Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV) 

3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore 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. 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 

In our exhortations, I have been exploring various traditions that appear in our corporate worship services. Since we have the privilege of baptizing Josiah, Rebekah, Matthew, and Daniel Bursese later this morning, I thought it would be beneficial to use our exhortation to explain the meaning of baptism which Paul discusses here in Romans.

In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words. Even as God communicates to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He communicates to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah. The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise to Noah and to us that He will never again flood the earth. So every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us.

What is true of the rainbow is also true of other covenant signs: they are primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. Paul emphasizes this by using the passive voice to describe baptism. He writes that the Roman Christians “were baptized” (passive) into Christ and “were baptized” (again, passive) into His death. So why the passive voice? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word. Thus, we do not baptize ourselves; we are baptized by another. 

Paul further declares that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death. Every baptized person has felt God’s word of condemnation for his sin, God’s word of pardon through Christ’s crucifixion, and God’s call to newness of life through Christ’s resurrection. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually – He claims us as His own and assures us that, so long as we trust Christ, we are cleansed of our sin as surely as water washes our bodies and are anointed with His Spirit for newness of life as surely as the water makes us wet. While the preaching of the Word holds that promise out generically, baptism makes that promise personal. Today, God speaks to Josiah, Rebekah, Matthew, and Daniel and assures each one of them that His promise is reliable for them; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promises to you.

Baptism, therefore, is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith; a call to believe God’s promise in Christ personally. Paul declares that baptism unites us with Christ’s resurrection such that we also should walk in newness of life. We should walk. Whether we were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult, God speaks to us through our baptism, unites us to Christ, and calls us to trust Him, to love Him, and to walk in newness of life by the power of Christ’s resurrection. We are to respond to His grace with faith and obedience – thus I will be asking these young folks today to profess their faith in the Lord’s promises.

So reminded that in baptism God has claimed us as His own, has put His Name upon us, and summoned us to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief, that many of us have despised our baptism and forgotten the call that He has issued to us in it, and that we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. Let ys kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.