“. . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION HAPPENED ONLY ONCE. But there is another sense in which these events occur every time someone is baptized into Christ.
Our baptism into Christ is not a mere ritual or insignificant act of obedience — it is the most decisive turning point in our lives. Concerning baptism, the “before” and “after” are so different that Paul can say we are “buried with him in baptism.” It’s as if we are put to death and buried along with Christ. In the waters of baptism, our old way of life dies and is sealed in a tomb, a vivid reenactment of the death and burial of Christ Himself.
But Christ did not remain in the grave and neither do we. Just as He was raised, we are “raised with him.” In Romans 6:4, Paul wrote that we were “buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ also look forward to the great day when we will be raised to live with God in eternity. “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8). Waiting for that day, we live very differently than we would if we were still dead in sin. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1,2).
Coming back to the text we began with, however, did you notice what Paul said about the active ingredient in baptism? The water itself does not wash away our sins, and by our obedience we certainly do not earn our salvation. It is “through faith in the powerful working of God” that our new lives are created. Baptism is an act of trust, a placing of our faith in the promise of God to save us.
But listen: doesn’t all this talk of death tell you how serious sin is? Dealing with it requires our being killed and resurrected. It is only by dying with Christ that the death of sin can be defeated.
“God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life” (A. W. Tozer).