Paul starts his letter to the church in Rome by eloquently showing that every person who ever lived is a sinner in the eyes of God. Sin was unleashed on the world when Adam disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the tree in the Garden of Eden. His disobedience affects every one of us. All we have to do to be a sinner is to be born. Following the Old Testament laws or other rules doesn’t make us righteous. We’re made righteous when, through faith, we follow Jesus Christ.
This brings us to our passage in Romans 6:1-14 – “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
The punishment for sinning is death. Adam and Eve were originally created to live forever. This changed when they disobeyed God and sin came into the world. When this happened, God determined that men and women shouldn’t live forever in a fallen, sinful world so he gave us a limited lifespan. Since the punishment for sin is death, Jesus had to die for our sins. However, Jesus did something no other person has done. He resurrected to eternal life. This shows he has the ability to overcome sin. We too have the promise of eternal life when we follow Jesus through faith.
Paul says that since we follow Jesus, we are to abstain from sin. As a matter of fact, we are to die to sin because, when we’re baptized, we’re baptized into Jesus death. This death we die to sin isn’t optional for Christians. Did you notice the word Paul used to describe what happens to our sinful nature when we are baptized? “Buried.”
As we know all too well, burial is the last thing we do to someone or something who has died. It marks the permanent change of passing from life to death. This is what happens to our old self when we unite with Jesus is baptism. The good news is this isn’t the end of the story. Our new self is resurrected through the power of Jesus Christ. He gives us the ability to live a life of faith and obedience to God.
Unfortunately, many Christians believe baptism is symbolic. To them going down into the waters of baptism represents dying to sin and coming up out of the water represents our new resurrected life. I’ve often heard it described as an “outward sign of an inward change.” A close examination of the Bible shows baptism is more than symbolic. It’s a spiritual experience with Jesus. This passage doesn’t indicate at all that baptism is just a sign of our faith.
Even the very way we baptize shows it is more than symbolic. After we immerse those being baptized in the water, we lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. This comes from Acts 19:1-7 which says – “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
(This refers to John the Baptist, who baptized people for the forgiveness of sins.)
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongue and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.”
We believe that baptism is a time when the Holy Spirit can come upon people in a spiritual way and give them spiritual gifts so we pray for this. We also know the Holy Spirit helps us live for Jesus.
The Bible doesn’t give us many details about what happens in the spiritual realm when we’re baptized but it does reveal one important aspect we must never forget: Being baptized into Jesus death and resurrection isn’t optional for Christians. Let us take our baptismal vows seriously.