By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

The word "baptism" means "to place into". The Bible speaks of various baptisms, such as:

1.. The baptism of repentance for the remission or forgiveness of sin. (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3)
2.. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11)
3.. The baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19) Acts:2:38 (in the name of Jesus Christ)
4.. The baptism into Christ's death. (Rom. 6:3)
5.. Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor. 10:2)
6.. The baptism into one body by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13)
7.. The baptism for the dead. (1 Cor. 15: 29) The scriptures do not tell us that we are to baptize people for the dead. Paul merely states what the people in Corinth were doing. They were baptizing for the dead, yet "if the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?" Paul was reasoning with them to show them that the resurrection of Jesus was valid.

People have created various modes of baptism and regulations in connection with baptism. Some require an ordained pastor to do the baptizing. Some baptize by sprinkling, some by immersion into water, and others by immersion into fresh running water. Most churches require baptism for membership in their church organization.

Many Christians have been baptized with very little or no knowledge of the spiritual aspect of this act. They are not led into a higher realm of thinking because they only receive spiritual truth in their natural thinking, and the natural mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit. Christ's words are spirit, and spiritual words have to be understood spiritually. Natural understanding appears to be truth to the natural man, but it always opposes the Spirit. Those who continue in their natural understanding of spiritual realities will eventually crucify the truth, because the flesh lusts against the Spirit. This was exemplified in the way Jesus was treated. The Jews would not leave their natural understanding of the law, so eventually they crucified Jesus. Likewise, if we remain in our natural concept of heaven and hell, forgiveness and baptism, Christ and God, we too will be against the truth. Paul was writing to Christians when he wrote, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." (Rom. 8: 6)

Let's look at the baptism of Jesus Christ and its spiritual significance. We wonder why Jesus went to the Jordan to receive the baptism of repentance even though He had never sinned. John the Baptist was also puzzled. Jesus answered this question by saying that He needed to fulfill all righteousness. What bearing did this have on His need to be baptized? The answer lies in the fact that there are two kinds of righteousness, namely, the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of the Spirit. Jesus had fulfilled the righteousness of the law. In Galatians 4:4-5 we read that He was made of a woman and made under the Law. For thirty years He had obeyed the Law and its ordinances. Before He could fulfill the righteousness of the Spirit that comes by faith, He had to repent of the government of the Law. His baptism represented this repentance.

At this time He fulfilled what Israel had done many years ago in type. The Israelites had to cross the Jordan (the river of death) before they could enter the Promised Land. After they crossed the Jordan, they took twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan. Then they took twelve stones from the new land and placed them in the middle of the Jordan. Since twelve is the number of government, we see that this act represented a change of government. In the fulfillment of this type, we see that Jesus repented of the government of the Law, and then received the government of the Spirit when the Spirit like a dove descended on Him. After this experience He only did what the Spirit told Him to do. We all need to follow His example, for we all need to repent of the government of the Law in our lives!

After Christ's death and resurrection, water baptism took on an even greater significance. Today, a discussion about baptism often causes waves. But Paul did not hesitate to talk about baptism, and explains its symbolism in Romans 6. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (v.3) The natural mind interprets this to mean His physical death. Since Christ is the resurrection and the life, how can there be any death in Him? We need to understand that Jesus died two deaths on the cross. Not only did He die physically, but He also died to sin. Christ's obedience and right attitude of love and forgiveness received the ultimate test on the cross. By passing this test with flying colors He proved that He was dead to sin.

Our physical birth brought us into the death because of sin. Baptism into Christ's death cannot refer to the death we were already experiencing in Adam. The death that Jesus died was different! Verse 10 plainly states that the death Christ died, was a death TO sin - NOT a death BECAUSE of sin. It is a death to the delusion and lies of the carnal mind - to the wrong conception of God that the serpent planted in man in the garden. This is the death into which we have been baptized! This death brings us into truth and life!

Our new birth brought us into life; before that we were in the old Adam man - the man of death. God's way of dealing with sin is to destroy the vessel that brings sin into the world. Jesus Christ destroyed that vessel in His crucifixion. Paul was living on planet earth when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ." This shows that he was not talking about the crucifixion of his physical body, but about the body of sin with its wrong images, imaginations and concepts of God. This is the vessel that brings sin into this world. Our crucifixion with Christ lies in our identity with Christ in His death to sin. Understanding this truth takes us out of our natural understanding of spiritual realities and brings us into a spiritual realm of understanding.

All self-effort is in the realm of that death. So it is ridiculous to try to die to self, because that too is self-effort. Everything in that realm is already dead, and therefore needs to be buried! We need to accept this fact. Only in Christ can we be made alive! Notice that we are not dead from sin, but dead to sin! How can we live in sin when we are dead to sin?

