6. CHANGES THAT OCCUR IN BAPTISM
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17,18)
When we are being baptized, we must understand the spiritual realities associated with baptism. If we are spiritually involved from the heart when we are baptized, four important changes will take place.
CHANGE OF CONDITION
In coming to baptism, we must come with faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah who poured out His blood in His death to forgive our sins. We must resolve in our hearts to leave our past life in order to accept Him as our Lord. When we do this, He will change our condition (1) from being lost to being saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), (2) from being laden with sins to being washed clean from our sins (Acts 22:16), and (3) from being guilty of our sins to being forgiven of our sins (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12, 13). These are not three different changes, but allusions to one change. This change occurs when a non-Christian is cleansed of his sins by the blood of Jesus and becomes a Christian.
CHANGE OF LOCATION
If we have the right spiritual involvement when we are baptized, we will no longer be outside of Jesus, where we were separated from Him. Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “… you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
In becoming Christians, our location changes–fro we enter Christ, where we are brought near to God by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-13). By changing our location from being outside of Jesus to being in Him (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), we enter into the blessings that have been made possible by the blood of Jesus. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). In Christ we are made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), we have access to grace (Ephesians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:1), we receive salvation (2 Timothy 2:10), we enjoy eternal life (1 John 5:11), and we have access to all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).
By being baptized into Jesus, we enter the one body that is in Jesus (Romans 12:5), which is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), the church (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 5:30; Colossians 1:18, 24; 3:15). Jesus is the Savior of the one body (Ephesians 5:230, the church, which we enter when we are baptized (1 Corinthians 12:13).
If we are in the church, we are “enrolled” in heaven (Hebrews 12:23). This means that we will get to enter heaven because our names are written in the book of life (Revelation 21:27). We must overcome so that our names will not be blotted out of that book (Revelation 3:5). If our names are not in the book of life, we will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). As members of the church, we have been made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), spotless, and blameless by the blood of Jesus “by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). We will therefore be presented to Jesus without blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:19-23).
The church is the kingdom of Jesus (Matthew 16:18, 19); it cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). Members of the kingdom, sons of the kingdom, will shine forth as the sun in the eternal kingdom of Jesus and the Father (Matthew 13:37-43; 2 Peter 1:10, 11). We enter that kingdom by being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5).
Members of the church are children in the household of God, His family (1 Timothy 3:15). We become children of God, members of God’s household, through faith when we are baptized (Galatians 3:26, 27). As children, we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7). Our inheritance as heirs is an imperishable dwelling place in heaven (1 Peter 1:3,4).
Judgment will begin with the household of God! These are the ones who have obeyed the gospel–for they are contrasted by Peter with those who have not obeyed the gospel (1 Peter 4:17). The gospel is God’s power to save (Romans 1:16), which means that those in God’s household, the church, are the saved. If we do not obey the gospel, we will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
The church is also called the flock (Acts 20:28). Jesus laid down His life for the sheep in His flock (John 10:11, 15). Those who are His sheep will follow Him and submit to Him (John 10:27; Ephesians 5:24). If we are His flock, we will be given eternal life because we follow Him (john 10:27, 28). In the natural world, sheep are born into a flock; even so, in the spiritual realm, spiritual birth (John 3:3-5) is necessary to make us members of Jesus’ flock.
Where we are makes a big difference. If we are not in the one body in Christ, which is His church–the kingdom of Jesus, God’s family, and Jesus’ flock–we cannot enter heaven. Our baptism is what makes possible the change of location that puts us into the church of Christ.
CHANGE OF SERVITUDE
The result of our spiritual involvement in baptism is that we leave a life of service to sin (Romans 6:6) and enter into a new life of service to sin (Romans 6:6) and enter into a new life of service to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18). Sin enslaves us and makes us servants of sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19). Those who are servants of sin are also Satan’s slaves. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44). Having been released from the Law, we are not to serve the Law nor according to the letter of the law, but according to the newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6). Neither are we to serve idols (1 Thessalonians 1:9) or dead works, but are to serve Jesus (Colossians 3:24), the living God (Hebrews 9:14).
