I wish I could remember why the 13-year-old me wanted to get baptised so badly. Looking back, all I can remember is feeling a sense of urgency because of a campaign that had been happening at the time. It felt like it was now or never. It’s funny how much of a fuss I made about my post-baptismal outfit, whilst failing to exercise the same level of concern about my post-baptismal life.
“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? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised 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.” (Romans 6:1-4)
In my Bible, Dead to Sin, Alive to God, is the title for the portion of scripture from verses 1 to 14; although I don’t recall having read Romans 6 in the run up to my ‘spiritual birthday,’ that sentiment was definitely expressed by those around me. The way Paul describes the significance of baptism is deeply meaningful. Ultimately, this outward expression of a person’s desire to accept Christ as their personal Saviour, is more than just an event.
Baptism symbolises a commitment to walking dead every day.
Verse 2 is very matter-of-fact; Paul can’t fathom why anyone would want to continue in sin if they’d supposedly died to it. Sin, at any point in your Christian journey, is inexcusable. However, at the point of baptism, you’re choosing to wholeheartedly pursue newness of life. When you enter the watery grave you’re saying goodbye to the ‘old man’ (v6). It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Will there be times when you fall? Most likely. However, the onus is on you to return to the state where you’re walking dead [to sin] every day.
If you’re currently reading this post, then it’s safe to assume that you’re alive. Physically, that is. Spiritually speaking, would you be confident in saying you’re dead to sin? I know I can’t. It’s sad to think that some [baptised] people that were once zealous for Christ are now Dead to God, Alive to Sin (note the difference). Of course, that isn’t surprising given that it’s our default state as sinful beings. Staying dead isn’t something you can achieve in your own strength; therefore, you must fully embrace the promise of Philippians 4:13. It takes a huge amount of effort to go against the grain, but it’s definitely worth it!
Dying to sin temporarily is easy. Doing so consistently is difficult.
The necessity of divine help notwithstanding, I read a blog post this week that made a simple but profound point: “the people with the best self-control are typically those who have to use it the least.” Your ability to stay dead is linked to your self-control; if you’re constantly testing it, then that makes you vulnerable to succumbing to temptation. In contrast, cultivating the right environment for your habits to prosper will ensure you’re not overly reliant on self-control. By resisting even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) you’re facilitating your desire to stay dead to sin.
- Focus on discipleship – too often baptism is seen as the ‘end goal’ for new converts or people already in the faith. It’s actually the beginning of the journey. If you’re spiritually ‘young,’ then seek out those that can mentor and guide you. If you’re spiritually ‘older,’ then seek out opportunities to assist those younger in the faith without being asked.
- Hold your friends accountable – you know those vows that all the candidates say during a baptismal service? Were you present at a friend’s baptism and you’ve noticed they’re backsliding? Remind them of their vows and help them to get back on track.
- Be an example – if you keep making excuses for yourself and others (see I Can’t Help It!) then you’ll never live the post-baptismal life that Christ intended.
Baptism and a new life go hand in hand. However, this doesn’t simply happen automatically. If you’re considering baptism (or you’re already baptised), I hope you fully appreciate the commitment you’re making and that you strive to stay dead.