says Haldane: “Their baptism, then, is the figure of their complete deliverance from the guilt of sin, signifying that God places to their account the death of Christ as their own death: it is also a figure of their purification and resurrection for the service of God.13 In other words, our baptism can be seen as representing two deaths and two resurrections. First, our old nature dies in Christ, and we are resurrected to newness of life alive in Christ. Second, because of the first meaning, we also can be assured that if we then die as Christ died and are buried as He was buried, we will also be resurrected to live with Him eternally.

H. A. Ironside also addresses his view of baptism: “In my baptism, I confess that I have died to the old life as a man in Adam under the dominion of sin. I am through with all that. Now let me prove the reality of this by living the life of a resurrected man-a man linked up with Christ on the other side of death-as I walk in newness of life. Thus all thought of living in sin is rejected, all antinomianism refuted.14 My new life is to answer to the confession made in my baptism. I am to realize practically my identification with Christ. I have been planted together with Him in the similitude of His death-that is, in baptism – I shall be (one with Him) also in the similitude of His resurrection. I do not live under sin’s domination. I live unto God as He does who is my new Head.15

Charles Hodge explains that we must participate in Christ’s death to be partakers of His life. We share in what His dying provides so we may enjoy what His living supplies. Hodge notes that Justification is necessary for sanctification to develop and mature. Says Hodge: “The two are inseparable.” So he concludes: “There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in His death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are partakers of the power of His life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy.16

From Frédéric Godet’s point of view, the relationship between burial and baptism, as indicated by the Apostle is this: Burial is the act which breaks of the last tie between man and his earthly life. This is exactly what our Lord’s burial was intended to show. In the same way, by being baptized the believer publicly proclaims their break with the lifestyle of the present world, as well as his own. The Apostle Paul does not rest his case on the bare facts of Christ’s resurrection, but solely on its permanent consequence, the new life which flows from it, allowing believers to walk in newness of life. His purpose in doing so is that he can persuade all believers not to return to their former life. This results from living in reality rather than the act upon which it is based.”17

F. F. Bruce says that just as burial places a seal on death, so baptism is a token burial in which the old order of life in sin comes to an end, to be replaced by the new order of life in Christ. It is clear that Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of God the Father. Bruce notes that the word ‘glory’ applies particularly to God’s glorious power. In other words, “To the working of His great might which He accomplished in Christ when He raised him from the dead.18 So, says Bruce: “We too might walk in newness of life. This is the new mode or quality of life which results from the impartation of Christ’s risen power to the believer. Paul and other New Testament writers frequently use the verb ‘walk’ in this ethical sense.1920

And Douglas Moo makes this statement: “Baptism stands for our whole conversion experience. By it, we have been brought into union with Christ and the powerful events of His redemptive work. The effects of these events are therefore at work in us. That means we now have the ability to ‘live a new life.’21 This is why it is important that we do not put too much emphasis on grace being part of our participation in the sacraments. Participating in the sacraments alone are not what God is looking for. Rather, He wants to see how such ordinances influence and motivate us in the newness of life in Christ.

1Martin Luther: On Romans, loc. cit., p. 101

2John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 269

4Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Joseph Benson: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc.cit.

7 Romans 6:4-6

8 Galatians 2:20

9 Philippians 3:10

10 Galatians 6:17

11 Ibid. 6:14

12 The Works of Octavius Winslow, op. cit., loc. cit.; from his sermon: “The Sanctification of the Spirit” or “The necessity and the Nature of True Holiness.” Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:13

13 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 245

14 Antinomianism comes from the Greek meaning lawlessness. In Christian theology, it is a pejorative term for the teaching that Christians are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality. Few, if any, would explicitly call themselves “antinomian,” hence, it is usually a charge leveled by one group against an opposing group. Antinomianism may be viewed as the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation.

15 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 300-301

17 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 Ephesians 1:19–20; cf. Colossians 2:12

19 See Romans 8:4; 13:13; 14:15

20 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, pp. 141–142

21 Douglas Moo: On Romans, loc. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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