In Romans 6, Paul gives a detailed description of what happens when we are baptized in water. This chapter is full of rich information that will prove that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. In the previous chapter, Paul taught the Romans that they were justified by an obedient faith to God and that justification comes through Jesus. Even though we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23), grace, which came through Christ (Jn. 1:17), will always have the power to overcome our sins. Again, this requires an obedient faith (Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Jn. 1:7).
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom. 6:1-2).
Grace is not designed to be a safety net in which we are allowed to sin freely. Grace can be perverted (Jude 1:4), and we can fall from it (Gal. 5:4). Notice how firm Paul answered his own question. He said, “Certainly not!” He wanted them to understand this truth because some had been twisting what he had been teaching.
And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? -- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say (Rom. 3:8).
So, Paul put the rumors to rest; grace is not a license to sin. His next question is an important one. “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Later, we will see that a person is either a servant of sin or a servant or righteousness. If a person is a servant of righteousness, then he is a Christian and he has died to sin, which means he should do his best to never become a servant of sin again.
When we become a Christian, we die to sin, but the temptation to sin is still there. So, we must continue to stay away from sin. Once we die to sin, we should rejoice because we have overcome sin and are no longer separated from God (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 59:2). So, we must die to sin if we ever hope to be saved.
How and when do we die to sin? Paul answered this question in the following verses:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col. 2:11-12).
We can learn several things from these verses:
Baptism is what puts us into Christ. Paul taught the same thing to the
Galatians: “For as many of you as
were baptized into Christ have put on
Christ” (Gal. 3:27, emph. mine). So, being baptized into Christ means a person has
clothed himself with Him. To show the significance of being in Christ, notice the following things that are found in
Obviously, if we want to be saved and possess all these things found in Christ, we need to be put into and clothed with Christ. None of these benefits are found outside Christ. Paul taught that baptism is how we get into Christ where all these wonderful blessings are found. If we have not been baptized into Christ, then we are lost.
2. Paul pointed out that baptism is the point we die with Christ, which is not a physical death, but a spiritual one. He also pointed out that baptism is a burial, which fits perfectly with the definition of baptism from the Greek: “To dip repeatedly, to immerse, submerge (of vessels sunk)” (Thayer). This definition describes exactly what happens when we are lowered under the water because we are completely immersed, which emulates being buried with Christ. Since we are the ones that are being immersed and buried, this rules out sprinkling or pouring. Besides, sprinkling (rhantismos) and pouring (ballo, epicheo) have their own Greek words, and they have nothing to do with the meaning of baptism (baptizo).
Another way to illustrate this definition is by giving an example that we will all agree on. When a person passes away and he is buried in the graveyard, do we pour or sprinkle a little dirt on him and call him buried? Of course not! Everyone understands that buried means he is completely covered with dirt, which is the same idea we are given with baptism. Since baptism is a burial in water, John was baptizing where there was much water (Jn. 3:23), and Philip and the eunuch went into the water (Acts 8:38).
3. Another interesting point comes from the word buried, which is the Greek word sunthapto. This Greek word only occurs two times in the Bible (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Notice how this word is defined and viewed by the following Lexicons:
Bury (together) with or at the same time; figuratively, of identifying with Christ through baptism in accepting his death and burial as one's own (RO 6.4) (Friberg).
To bury someone along with someone else - 'to bury together with.' 'by our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared in his death' Ro 6.4 (Louw-Nida).
Of the believers being buried together with their Lord in baptism (BDAG).
To bury together with: together with Christ, passive, namely, Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12. For all who in the rite of baptism are plunged under the water thereby declare that they put faith in the expiatory death of Christ for the pardon of their past sins; therefore Paul likens baptism to a burial by which the former sinfulness is buried, i.e. utterly taken away (Thayer).
Even A.T. Robertson, renowned Baptist Greek scholar, who taught that baptism was not necessary for salvation agreed with Thayer:
Thayer's Lexicon says: "For all who in the rite of baptism are plunged under the water, thereby declare that they put faith in the expiatory death of Christ for the pardon of their past sins." Yes, and for all future sins also. This word gives Paul's vivid picture of baptism as a symbolic burial with Christ and resurrection also to newness of life in him as Paul shows by the addition "wherein ye were also raised with him". In the symbol of baptism the resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured with an allusion to Christ's own resurrection and to our final resurrection (Robertson).
