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The Forum

Dear Brother McC.:

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a question in regard to baptism on which I would like some comments. In the mid-week prayer meeting and Bible study in the assembly, we are going through Romans. For the past two weeks we have been in chapter six, and have discussed the baptism mentioned in verses three and four. It was stated that what Paul had in mind was water baptism. However, I fail to see water baptism in this section, and for two reasons: First, if water baptism is meant, then Paul’s argument applies only to water-baptised believers. Second, if one teaches water baptism from this passage, then he must teach baptismal regeneration.

Please allow me to quote Kenneth Wuest. In his book, Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, page 70, he states: “The word ‘baptizo’ refers to the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition. While the word, we found, had other uses, yet the one that predominated over the others was the above. Observe how perfectly this meaning is in accord with the usage of the word in Romans 6:3-4, where the believing sinner is baptized into vital union with Jesus Christ. The believing sinner is introduced or placed in Christ, thus coming into union with Him. By that action he is taken out of his old environment and condition in which he had lived, the first Adam, and is placed into a new environment and condition, the Last Adam. By this action his condition is changed from that of a lost sinner with a totally depraved nature to that of a saint with a divine nature. His relationship to the law of God is changed from that of a guilty sinner to that of a justified saint. All this is accomplished by the act of the Holy Spirit introducing or placing him into vital union with Jesus Christ.

The translation should read, ‘Do you not know that so many of us as were placed in Jesus Christ, were introduced into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by this aforementioned introduction into His death in order that just as Christ was raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also may be able to order our behaviour in the energy of a new life imparted.’

A student in one of the writer’s Greek classes who himself is a Greek, and learned to speak that language as his mother-tongue in the schools of Greece, stated during a class discussion that the Greek reader would react to the Greek text in Romans and the word ‘baptizo’ as has the writer.”

Have you noticed, brother McC, that the Amplified New Testament reads, in Galatians 2:26-27, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ — into a spiritual union and communion with Christ —have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ”? Mr. Wuest comments, “Having spoken of the Galatians in the previous verse (26) as ‘in Christ’, referring to that mystical and vital union which exists between the Lord Jesus and the believer, Paul now reminds them of how they became united with Christ. When they put their faith in Him as Saviour, the Holy Spirit baptized (introduced or placed) them into vital union with Christ. The reference cannot be to water baptism, for that never put a believing sinner in Christ. The Greek word ‘baptizo’ means to put or place into.”

Please look now at Colossians 2:11-12. Again I quote the Amplified New Testament, “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, but in a spiritual circumcision performed by Chrst by stripping off the body of the flesh (the whole corrupt, carnal nature with its passions and lusts). Thus you were circumcized when you were buried with Him in your baptism, in which you were also raised with Him to a new life through your faith in the working of God as displayed when He raised Him up from the dead.” Mr. Wuest also says of this passage, “The believing sinner’s identification with Christ in His death, broke the power of indwelling sin. His identification with Him in His resurrection, resulted in the impartation of the divine nature. The baptism is effected by the Holy Spirit.”

It appears, therefore, that if the baptism of Colossians 2:12 is water baptism, then only water-baptized believers have received the spiritual circumcision of verse 11. If the baptism of Galatians 3:27 is water baptism, then it is inconsistent for watertized believers are in Christ, as stated in verse 26. Furthermore, if the baptism of Romans 6:2-3 is water baptism, then it is inconsistant for water-baptized believers only to continue in sin that grace may abound.

Yours in Christ by grace alone,

* * *

Dear Brother C.,

Many thanks for your letter. I have read it carefully, and appreciate your intelligent approach to a difficult subject.

I agree with most of what you say, however, I feel you have not anticipated the probability that both Spirit and water baptism are included in the Scriptures you quote. The one is the visible and outward symbol of the invisible and inward work of the Divine Spirit,

Let me try and make a threefold comparison between the baptism of the Spirit and water baptism. The baptism of the Spirit has three great effects: First, it is into Christ (Gal. 3:27. Col. 2:12), that is, into vital union with Christ. Second, it is into His death (Rom. 6:3), that is, into all the efficacy of the atonement, the security of an accomplished redemption. Third, it is into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), that is, into organic union with all saints.

The baptism of the Spirit, consequently, initiates all believers into an identification with Christ, His work, and with one another. This is the one true baptism of Ephesians 4:5, although the external ordinance may be included in the one baptism as a symbol of that which is real and internal.

Since water baptism is a picture of the baptism of the Spirit, it has a threefold significance: First, it is the symbol of our initiation into Christ, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” The Christian in his baptism is seen rising out of death to walk in newness of life. Second, it is the sign of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. In our baptism we manifest that we have died with Christ to sin, and the world; the “old man” has been crucified with Christ. It is also the sign that with Christ, we have been raised out of death. The “new man” is identified with Christ on resurrection ground.

Third, it is a public renunciation of the old life that was lived in Adam. The act of renunciation in our baptism is in keeping with the fact that a spiritual circumcision has already taken place in the heart by the power of the Spirit of God.

Sincerely in Christ,
R. McC.