Have We Undervalued Baptism?

Have We Undervalued Baptism?

“Baptism is for life, not just for beginnings.” It’s for the whole Christian life, and not just its start. It defines who we are and therefore shapes how we live.

Grace and Sin

Imagine a Christian friend tells you that he is thinking of leaving his wife. He’s met someone else, someone who makes him truly happy. Perhaps it’s not said, but you sense he wants your blessing.

“How can you even consider this?” you say. “It’s wrong. You know that.”

“It’s not ideal,” he replies. “But surely it’s better than an empty marriage. Besides, God will forgive me. That’s what he does.”

How would you reply?

There are a number of ways one might respond—no doubt some better than others—but I wonder if your response would include an appeal to his baptism, because that’s how Paul responded to just such a scenario.

A theological exploration of how baptism and Communion shape our lives together as God’s people, explaining how the physical water, bread, and wine embody the promises, grace, and presence of Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul famously presents the wonderful truth that we are justified—made right with God—simply by faith in Christ. We’re not saved by what we do, but by the grace of God. He describes how Christ has undone the sin of Adam, sending the devastation Adam unleashed into reverse. Just as Adam’s disobedience brought death to humanity in Adam, so Christ’s obedience brings life to his new humanity.

But then Paul anticipates someone saying, “Surely, this means I can sin with impunity since grace covers my sin. Indeed, the more I sin, the more grace abounds.” Your friend excusing his decision to leave his wife is just one variation on this argument.

Here’s how Paul responds in Romans 6:3–4:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Becoming a Christian, says Paul, involves far more than adopting a new worldview. It even involves more than being forgiven by God—though that is certainly part of it. When you became a Christian, says Paul, you were transferred from the regime of death into the realm of life—not by crossing a border or getting a green card, but through a death and resurrection. By being united to Christ, you died to the old humanity in Adam and you were reborn into the new humanity in Christ. So for your friend to leave his wife would be to return to the old regime of death. It would be wholly inconsistent with who he now is as a member of Christ’s people and a citizen of Christ’s kingdom of life.

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