Mr. Robertson admitted that water baptism is what Paul is talking about. He also admits that it is the point at which we are buried with Christ, which is the point our sins are taken away. However, as he continued, he tried to justify his belief, which contradicts what he just said:
Paul does not mean to say that the new life in Christ is caused or created by the act of baptism. That is grossly to misunderstand him. The Gnostics and the Judaizers were sacramentalists, but not so Paul the champion of spiritual Christianity. He has just given the spiritual interpretation to circumcision which itself followed Abraham's faith (Ro 4:10-12). Cf. Gal 3:27. Baptism gives a picture of the change already wrought in the heart "through faith" (Robertson).
A.T. Robertson had a great understanding of the Greek language. However, he admitted in his massive Historical Grammar book that sometimes grammar must give way to theology (Jackson, The Preposition “Eis” in Acts 2:38 www.christiancourier.com).
In other words, no matter how clear the Bible teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, Robertson was willing to ignore it so he could hold to his Baptist doctrine. Every time the Scriptures talk about the necessity of baptism, Robertson tried to explain it away. Based on these Greek Lexicons and the Bible, we can see that Paul was teaching that being baptized in water is necessary for our salvation.
4. Paul confirmed that baptism is the point at which we die to our sins because we are buried with Christ in His death. Paul compared baptism to circumcision. Under the Law of Moses, a male child had to be physically circumcised on the 8th day to enter the covenant made by God (Lev. 12:3). However, under the new covenant, both men and women are spiritually circumcised when they are baptized. At that point, they enter the covenant made by God. The word circumcised has the basic meaning of being cut off, and that is what happens to us in baptism because our sins are cut off from us. Paul will make this point even stronger when we examine verse 5 and following.
5. Paul taught that baptism is not a work of man, but a work of God. However, it is a response on our part in the sense that we decide to submit to water baptism. However, what happens at our baptism is done solely by God, which can be proven in several ways:
(1) Every time the Word of God speaks of someone being baptized, it is always in the passive tense, which means baptism is something that is being done to us. Someone might say this is referring to the person who is baptizing the other person. However, we need to realize that when a person is helping another person with his baptism, he is simply making sure that person is fully immersed because that person has nothing to do with the work that happens to the person being baptized.
(2) Paul said: “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12, emph. mine). Notice, it is by our faith in the working of God that we can know God is causing us to die to our sins and that He is uniting us with Christ in baptism. It is at the point of baptism that God adds us to His church (Acts 2:47), which is only something God can do. There is nothing magical about the water itself. It is simply the place that God has appointed in which we contact the saving blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5) and our sins are washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
(3) This idea can be seen in the Old Testament as well. In 2 Kings 5, we learn about a commander of the Syrian army named Naaman. He was a successful military leader, but he had leprosy. His king wanted him to be healed, so he sent a letter to the king of Israel to let him know he was sending Naaman to him to be healed. The king of Israel could not help him with this request, but Elisha could. So, Naaman was sent to Elisha’s house and Elisha sent a servant out to tell him: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean” (2 Kgs. 5:10). At first, Naaman was furious, and he refused, but his servant talked him into obeying Elisha’s command, and he was cleansed of his leprosy. There was nothing magical about the Jordan River, but it was the place that Elisha said he would be healed from his leprosy. It was not until he obeyed that command and dipped seven times that God cleansed him from his leprosy. Again, the water itself did not cure him, just like the water itself does not wash away our sins. Instead, it is the working of God combined with an obedient faith that healed Naaman and causes us to have the forgiveness of our sins.
6. Once we have been baptized into Christ and we are raised from the watery grave of baptism, we are supposed “to walk in newness of life.” Notice, our walk in newness of life does not begin until we are buried with Christ in baptism. Paul said: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Again, the only way we can become a new creation is by being baptized into Christ.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:5-7).
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:13).
As Paul continued, he lets us know that our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins are conditional. Verse 5 starts out with the Greek word gar, which means Paul was explaining more about what he said in the previous verse. Notice the conditional word if. We can only be united with Christ in the likeness of His death if we are baptized. It is at the point of baptism that our old self is crucified with Christ. At that point, we are freed from our sins and made alive with Christ by our faith in the working of God. Paul said: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It was only when Paul was crucified with Christ in baptism that Christ lived in him (Acts 9:18).
Just because we have been freed from our past sins does not mean that we cannot sin any more. Instead, it means that we should not sin any more. It is also important to note, that once we have been baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins, we do not need to be baptized every time we sin. Instead, we have been given the privilege to come boldly before the throne of grace in prayer to repent and confess our sins to God (Heb. 4:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Consider the following verses:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:1-11, see also Eph. 4:20ff).
