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Baptism into His Death

Col 2:1-15 "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for these at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the Head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him."
 
One of the most beautiful images that we get in the New Testament concerning our relationship to Christ is Paul's teaching on Baptism. There is more meat on this bone than could even begin to be scratched, yet this writer will attempt to digest the glorious mystery portrayed in the practice of baptism.
 
First thing to note is that here Paul is not giving baptism as the focus of his point. It is the grounding of his conclusion, resolving the issue the churches had with the Judiazers that had become a plague upon the Church in its early days. When one reads the preceding passage and the conclusion, Paul keeps reminding us of the freedom in Christ and the change in our relationship to the Law of God. Paul insists in many places that the Law of God is holy, just, and good for us. It is the prescription for how we ought to live and the mirror of His own character for us to observe. We are sinners before this perfect Law, and it shows us time and time again our failure to be all that God has commanded for His people (His very image) to be in His creation. The Law is not our friend, it is our accuser in the court of God.
 
The Judiazers continued to push the Law upon the early church, but not in the same way that Paul did. The blessed apostle urged the churches of his day to keep seeking God in His Law, to obey it and be righteous in an unrighteous age. However, the Judiazers were stuck on a singular point that the apostles had to quash time and time again, the issue of circumcision.
 
Circumcision was the defining characteristic for the people of God. It was a sign of the covenant that God had given to the Patriarchs, the promise that He would give them a way to atone for sin and be made right with Him. All nations, all people are subject to the Law of God (we see this over and over in the prophets as they call down the wrath of the All Sovereign on the pagan nations around Israel), but the Israelites have a unique relationship to this Law. They alone are given the prescriptions of sacrifice and cleanliness that keep them from suffering God's wrath for their own sins. They were no less wicked than the nations around them, however they were the only nation with a way of escape from the punishment for their wickedness. This way of escape was through covenant. God had sworn an oath to their fathers that He would carry out Justice among them with a substitute, and not on their own heads.
 
Paul, then, draws back to this to make his point to the churches. Paul tells us that a new covenant has been made, one that fulfills the types and shadows that were present in the old. This new covenant is one of perfect completion, one that fully and finally ends our debt to the law and our recompense before its holy statutes. Christ, in dying for His people, paid for their sins (the wages owed for sin is death) and was raised to life to show his victory over both sin and death. In baptism we show this picture, we take the sign of this new covenant upon ourselves and cry with a loud voice "HE IS RISEN FOR ME" just as it is true that he died for me. This new covenant is fulfilled in Christ and accomplished in us by faith. Just as Christ's death was the offering and his raising was completion, so our Baptism is an offering and our Faith the completion. United to Christ by faith we declare ourselves as His with our baptism. We acknowledge His sworn oath to us that our substitute has come and completed His work. It is acceptable before God for us and frees us from the chains of our sins, the consequences of our wicked actions, and the death that would surely come upon us. 
 
Our baptism is a sign of union. We are a chosen priesthood and holy nation in Christ, united to Him by the faith once for all given to the saints and shed abroad in the hearts of God's people. As the marriage union depicts our relationship to Christ, as the Supper depicts His perfect sacrifice for us and its offering to us, so Baptism depicts the very work itself. Paul said it best "having been buried with Him in baptism", and in being buried we are dead to the Law. "you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead", and this is our being raised in new life under a new Law. A covenant of Grace that delivers faith to our hearts and strength to our souls. 
 
May we never forget the power and importance of this wonderful practice. By it we are washed clean, buried in death, raised to new life, and united with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is truly a gift to the Body of Christ. It is a gift befitting the King who gave it, and gracious to the spotless Bride to whom it is given.
Topics: The New Covenant
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