Living in the Power of Baptism
Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go and make disciples…, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20).
Jesus’ command to all who receive his gift of life, the gift of salvation, is that they be baptized in water. This is a call not merely to observe a duty but, more importantly, to experience a dynamic. Obedience to this command means setting oneself on a river like pathway of submission to the lordship of Christ – a commitment to pursue discipleship as one dead to sin but alive to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6: 6-11
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done
away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has
been freed from sin.
8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that
since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery
over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A solid grasp of water baptism is essential to your spiritual growth. Our growth and depth of life as a disciple of Christ depends on our moving beyond initiation experiences. Discipleship requires seeing truths and practices that we’ve already obeyed, such as baptism, for all their implications. In other words, a disciple is not just to experience a truth, or an act in response to faith, but is to continue to live out that truth throughout life.
The Meaning of Baptism
Though we have been baptized, fully acknowledging its importance, we’re still called to abide in the truths baptism expresses. So how can we live more fully in the power of those principles as Jesus’ disciples? What does it mean to live the baptized life?
1. Baptism and Obedience
To live the baptized life is to live in an abiding recollection of my baptism with this mind-set: I have submitted myself in obedience to Jesus’ lordship, and this is my lifetime commitment. My will is to do His will. Jesus Himself identified this as a fundamental issue in water baptism (see Matt. 3:14,15).
2. Baptism and the Fullness of the Holy Spirit
To life the baptized life is to be open to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Peter tells of the promise awaiting us when we come to the waters of baptism. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized,” he says. And then he adds glorious words of promise, “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
3. Baptism and the Death of the Old Man
The apostle Paul reveals another aspect of baptismal truth:
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).
Notice how the truth of baptism’s significance continues to expand. Paul shows baptism not only as an act of obedience and an opening of Holy Spirit fullness, but also as an action of commitment to burial.
But that’s not the end of it. For while I’m dying to my old self, I am also making another Bible-taught announcement. Just as I am buried-immersed in the water-I also rise again! As I come up out of the water, I am declaring, “From now on I will draw on the power of the resurrection life of my Lord Jesus!” Just as He was buried, so we have been buried with Him; just as He arose, so we have risen in the newness of His life and the power of His Spirit.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom. 8:11).
To live the baptized life means allowing the life-giving Spirit of God to resurrect you on a daily basis, lifting you above the dead habits of the past and into newness of life for today and tomorrow.
4. Baptism and Circumcision of the Heart
The Word calls to mind yet another ritual to expand our understanding of water baptism:
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 were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col.2:11,12).
Baptism is compared with the Old Testament rite of circumcision. Of course, that ancient rite involved the removal of the foreskin of the male sex organ, but the physical nature of the practice should not distract us from the dynamic symbolism applicable today. We need to capture this, because a brief moment of insight into the implications of baptism as circumcision can reveal a very powerful but practical truth. In the delicacy of the literal physiology of circumcision involving that most private part of the body, there are important spiritual lessons to be learned.
In baptism God wants to cut away flesh. That is, He wants to remove carnality from our lives-things that are superfluous to the needs for which He has created us. Understand this: Just as the removal of that small portion of excess flesh from the physical organ of the body does not reduce or inhibit the capacity of that part of the body, there are excessive aspects of our behavior that God may want to remove from our lives. This removal will not inhibit our capacity for good things in His order, but it will remove unnecessary things that are outside His purposes and design.
5. Baptism and Deliverance
Add to this one last illustration regarding baptism:
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor. 10:1,2).
Here’s a marvelous picture of
See the picture: Moments before, the Israelites had their backs to the wall, but now they have come through a pathway of deliverance. Can you imagine their joy? The oppressors who had enslaved them for four centuries were vanquished as the waters of the red Sea swallowed them.
Water baptism is intended to be a moment of deliverance for us, too. Things to which we’ve been enslaved, the fetters by which we’ve been shackled, the snares in which we’ve been entangled through actions of our adversary-when deliverance is needed from hellish oppression, all are broken!
Jesus, today I want the power potential for a baptized person to be mine. I want to walk in openness to your Spirit, dead to my past, circumcised from unproductivity so fruitfulness might abound, and freed from every bond and yoke of the adversary.