How can we, who have died to sin, live in it any longer?
How can we, those of us who have been baptized into Christ’s death, who have been buried in Baptism and raised to new life, who have put away the old self which is being corrupted, and have taken on our new identity which is being renewed day by day, how can we, who have died to sin, live in it any longer?
Does our baptism mean anything when considering how we are to live our lives from this point forward?
Discovering grace is a wonderful blessing. For those of us who have been stuck in a legalistic oppressive religion in which we often feared a God who was just looking for a reason to strike us down, it’s wonderful to find grace. To discover that our eternal salvation is not hanging in the balance, dependent on whether we happen to die just after asking for forgiveness and not just before. To discover that we are not constantly teetering back and forth between saved and lost is a blessing. Coming to understand that God’s love for us is so strong that God will love us even when we make mistakes is a breath of fresh air for those struggling to accept God’s love.
Yet, grace can also become a struggle. Because, if our salvation is secure even when we make mistakes, is there really an incentive to not make mistakes? If God is going to save us anyway, what does it matter if we are completely committed to the cause? Or as Paul says it in Romans 6, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?”
Paul’s answer to the question is an emphatic no. No, we don’t just sin because we know grace will cover our mistakes. However, his argument that backs up his claim is not based in one trying to keep the commands in order to please God. Instead, his argument is contingent on one’s baptism. In baptism, we have died to sin, we have been buried with Christ, we have crucified the flesh and its passions, and we have been raised to new life. Thus, how can those of us who have died to sin live in it any longer?
Paul’s argument is that baptism is death. Death to living life my way. Death to satisfying the flesh. Death to idolatry and thinking I can make better choices for myself than God. Baptism is death, so that a new life can be born.
We don’t like to talk about death. Perhaps it’s our politically correct culture. Perhaps it’s because we are scared of the unknown, but we don’t like to talk about death. We avoid conversations of death, even with those who are dying. And, when someone does die, we use euphemisms such as passed away, because it somehow softens the blow. Thus to think that in baptism we are experiencing death is hard to fathom. However, that’s exactly the argument Paul is making. And not just death, but violent death. Our old life has been crucified. As we enter the waters of baptism we are literally being baptized into death. We are putting to death an old way of life, and not in a nice easy way, but in a violent death. This is crucifixion. This is every ounce of our being saying I don’t want this old way of life anymore. As we stay under the water we are dying to everything we have ever known. And just like with death, there is no turning back. Once we’ve died, we’re dead. Just as the cross was public execution for Rome (this was their most painful way to kill someone), our baptism is a public execution. The one who goes into the water does not come out the other side; it is a different person. Our old self has been violently done away with.
So why, if we have violently put to death an old way of life, would we want to live in it anymore? Why, if we have crucified the old life with it’s passions, would we want to flirt with sin anymore? Why would we want to play with it or dabble in it? Why would we ever be content to live in anything less than 100% devotion? In a sense, who cares if there is grace? We’ve died to sin and have no desire to live in it anymore.
Our baptism date is our death. We are called to be completely committed to God. Not to earn salvation, but because this is who we are, we are members of righteousness. And when our old life tries to rise from the grave, we must do whatever is necessary to violently destroy it again. For we have been buried in baptism, and raised to new life. So live into it.