In New Testament days, and for about 100 years afterwards, baptism followed immediately upon a profession of faith in Christ. This was so important to Paul and Silas that they wouldn't go to bed before they had baptized the Philippian jailer and his family after they were saved! In the middle of the night, after a day that had been filled with rejection, persecution, and suffering - after their backs had been beaten bloody, they were jailed and their feet were put into stocks. Then an earthquake occurred, and they experienced a marvelous release together with the opportunity to lead the jailer and his family to Christ. Their pain and fatigue did not stop Paul and Silas from baptizing their new converts before going to bed.

Why was this so important? Its importance lies in the truth that is symbolized in this act. The jailer had learned that his new life was in Christ, and therefore had to be lived even as Christ had lived His life. In his identification with Christ, he too had to be dead to sin - and anything that is dead needs to be buried right away! Newness of life grows out of this death. We see this principle illustrated in nature. A seed cannot produce new life unless it is placed in the earth and dies. Out of this death, life and fruit- bearing takes place. Our death to sin frees us from the lordship of sin and the law and all its condemnation.

In baptism we are placed into something. Baptism in water places us into water; baptism in the Holy Spirit places us into the Spirit; baptism into Christ places us into His nature or sense of being; baptism into His death to sin places us into His death to sin! This is the spiritual knowledge we should receive before we are baptized. It is an affirmation of our faith in Christ; we are proclaiming the finished work of Christ. Everything Christ did, He did for us and as us, and in our union with Christ, everything He did becomes ours.

Our new birth takes us out of Adam and puts us into Christ - into the new man who is life! Since Christ is the life, how can there be any death in Him? Is there a death in life? God's life is pure; He is righteous altogether! Because He is righteous, it follows that He must be against all unrighteousness. The life in Jesus Christ was the source of His ability to withstand every temptation the devil could hurl at Him. It kept Him from being alive to sin, for it was the source of His death to sin. We need to identify with Christ's death to sin, so His resurrection life becomes visible in us.

In Him we have died to the lusting of the flesh. We have been united with Christ, and now His life has become our life! When we understand this, we can ask to be baptized, and get that body of fleshly desires buried. It is God who has made us a new creation in Christ. He is also the One who reveals the precious truth that this new man is dead to everything that pertains to this world! Our spirit responds with praise and thanksgiving!

Baptism in water symbolizes the burial of our self-life with all its worldly ambitions, hopes and dreams. It is a celebration of what has happened to us in our union with Christ. Our immersion into water symbolizes the burial of our Adamic nature. Rising out of the water symbolizes our new life in union with Christ. We now walk in the newness of that life! Faith makes the symbolic meaning of baptism a reality, and we celebrate that reality.

The opposition of our natural understanding to spiritual truth is illustrated in the treatment Jesus received from the Jews. In spite of all the miracles Jesus performed, they crucified Him who is the truth! Their natural mind judged Him according to its understanding of the Law, and the Law does not allow any deviation from its ordinances. It puts spiritual truth into the natural realm; therefore the Jews reasoned that it was blasphemy to call God, " Father". But Jesus Christ's thoughts had not emanated from His natural mind. He saw things in the light of God. The difference in these two understandings brought a conflict that escalated and culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus. Little did they realize the far-reaching result of this act! They did not know that Christ took the old humanity, the old Adam man through whom sin entered the world, with Him in His death.

Many Christians are still motivated by their natural mind, and therefore are always bowed down with a load of guilt. They do not realize that the forgiveness they have received releases them from their guilt - and guilt hinders faith. God's forgiveness enables us to receive the pure mind of Christ. Although these Christians glory in the cross, they do not see that it symbolizes death to their humanity. They think of the blood of Jesus in the same way as they think of the blood of the animals that were sacrificed in the Old Testament. They do this because they do not understand that the seen realm is only temporal. However, the spiritual realities are in the unseen realm. This misunderstanding results in thinking that Christ died as our substitute instead of in identification with us.

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (v.4)

God wants us to know that we were actually included in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ! Let's personalize this, and apply it to ourselves. God included our body of sin (the Adam man) in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ! When He died, we died; when He arose, we arose; when He ascended, we ascended; when He was seated in the heavenlies, we were seated with Him!

This is all due to God's grace! It never entered into man's thoughts and imaginations to ask for it, nor can anyone work for it. For us it happened before we were born! It was the love and grace of God that sent Jesus Christ to bring us His salvation. The Word became flesh, and God 's word expresses what is in His mind. When God caused what was in His mind (His thinking) to become flesh in Jesus Christ, it united God with humanity. Because of this union, the things that happened to Jesus historically become ours spiritually through faith.

