By Bruce E. Shields
This article is no longer available online, but all of the articles about baptism that appeared in the March 1 and 8, 2009, issues of CHRISTIAN STANDARD–plus a bonus article–are available for purchase as a single, redisigned, easy-to-read and easy-to-use downloadable resource/pdf (a fuller explanation is below).
Baptism: 7 Practical Perspectives
Item 02973 • $2.99
What does the Bible teach about baptism? What does baptism symbolize and what does it accomplish? Why is there so much disagreement?
Seven writers offer their insights on this controversial but fundamental topic in this 14-page resource that—with the exception of one article—originally appeared in the March 1 and 8, 2009, issues of Christian Standard.
The writers closely examine the Scriptures, while also offering insights drawn from personal experiences. As one writer puts it in his summary statement: “Baptism is a richly meaningful act, commanded by Christ, in which we humbly ask the risen Lord for what he alone can give. It is a prayer that confesses our need and his supremacy. It does not detract from truth that the Lord alone saves; it confesses that truth.”All downloads include permission to reproduce the material up to 10 times for ministry and educational purposes. To order this resource, CLICK HERE; To sample the first few paragraphs of Bruce E. Shields’s article, continue reading below . . .
Every once in a while a professor can be very helpful. I spent several years working on a dissertation on Paul’s use of creation themes in Romans, and I enjoyed my time with the professor who guided my research in Germany. Professor Stuhlmacher once asked if I had noticed that in Romans 4 there are three statements about God in parallel form. Another time, he asked me to tell him the place of salvation. I had no idea what he was driving at. He finally led me to Romans 6, and I began to understand that he was talking about baptism, which he saw as the “place” where salvation happens.
Paul makes three statements about God in Romans 4. In verse 5, Paul describes God as “him who justifies the ungodly.” God is the judge who declares the ungodly defendant not guilty.
In verse 17 he has a double description, the God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” This is God the creator.
Then in verse 24 he brings the description down to the Christian’s faith, by describing God as the one “who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
God the judge, God the creator, and God the resurrector of Jesus is the God in whom we believe. The picture is of God as One who accomplishes things. When this God speaks, the dead are raised. When this God speaks, the universe happens. When this God speaks, salvation happens. When this God says, “You are not guilty,” then you are not guilty. It’s not that you should not feel guilty; it’s that you are not guilty. This is not “let’s pretend” or funny celestial bookkeeping. This God has re-created you as a righteous person.
In Romans 5, Paul tries to convey that a radical change has been made in us by God’s word of judgment. He uses several different words to paint the picture: justified, peace with God, access to grace, hope, sharing God’s glory, endurance, character, hope (again), God’s love; and then he reminds us that God did this through the death of the Son of God for us sinners. He illustrates this by showing how much more powerful the effect of Christ’s obedience has been than was the disobedience of Adam; and that brings us to Romans 6.
Romans 6 is a turn in what I call gospel logic. Paul has emphasized the power and the will of God in our salvation process, and he knows people will claim that if it all depends on God, we need do nothing—in fact how we live is immaterial. We can sin all we want—we can live totally in the realm of Adam—and it won’t affect our relationship with God.
So Paul says a big NO to that:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! [Could be translated, well, duh!] How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Baptism. Baptism is immersion into Christ Jesus. That means our baptism puts us into such a close relationship with Christ that it’s like being part of him.
Paul is talking about the Christ whose obedience of God’s will overshadows the disobedience of Adam. This is the Christ who was raised for our justification, and that means a new creation by the Word of God. Being in Christ is like living in the force field of God’s Holy Spirit. Baptism is immersion into Christ Jesus. . . .