The Forum

The Forum

Baptism” In Romans 6

Dear Brother G.

Any attempt to answer the vexed and much debated question as to whether the baptism mentioned in Romans six is that of water or of the Holy Spirit must be governed by the safe and excellent rule, the meaning of the text must be determined by its immediate context. When Romans six is read in that light, it produces the irresistible impression that water baptism is the subject the writer had in mind. At least, that is how the average reader of the plain English of the Authorized Version would understand it.

The setting of the chapter is something like this: the blood (chapter three), the water (chapter six), the Holy Spirit (chapter eight). John reminds us that these three agree in one (1 John 5:8). There is just one passing and incidental reference to the Holy Spirit in chapter five. To introduce the Holy Spirit into chapter six would appear to do violence to the teaching of the Apostle in this part of his letter. The letter to the Romans has been called the most profound book in the history of the world. Its teaching is more progressive and logical than usual. Paul builds up his teaching step by step with a forceful logic.

There are two aspects of the death of Christ in Romans five and six which merit close consideration: the judicial (chapter five), Christ died for the ungodly, for sinners. Because that is so, the believing sinner is justified, made righteous. The second aspect, the experimental, appears in chapter six, the believer died with Christ when He died, thus the believer is free. The link with Christ is formed by His dying for us, and by our dying with Him. The one is just as true as is the other. Unfortunately, many Christians, perhaps the majority, fail to realize it.

The expression, “We died” in the Revised Version is preferable to the expression, “We are dead” as found in the King James Version. The one states a fact, the other the result of that fact. We are dead because we have died. It is just as simple as that. A dead person should, must be, buried. That is where water baptism comes into the picture. Water baptism by immersion does not of itself make us more dead than we are, but it is the symbol of something that has already taken place in the purpose and reckoning of God. This is something that is true doctrinally, and that ought to be true in a practical way of every child of God. It is a proof that we accept the judgment of God on our sin, our old nature, ourselves.

Baptism in water by immersion is the only possible way in which this precious truth can be set forth. “In the water,” death; “under the water,” burial; “out of the water,” resurrection. The original word, “baptizo” meant to immerse, but it also carried with it the idea of emersion. The word also means “to dip.” Anything dipped into water, or any other liquid, is not left there, it is taken out again. This will help us in trying to answer the question, “Is the 6th. of Romans the same in its teaching as 1 Corinthians 12:13?” The answer definitely must be “NO.” That answer rests upon the following grounds: there is no reference in 1 Corinthians 12:13 to, or even a hint of death, burial, and resurrection in the immediate context. The baptism of the Spirit is connected with the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It is union with Christ, not as He was on the cross, in the grave, or even in resurrection; it is union with Him as ascended into Heaven and as set down on the right hand of God.

Returning to the idea of dipping, let this be said, a person may be dipped in water by another person and taken out again, but only Christ can baptize in the Holy Spirit, and when He does so, He does not take the baptized person out again.

The experience of the Israelites who were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” is a good illustration of the difference between the two baptisms which we are discussing. The cloud would suggest the baptism of the Spirit; and the sea, the baptism in water. The Israelites did not go into the cloud, pass through it, and pass out of it. In fact, Scripture carefully guards against such a suggestion by saying, “They passed under the cloud.” On the other hand they entered into the sea, passed through it figuratively, and passed out again.

It is just as difficult to make those two baptisms of the Israelites one and the same thing as it is to make Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 one and the same thing.

Agreeing with this, it may be said, we do not find what is called Ephesian-truth, which is a development of I Corinthians 12:13, in Romans chapter 6. A comparison of Paul’s teaching on the subject of baptism as it is found in his letters will save us from confused thinking.

In Romans six it is death, burial and resurrection with Christ, with the emphasis placed upon death. Death is the basis of the teaching there, the other matters follow as a natural result. In Colossians the emphasis is on the resurrection (chapters 2:12; 3:1). In Ephesians the believer is viewed as having been raised and seated with Christ in the heavenlies. The truth of the one Body is strongly emphasized in Ephesians, and as that is connected with the baptism in the Spirit as in 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is called “the unity of the Spirit.” In that connection there is one baptism. It is baptism viewed objectively and not subjectively. The incidental reference to baptism in Galatians 3:27 is along the same lines. Those who were baptized had “put on Christ” in whom national distinctions were removed: social barriers were broken, sexual differences forgotten, and all were one in Christ. It should not be very difficult to see the connection between this and 1 Corinthians 12:13. It also should be easy to see the difference between this and Romans chapter six.

Sincerely in the Lord,
H. K. D.