By Tom Hamilton
Twice the Bible describes Christians as having been “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27). However, due to all of the theological baggage the word “baptism” has acquired, especially because the word is not even re- ally translated in our English Bibles, it is easy for many of us to miss the point of this concept.
As noted elsewhere, the word “baptize” really means “immerse” in the NT. If we substitute this more accurate term in both Romans 6 and Galatians 3, we would read “immersed into Christ.” As long as one speaks in abstract theological terms like “baptized into Christ,” we can read such passages with little feeling or conviction. But when we actually ponder the implications of our being immersed in Christ, our perspective can’t help but change.
Clearly. when I think of myself as “immersed in Christ,” I must picture my life as so completely given over to him that it is taken up into himself. He surrounds me, penetrates my being, and becomes my new realm of existence. In particular, let’s consider what these two passages say about it.
In Romans 6:3-5 we read, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ have been immersed into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through immersion into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall certainly be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
Here we find Paul emphasizing that the giving over of our lives to God in becoming completely immersed in Christ involves death. This death involves a commitment to the things of God and a renunciation of the things of this world. This definitive break with the world is made at the point of genuine repentance. We are now dead to sin and our old way of life. The life immersed in Christ must have nothing to do with the contamination of sin. Every time one is genuinely immersed into Christ, that “baptism” is a funeral.
Next, we read in Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Here Paul emphasizes the resulting life of one who is immersed into Christ. Paul pictures the resulting immersed condition in terms of clothing which we wear or is wrapped around us. Everywhere we go, we take Christ with us, we show him to the world, and our life is hidden in him. On the other hand, we would be naked and vulnerable without him.
So often we are concerned about our physical appearance and which clothes we should wear, because it affects how other people see us. How much more so ought we to be concerned about how we appear to the world spiritually — so immersed in Christ that we are clothed with him, his purity, his character, his sacrificial life.
This whole idea of being immersed in Christ is what we acknowledge each Lord’s day in the partaking of the communion meal. We remind ourselves of the commitment we made to Christ when we were immersed into him. We promised to die to all sin, and we committed ourselves to living his life, not our own. The imagery of taking his body and blood into ourselves is yet another way of emphasizing our life is hidden in him and his life becomes our life, his spirit lives in our bodies, his blood flows through our veins.
How genuinely is your life hidden in Christ? Have you truly died to sin and clothed yourself with Jesus? Are you completely immersed in him or are there any parts sticking out?