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The Testimony of Baptism

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 6:3–5

Water baptism is a picture of Spirit baptism, which identifies us with Christ’s body, the church, and with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Such an intimate connection with Christ leaves no desire to ever go back to a life dominated by sin.


As we’ve been sailing along on our Wisdom Journey through the book of Romans, Paul has made it clear that we got into the kingdom of sin by birth; we are descendants of Adam, born into the wrong family. The family of Adam—the human race—is heading toward death.

You got into the kingdom of sin by birth, but Paul now explains that you get out of the kingdom of darkness and sin by death. Deliverance from the kingdom of sin came because we died. What in the world does he mean? Well, Paul explains this concept by taking us to two places: a graveyard and a vineyard.

The graveyard begins here in verse 3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” The key word here appears twice; it is the word “baptized.”

The Greek word for “baptize” is baptizō. It has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning of the word is “to immerse.” Therefore, to literally baptize people with water, you must immerse them. To not immerse them is to not baptize them. You would have to come up with a different word like sprinkle or pour. And there are Greek words for sprinkle and pour, but they are never, ever used in any New Testament reference to a believer being baptized. Baptizō means immerse.

The figurative meaning of baptism is “identifying with another”—in this case, Jesus Christ. The believer should experience both the literal and the figurative meanings of the word. We literally immerse a believer in water, identifying that person figuratively with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The water becomes an analogy of the grave—a believer is buried under it and resurrected out of it.

Now, there are those who would say that Paul is not talking about water baptism here at all but about Spirit baptism. I believe Paul is thinking about both, because the two are related. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized [immersed] into one body.”

Spirit baptism is that baptism by the agency of the Holy Spirit by which we are immersed into the body of Christ. That language is very similar to Romans 6:3 here, where Paul writes, “[We] have been baptized [immersed] into Christ Jesus.”

Immersion into the body of Christ happened at your conversion by the work of the Holy Spirit. I have some friends who ask, “Have you been baptized by the Spirit?” I answer, “Absolutely!” And so should you, Christian friend! It is impossible to be a believer without having been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.

Water baptism is the visible picture of the invisible action of Spirit baptism. It portrays our identification with Christ, which is already secured by the Holy Spirit.[1]

Then Paul writes in verse 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.

Water baptism by immersion is the perfect illustration of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s death as he is placed into the hands of another, a church leader. Baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s burial as he is then placed under the water. Baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s resurrection as he is pulled up out of the water by the power of another.

Frankly, you cannot get a better picture of our spiritual identification in Christ than through this wonderful ordinance the Lord commanded in Matthew 28:19, when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

And you will notice that the command is to baptize disciples, not infants. There is not one verse in the New Testament that teaches some kind of religious sprinkling of water on a baby’s forehead, or even immersing an infant in water. Baptism is not something your parents do for you; it is something you do for Christ, showing the world that you have already been saved by faith in Him alone.

Just as we were in Adam when he sinned—he was the head of the human race—so we are now in Christ, the Head of the redeemed race.

Paul goes on in the last part of verse 4 to tell us that we have been raised to “walk in newness of life.” Beloved, a Christian does not just turn over a new leaf; a Christian has been resurrected—given a new life in Christ.

Paul writes in Colossians 3, “If . . . you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above . . . For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (verses 1, 3). In other words, the believer has effectively died to his old life, and he’s been raised to a new principle of life—a new dynamic for living.

As one writer puts it, a true believer “does not want to go back into sin any more than Lazarus wanted to go back into the tomb dressed again in his graveclothes”[2] after being raised from the dead by Christ.

Too many people today are trying to live a good life without the life of Christ. They are turning over new leaves, but they are only fig leaves. Adam and Eve were not able to cover their sin with fig leaves, and neither can we. People today are trying all sorts of things to try to resuscitate their spiritual deadness. Beloved, they do not need resuscitation; they need a resurrection. They need a new life in Christ.

Now Paul takes us from the graveyard to the vineyard. He writes in verse 5, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

The key idea here moves from baptism to union. The word translated “united” twice in this verse is sumphutos, which means “grown together.” Paul has in mind a branch grafted into a vine. This describes our union with Christ.

In Galatians 3:27, Paul writes that believers have “put on Christ.” In other words, our identification with Christ—our union with Him—is such that it can be said that we are robed with Him. The sap of His life is flowing in and through us, the branches, because we have been grafted into Him by grace.

Beloved, so much of who you are in Christ is brand-new. You have a new identity; you have a new destiny; you have a new Master, a new purpose, a new heart, a new spirit, and a new song. You are, as the Bible says, a new creation.

Once you were dead spiritually, bound in the kingdom of darkness and sin. But in Christ you died to all of that; you were buried in Him and then raised with Him to new freedom—a new birth and a new life in Christ. In the mind of God, you, Christian friend, were in Christ when He died and rose again.

So, that old song of the church asks some questions: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And the answer is yes. “Were you there when they laid Him in a tomb?” Yes! “Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?” Yes, you were—delivered from the kingdom of death into the kingdom of everlasting life in Christ.

[1] John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, ed. John. F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 462.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right (Chariot Victor Publishing, 1977), 64.

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