Sometimes it helps to summarize a subject. Here is one way the gospel can be described “in a nutshell.”
1. Life and Death (the Problem). Created by God, we were given life, but committing sin, we died, spiritually speaking. As Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) — in other words, sin cuts us off from God, who is the Source of everything life was ever meant to be. Alienated from God by our disobedience, we stand under the penalty of eternal death. If our lives in this world come to an end and nothing has been done about our estrangement from God, we will be banished from His presence forever. But God loved us, even in our rebellion, and was not willing to leave us without hope.
2. Death and Life (the Solution). Speaking of Jesus Christ, who was the Son of God, the writer of Hebrews said, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14,15). We can be free of death’s dominion because God came into the world, lived as a sinless human being, and submitted Himself to an undeserved death on our behalf. He took our penalty upon Himself, so that we might be forgiven and released from the grip of death.
3. Dying with Christ (the Response). Christ’s death for us is a marvelous gift of God’s grace. We certainly did not deserve it. But how do we appropriate the benefits of that grace? The answer of the Scriptures is not hard to understand: placing our faith in the saving death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 16:31), we turn from our sins (Acts 26:20) and submit to baptism in order to receive the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 2:12).
Baptism, Paul wrote, makes a connection between us and Christ’s death for us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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” (Romans 6:3,4).
So the question — and it is an urgent question — is this: have you died with Christ in baptism?