Baptism’s Greater Meaning

There is a covenantal foundation for baptism that has biblical and theological implications for the believer.  There is one baptism but to me, it symbolizes three things; our death, burial, and resurrection.  Baptism is commanded and is an outward expression of an inward belief in the death of the old self, the reemergence of the new man or woman made new in Christ Jesus.  In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul signifies this by saying, “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” 

To infuse the baptismal experience to the one being baptized is to refer to the putting off of the old man or woman and the birth of a new creation in Christ.  The one being baptized is like they are experiencing their own funeral for the old man or woman is dead; at resurfacing from the water it pictures our resurrection from the dead for once we were dead in our sins but now we are alive in Christ.  Paul says as much in Colossians 2:13, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,“  Baptism is like burial of the old self and the coming out of the water like a coming out of the grave or like Paul stated in I Colossians 2:12, “…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith…who raised him (Jesus Christ) from the dead.”  Just as circumcision was the mark of the Old Covenant, baptism is the mark of the New (and better) Covenant.  

To those who are witnesses of it, there is often applause because they have been born again.  This time the person has been born to an incorruptible seed and can never die again.  The apostle Peter says as much in I Peter 1:23, “ Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.” 

Oscar Cullman, the New Testament scholar, sees the relationship between circumcision and baptism as being based upon their common foundation in regeneration. He states, “The circumcision that is rightly understood, which takes place not merely outwardly by the hand of man, but which is the circumcision of the heart, Romans 2:29, leads directly over into Christian Baptism, that is “the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11) (Cullman 1954, 58).  So both the observer and the participant see that biblical and theological foundations as moving from the Old Covenant to a New and better Covenant.  A new person is born.  A new nature is conceived.  The old has died and a new one has been resurrected and will never die again.  That is certainly something worth celebrating; for the participant and for the ones observing such an historical event.

For a further analysis, read Jesus' Raises Lazarus: Bible Story Summary, Analysis, and Themes.

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  1. 1234aussie said:

    Try telling this on answerbag and you will get all the excuses for not being baptised , a nice clear article .

    June 20, 2011

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