Once again, we have the conditional word if. Paul is saying, if we were raised with Christ in baptism, we should be seeking those things which are above. When he said, “you died,” he is referring to when we died in baptism, which was when our lives became hidden with Christ. It is only when we have died and been raised with Christ in baptism that we have the hope of appearing with Jesus when He appears at His second coming. Then Paul encourages us to put off all these sinful deeds that cause us to be separated from God. He tells us why we should do this when he wrote, “…since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:9-10). Again, Paul teaches us in Romans 6 that putting off the old man happens at the point of baptism. Paul told Timothy: “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him” (2 Tim. 2:11). Notice, the only way we can live with Christ is by dying with Him, which happens at the point of baptism.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:8-11).
Verse 8 is the same conditional statement that Paul made to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:11). We can know with all confidence that if we die with Christ in baptism and we remain faithful, we will live with Christ in heaven forever. We can know this fact because Jesus was raised from the dead, and He has put sin in its place. Just as Jesus lives for God, we are supposed to live our lives for God and consider ourselves dead to sin but alive in Jesus.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:12-14).
This passage proves we can resist sin. However, we are human and sometimes we will sin (1 Jn. 1:8, 10), which is why Paul taught us not to let sin reign in our bodies. As Christians, we are to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12) and keep sin out of our lives (1 Jn. 2:15-17; 1:6).
When Paul said: “We are not under law but under grace,” he is saying that we are not under the Law of Moses in which perfect law-keeping was required. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Some seem to think there is no law under the system of grace, but this is not true. Consider the following proof:
Isaiah prophesied that the law of Jehovah would go forth from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3), which happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). When the new covenant was made through Jesus, Jeremiah prophesied that God would put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). The fact that we are under a new covenant proves that we are under a law, and the Scriptures make it clear that we are under a law. For instance, the covenant we are under is called a law of faith (Rom. 3:27), the law of God (Rom. 7:22, 25), and the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). Paul said he was under law to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21), and he taught other Christians to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). James called it the perfect law of liberty and the royal law (James 1:25; 2:8, 12). Besides, if there is no law, then there is no way we can sin (Rom. 4:15). However, Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). If there are commandments we can keep, then there is a law for us to keep. There are many other verses that show that we must obey God’s law under His system of grace as well (Mt. 7:21-23; Rom. 6:17-18; Col. 3:5-6; 2 Thes. 1:8-9; Heb. 5:8-9; James 1:22; 2:17, 20; 1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Jn. 2:3-4, 17; 5:3; 1 Pet. 1:22; Rev. 21:7-8; 22:14).
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness (Rom. 6:15-19).
Once again, Paul is teaching us that grace is not a license to sin. When we were baptized into Christ, we made ourselves slaves of righteousness. We are no longer supposed to be slaves of sin because it leads to spiritual death. Notice how they became slaves of righteousness, which caused them to be set free from sin. They obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered to them. What doctrine was delivered to them that they obeyed? It was the same doctrine that Jesus told His disciples to teach in The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16). When they went around teaching, they taught that a person must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24; Acts 8:37), repent (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38), confess Jesus as Lord (Mt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10), and be baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Paul continued to encourage these brethren to be servants of righteousness.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:20-23).
As Paul summed up this chapter, he pointed out that being a slave of sin will end in spiritual death, but being a slave of righteousness will result in inheriting eternal life through Jesus our Lord.
When Paul says that when you were a slave of sin, you were free from righteousness, he is saying there is no obligation to follow the rules of righteousness if God is not your master. Though you have the choice to live your life the way you want and be a slave of sin, you need to think about what that means. As Paul points out, it leads to death, which is the true wages of sin. Some may try to focus on the pleasure of sin or the freedom to do what you want, but in the end, it will cost you your soul.
Paul didn’t want any of these Christians turning back to a life of sin. He reminded them how ashamed they were of their old lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are some Christians who will give up the wonderful promise of heaven in order to live a lifestyle that will put them on the broad road to destruction. Like Paul, I hope that no Christian will give back the wonderful gift of eternal life that has been given freely by God.
In conclusion, Paul has taught us with clarity the necessity of baptism. When we are baptized into Christ, we die to sin and we become slaves of righteousness because we obeyed that form of doctrine that has been delivered to us. If we have not been baptized into Christ, then we are still a slave of sin. If we die physically in this condition, the Word of God teaches that we will not make it into heaven. What about you? Are you a slave of righteousness or a slave of sin? If you desire to be a slave of righteousness, then why not be united with Christ in baptism today (2 Cor. 6:2)?