Unless we are changed by obeying from the heart the teaching delivered to us (Romans 6:17,18), we remain under the servitude of sin. A change takes place only when we spiritually die with Jesus in baptism (Romans 6:3, 4). At that point, the old life is crucified, the body of sin is done away with, and we are no longer servants of sin (Romans 6:4-6). Through our dying to sin in baptism, we are set free from the dominating power of sin (Romans 6:7, 18).
CHANGE OF RELATIONSHIPS
When we are baptized, our relationships change. Before we are baptized and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus, we are in darkness and under the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13). We may not feel that way, and we may not want to admit it–but that is the truth of the matter. As long as we do what the devil desires (John 8:44), we are children of the devil (1 John 3:7,8,10). Our faith in baptism leads us to change from being children of the evil one to being children of God (Galatians 3:26, 27).
As sons of the kingdom, we still live in this world among the sons of the evil one (Matthew 13:37-39). The sons of the kingdom will be separated from the sons of the devil when the angels are sent to reap the harvest. The wicked ones will be cast into the fire instead of entering into the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:39-43).
If we are in the darkness of sin, we cannot be in fellowship with God–for God is Light, and in Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5-7). Sin separates us from God and keeps us from having fellowship with Him (Isaiah 59:1, 2). Those who are outside Jesus are separated from Him; they are without God and Christ (Ephesians 2:11,12). When we enter Jesus by being baptized (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), our association with darkness ends, and we begin our association with the Light. In Jesus we who were far off are brought near to God by His blood (Ephesians 2:13).
WHAT DO WE DO IN BAPTISM?
In order for the above changes to occur, the following concepts should be understood. These include four aspects of baptism which take place when we are being baptized.
When we are baptized, we are to give ourselves by faith into the hands of God so that He can perform His corrective work in our lives (Colossians 2:12). At this point, we must have carefully considered God’s Word (John 6:45; Acts 18:8) in order to respond to His teaching. We are to place our lives as a gift into the hands of Jesus because we trust Him and believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God (John 3:16). By resolving to give ourselves to Jesus, we leave service to the world to become servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17, 18). We must also give a verbal testimony that we believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, the Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9, 10). The consummation of giving ourselves to Jesus takes place when in baptism we die to our past so that we can enter a new live for Him (Romans 6:4).
If we give ourselves in this way, we will receive God’s forgiveness provided by the blood of Jesus (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12, 13; Hebrews 9:22). His blood will wash away our sins (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5) and provide salvation (Mark 16:15, 16; 1 Peter 3:21). We will receive a new beginning, since being cleansed of past sins results in a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:21). When we are baptized, we begin a new life (Romans 6:4), one that is no longer dedicated to sinful practices but to service to Jesus.
After our sins are erased, we become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). By being born again (John 3:3-5), we become children of God (Galatians 3:26). When we are united with Christ (Romans 6:5), we become partakers of Him (Hebrews 3:14) and of His nature (2 Peter 1:4; see 2 Corinthians 5:21). We are “clothed” with Christ (Galatians 3:27) and should grow to be like Him, being transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
By becoming God’s children, we enter into God’s family, His household, which is the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The church and the body are the same (Ephesians 1:22,23). Through baptism we enter the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13, 27), the one church which Jesus built (Matthew 16:18) and over which He is head (Ephesians 5:23). By entering into Christ and His body (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), we have access to all the blessings provided by Christ, the head. This includes all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), such as being new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Him, we have redemption through Jesus’ blood, grace, salvation, and eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2:10; 1 John 5:11).
Before entering Jesus, we were “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, have no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12, 13). Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2) and caused Him to turn His face against us (1 Peter 3:12). When we are baptized, we enter into Jesus (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). Our sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and we are no longer without God and separated from Jesus.
We should be baptized when we understand the benefits of being baptized, the spiritual changes God expects, and the various concepts associated with baptism. Without these changes and an understanding of what is expected of us in baptism we will not give ourselves to Jesus, receive His blessings, become children of God, and enter into His body, the church. We must receive the new birth of water and Spirit or we cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).