Yesterday, I met with a man from Good Shepherd in advance of his baptism we will celebrate on Easter Sunday.
And as part of his preparation, we looked at Romans 6:3-5:
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Do you know what is most striking about these words (aside from the clear word picture of baptism by immersion)? This: that for Paul baptism is the way we live out the fact that with God, death always precedes life. It’s the opposite of the way we normally view things, in which life is before death.
No, not with Jesus.
In Jesus, dead things live. It’s why Romans 6:4 doesn’t say we’re baptized into his example or baptized into his teaching or even baptized into his love. None of those. We are baptized into his death. There’s a reason our baptismal pool looks like a coffin. It’s a living burial in which dead things live.
Now baptism doesn’t cause that death and subsequent new life. Faith does that. It’s why Romans 1-5 has been all about faith. But baptism is the God-ordained vehicle God used to SHOUT this new life out. The old me is DEAD! The new me is RESURRECTED! And so our job as a church is to make sure people are sufficiently dead so that they may be authentically alive.
And while Romans 6 grounds our baptism in this “death,” it also promises life. It’s why we are “united with [Christ] in resurrection.” Which makes the elemental used in baptism — Water! — take on an entirely new meaning. Because if baptism is life following death, does not the baptized person emerge out of a baptismal … womb?
Is not the water reflective of amniotic fluid, first protecting and then sustaining and then propelling someone brand new from the safety of the womb? When you understand baptism fullness according to Romans 6, you see that the celebration is a simultaneous funeral service and birth announcement.
From the tomb to the womb and out into the world. If that’s not Easter Sunday, I don’t know what is.