“Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, HCSB)
An army chaplain reported his amazement at the large number of Desert Storm soldiers who gave their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, then asked if they could be baptized. To accommodate their requests, a wise pastor used the only “baptismal” available in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert: a coffin—a potent and perfect symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of which baptism is a picture.
While every Christian goes through baptism by immersion to identify their faith in public, this passage is about the change that happens in my life. When I am baptized, I identify myself with Christ.
As Warren Wiersbe notes:
Therefore, whatever happened to Christ has happened to me. When He died, I died. When He arose, I arose in Him. I am now seated with Him in the heavenlies! Because of this living union with Christ, the believer has a totally new relationship to sin.
Baptism is a picture of identification. Just like my driver’s license is a picture of my identification with the state of Missouri. It tells others my age, my address, and even who I look like.
Baptism is my spiritual “driver’s license.” I reveal who I am through my baptism. While I may show that ID to others one time through a water baptism, I share that identity publicly with everyone as long as I live.
Dr. Tony Evans has once said:
The idea of a baptized believer is that they have gone public in declaring that they are wedded to another—to Jesus Christ.
We would think it odd if a husband never wanted to go out in public with his wife. He might say, “I’ll eat dinner with you as long as it’s at home,” or “I’ll watch a movie with you as long as it’s at home,” or “I’ll talk to you as long as it’s at home.” That kind of behavior would be an insult. Jesus Christ is insulted regularly by His children because in private they will identify with Him, but in public they don’t want folks to know that they are associated with Him.
Baptism is also an identification into the church family. You can’t become like Christ without being part of His church family. You may have your personal identity, but you also have a family identity as well. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward commitment.
In his book Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community, Robert Webber states that:
“The work of the church in forming the spiritual life of the new disciple
is to train the new Christian in the practice of living in the pattern of
the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Chuck Colson tells of an event that took place when Russia was still very much closed to the gospel as a group of Christians meeting secretly in the basement of a home outside Kiev heard a knock on the door. Because they refused to answer the knock, suddenly the door was kicked in, and two armed KGB officers walked into the room. “This meeting is illegal,” they thundered. “If anyone wants to deny he’s a part of this Christian movement, he can leave right now. If you stay, however, you must be willing to pay the price and suffer the consequences.” With terror on their faces, two or three left the meeting, after which time, the KGB officers said, “Anyone else want to join those who left?” No one did. “Keep your hands up,” they said to those who remained, “and we’ll put our hands up and worship the Lord with you. You see, two weeks ago, we broke into a group like this one and we got saved. But as KGB officers, we know that if people are not fully committed to Christ, we cannot trust them in our company.”
Baptism is a marvelous way of getting Christians out of the spiritual closet. And Paul refers to this by saying, “Know this: when you were baptized, you were identified with Jesus Christ and a new way of living.”
That is the challenge. As we reflect on the event of Easter and what it means to Christians, our challenge is to continue to identify with Jesus Christ and a new way of living. Sin is still at our door constantly. Our old patterns of behavior will try to entice us to return to ways which destroy us. This idea of baptism or identification really means that if I submit to Christ and live out my life with others in a local body of believers, Christ will show me how to continually grow and live like Him.