by Barry Newton
Resources abound grappling with baptism’s purpose. But how often are the lifestyle implications of baptism outlined?
Consider Romans. Using baptism, Paul resolved a question about the Christian’s lifestyle.
Having asserted that in their baptism his readers “died with Christ,” Paul then argued they had been raised up to “a new life.” As a result, their life should be characterized by considering themselves “dead to sin” but “alive to God” as his “instruments to be used for righteousness” (Romans 6:3-4,11-13).
Similarly, in Colossians, Paul returned to this familiar baptismal imagery of death, burial and raised up to argue for a lifestyle revealing the transformative nature of encountering Christ (Colossians 2:12-13; 3:3).
If we step through Paul’s logic, he began by summarizing their present situation. Who were his readers? They were those who had received Jesus as Lord and therefore should live as those in Christ (Colossians 2:6).
What difference should being in Christ make for their lives? All the fullness of deity dwells in Christ. And they had been filled in Christ.
It is at this point Paul rewinds their life story to that critical moment of life redirection. Although they had been spiritually dead in sin, it was at their baptism that Christ performed a surgery making them alive.
This spiritual transformation resulted in them being filled in Christ with the one in whom the fullness of deity dwells. Did this hold any implications for how they should live? You bet.
The remaining bulk of Colossians explains the practical lifestyle implications of their baptism. Having died with Christ (Colossians 2:20), whose cross had triumphed over all authorities, they ought to reject succumbing to the regulations of those defeated worldly spirits.
Furthermore, having died with Christ and then being raised (Colossians 3:1,3), they had entered a new way to live. Not only should they look forward to what would happen when Christ reappears, but whatever pertains to being worldly must be abandoned. The new practices of their new personhood should be embraced.
Let’s not forget Paul’s reasoning in Ephesians. Paul never mentions baptism in chapter 2. Nevertheless, he obviously has this transformative moment in conversion clearly in mind as he employs his customary baptismal language of God making his readers alive with Christ when they were raised up with him (Ephesians 2:5-6).
It is because of God’s powerful workmanship in their lives at baptism that the newly minted Christian should adopt a new view toward life. God has prepared good works which are to be accomplished (Ephesians 2:10).
If we wish to understand Christian doctrine and ethics from the biblical perspective, life after baptism needs to viewed as living up to the call of what God’s power and workmanship achieved for us in baptism.