Being baptized into Jesus Christ's death will effect a change in our lives. It will bring death to our whole realm of natural realization of spiritual realities, and do away with our wrong thoughts and ideas about God and ourselves. However, we find it difficult to admit that the things that look right to us, are actually wrong. History proves that it is easier to lay down our physical life for ideals, for a nation or a friend, than to lay down the very essence of what we think about God and ourselves. We have become so accustomed to walking in the death of Adam that we cannot envision any way out of it. But death has no life and can never receive life; we can only be resurrected out of death. After we die to the delusions that have been operating in us, we come into the life of Christ. This changes our consciousness of being.

In Christ we receive newness of life, and this results in a new consciousness of being, even in the same consciousness that Christ has. He is the truth, the way, the life, and in Him all the riches and wisdom of God are hidden. Walking in truth is walking in reality!

Those who live in Adam do not believe they are dead in their trespasses and sin. Many Christians still retain their old mindset - the old consciousness of being that is in Adam. Instead of walking in their new life, they try to improve the old life by remodeling or reconstructing it. When that doesn't work, they think that victory over sin is only for their future in heaven.

"For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." (v. 5 NASV) The KJV and Young's Literal translations read, "planted together." Rotherham says, "For if we have come to be grown together." This demonstrates our union with Christ!

The death into which we have been planted is His death to sin. We have been baptized into the body of Christ - into His body of resurrection. Natural man cannot understand this union, nor can he understand that those who are in Christ are in resurrection, because these things take place in the unseen spiritual realm. The physical body of Christ is gone; He now only has a spiritual body. He is the head, and those who are in Christ belong to the body of Christ.

Our union with Christ is hard for us to visualize. How can He be in us, and we be in Him at the same time? In response to this question, the Lord gave Ernie a vision. He saw two separate clouds; then he saw them merging. They had become one! One was in the other, and the other was in the one. Christ is the life and the truth; when we receive His life and truth, we are in Him and He is in us.

Our baptism in water symbolizes a spiritual truth. It is symbolic of our union with Christ in His death to sin and His resurrection into life. Death always precedes resurrection, and that which is dead needs to be buried. Our death to our fleshly thinking with its government of the Law needs to be buried in the watery grave of baptism. Our death to our self-life is buried with Christ, and we emerge or rise out of this death as a new creation by the power of God's word. This marks the end of our old consciousness that was limited to the dictates of the natural mind. Rising out of this grave symbolizes our resurrection together with Christ into His life and the government of the Spirit. It is a testimony of what has happened to us spiritually, knowing that the natural is symbolic of a spiritual reality.

Recognizing that our water baptism is a symbolic baptism helps us to understand what Paul meant when he said, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Eph. 4:4-5) We now understand that only what happens to us spiritually is reality. Our baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ is one with Christ baptizing us into the Holy Spirit. It tells us that Christ is in us and we are in Christ. It is a baptism of fire because the consuming fire of the Lord is needed to cleanse us of all fleshly desires. This is the one baptism; the other baptisms are symbolic.

It is much easier for us to identify with the death we had in Adam than to identify with the life and righteousness that is ours in Christ! We died together with Christ, we were buried together with Christ, and now we live together with Christ because He is the resurrection. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." (John 11:25-26) Our identity with Christ has nothing to do with anything that we have done, but with everything that He has done! When we receive Jesus, we receive His life. Receiving Him awakens us out of our death and brings us His life - and His life is His divine nature or essence. There is no corruption in His life. The scriptures teach us that in Christ we have been resurrected out of the death we were in. This faith cannot reside in the old Adam man - the man of sin who is dead in his transgressions, and loves the lies that have become his truth.

The only way to come out of death is to be resurrected. Jesus Christ is the resurrection! Resurrection is not a historical event; it is Jesus Christ! Do you have Him in your heart? If you do, you have resurrection within you right now! Many Christians are waiting for something they already have, because they don't believe what Jesus said. They are waiting to see it in the natural realm. Resurrection has to be received in Christ; it is the Word of God. The cross has set us free to embrace the Son, and He is now our life. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and everything in between. All of God's work in us is in and through Christ. He is the last Adam; the old Adam ends in Christ.

Christ is to be unveiled in us! We must not nullify this precious truth by our unbelief. Our identity with sin, death and this world is over! Let us join Paul in his exclamation, "For me to live is Christ!" Christ is in us, and He is our hope of glory!

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