One of the reasons for baptism by immersion is that going under the water symbolizes our going into the grave - associating us with the death of Christ, and indicating our 'death' to our previous life of sin and ignorance. Coming up out of the water connects us with the resurrection of Christ, relating us to the hope of resurrection to eternal life at his return, as well as to living a new life now, spiritually triumphant over sin on account of Christ's victory achieved by his death and resurrection.
"So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk (i.e. live day to day) in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death (by baptism), we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:3-5).
Because salvation has been made possible only through Christ's death and resurrection, it is vital that we associate ourselves with these things if we are to be saved. The symbolic dying and resurrecting with Christ, which baptism gives, is the only way to do this. It should be noted that sprinkling does not fulfil this symbol. At baptism, "our old man (way of life) is crucified" along with Christ on the cross (Rom. 6:6); God "quickened us together with Christ" at baptism (Eph. 2:5). However, we still have human nature after baptism, and therefore the fleshly way of life will keep raising its head. The 'crucifixion' of our flesh is therefore an on-going process which only begins at baptism, hence Jesus told the believer to take up his cross each day and follow him, as it were, in the procession towards Calvary (Luke 9:23; 14:27). Whilst a life of true crucifixion with Christ is not easy, there is unspeakable consolation and joy through being also united with Christ's resurrection.
Christ brought about "peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20) -"the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). Concerning this, Jesus promised, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth (peace), give I unto you" (John 14:27). This peace and true spiritual joy more than balances out the pain and difficulty of openly associating ourselves with the crucified Christ: "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Cor. 1:5).
There is also the freedom which comes from knowing that our natural self is really dead, and therefore Jesus is very actively living with us through our every trial. The great apostle Paul could speak from much experience of this all down the long eventful years of his life: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).
"Baptism doth also now save us...by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21) because our association with Christ's resurrection to eternal life gives us access to the same at his return. It is through sharing in this resurrection, then, that we will finally be saved. Jesus stated this in very simple terms: "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Paul likewise: "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son...we shall be saved by his life" (resurrection; Rom. 5:10).
Time and again it is emphasized that by associating ourselves with Christ's death and sufferings in baptism, and our subsequent way of life, we will surely share in his glorious resurrection:- "If we be dead with (Christ), we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:11,12).
- "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body...knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10,11,14).
- Paul shared in "the fellowship of (Christ's) sufferings, being made (by his hard experience of life) conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection to eternal life as experienced by Christ" (Phil. 3. 10,11 cp Gal 6:14)
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