The heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Paul began the great resurrection chapter, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
It was their understanding that they had crucified the Son of God that made men at Pentecost cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:36-38).
The baptism that Peter preached that day was the baptism preached in the early church. Paul reminded the Christians of Rome that he and they had both been baptized in the same way, for the same reasons. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
These verses speak of our baptism or burial into Christ, our clothing of ourselves in Him. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
I. BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.
Our baptism pictures what we know to be true of Christ. As Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper, He took bread and the cup and told them that his body and blood were given for us (Luke 22:19-20). We understand that Jesus suffered for us, “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).
We rejoice with the angels that said, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:6 -7). Every baptism proclaims the truth of the gospel.
II. BECAUSE HE IS OUR SUBSTITUTE.
He became one with us to be our substitute, because we cannot atone for our own sins. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
God “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In baptism we acknowledge that we cannot atone for our own sins. Unless we accept His sacrifice, we must bear our own sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
III. BECAUSE WE ARE DEAD IN SIN.
Baptism is a burial, and the man who is buried is dead. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). What is dead needs to be buried (John 11:39).
As the head of the church, He gave Himself for the church, for us. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Buried with Him, we put the old man of sin to death.
IV. BECAUSE WE RISE TO WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.
We have not suffered the true punishment of our sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). But Jesus Christ has suffered that punishment, and in our baptism we acknowledge and identify with Him in His suffering and death.
His death is our death to the old way of things. We know that God hates sin, because He was willing to see His only begotten son die for sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
We are buried so that we may be alive in Him. “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). That means that our perspective changes. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
Every Christian should have the attitude of Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).