In the last four weeks, we’ve discussed the fact that God’s word is the only viable foundation for one’s life and we’ve explored the concept of sin. It is vital that you fully grasp both of these previous ideas or the good news will make no difference whatsoever. It is based on God’s word, not on manmade opinions or doctrines or creeds and it goes against many of them. It is founded on the fact that we are lost and need salvation. Before we begin, ask yourself if you have ever had your sins forgiven. If so, how did it happen? Did you say a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart? Were you baptized as a baby or young child? Take a moment and write down your experience of having your sins forgiven (yes, I mean it… write it down). If you have never had your sins forgiven, pay close attention because the good news is that you can have them forgiven and chances are, you can do it today.
First, let’s look at Romans 6:16-18. This passage basically asserts that we are all slaves. We are slaves of sin, or slaves of obedience. Verse 17 says that one can change from being a slave of sin by wholeheartedly obeying the form of teaching Paul has given. The word “form” here is one that refers to something like a mold or pattern. Think of making a dress. You buy the pattern, cut out the fabric with it, follow the directions and whammo—new dress. Pass it on to your friend, she applies the pattern and whammo—same dress, different color. It’s the same concept here. You apply the pattern of Paul’s teaching to a slave of sin and whammo—slave of righteousness. So what is this pattern? Look at the first part of Romans 6.
A little background… Paul has been talking to the Roman Christians, both to Jews and to Gentiles, back and forth, back and forth. Here he is talking to the Jews (we can tell because he uses “we”). He’s just finished explaining to the Gentiles that God has enough grace to cover whatever sins may need forgiving. The more sin, the more grace. In Romans 6:1, he’s answering the Jewish mind before it even asks. No, one should not keep on sinning in order to get more grace. And in 6:2, he talks about the first part of the pattern: death to sin. Follow along with me in the scriptures (Romans 6:1-6). We die to sin (6:2), are baptized into Christ’s death (6:3), are buried with him through baptism (6:4) and are raised to walk in newness of life (6:4). We are united with Him in likeness of his death (through baptism, 6:3) and therefore can expect a likeness of his resurrection (6:5). Our old self is crucified through all of this, the body of sin is gone and we are no longer slaves of sin (6:6). That is the form! That is the pattern of Paul’s teaching that takes a slave of sin and—whammo—makes a slave of righteousness! This is how we obey the gospel as it is described in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Die to sin, be buried through baptism and be raised to walk a new life, free from sin. (Note: it says buried in baptism… the very word “baptism” means to be submerged, not poured, sprinkled or partly dipped—it means to be dunked, submerged, buried entirely.)
At the risk of beating a dead horse, here are a few more scriptures:
Mark 16:15-16 says “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Jesus here gives His disciples a command to preach the gospel. He also gives instructions for how to be saved and how to be condemned. If you want to be saved, believe and be baptized. If you’d like to be condemned, don’t believe (baptism wouldn’t matter anyway if you don’t believe, so no need to mention it). It’s pretty simple, really.
Romans 6:23 (which we looked at earlier) says that God’s free gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus. But how do you get in? Romans 6:3 has the answer. We’re baptized into Christ.
1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism saves us just as the ark saved Noah and his family from the sinful world. Peter says it’s not the mere removal of filth, but that in the act of baptism, we are appealing to God for a good or clean conscience. So can’t we just appeal for a clean conscience without baptism? No. God said that’s how you do it. Just like when I tell my kid that washing his hands involves soap, God says appealing for a clean conscience involves baptism.
Some of you may be balking at all this about now. Remember that I said this goes against a lot of manmade opinions, doctrines and creeds? This is where I’m tempted to knock down each one, but it comes down to this: do you believe the Bible or not? Is the Bible your foundation or is it something else? The most common way people are told to be saved today is to pray for Jesus to come into their heart, but you never, ever see that in the Bible. Nowhere. It’s simply not there. In the Bible, they do just what Peter commanded on the first day of the church: they repent, they’re baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and then they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). You can’t change the order around; God is the one who sets the rules, not you or any other person.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re sitting there comparing your account of how you thought your sins were forgiven and seeing that what your paper says doesn’t match up with what God’s book says. Remember, though… this is the GOOD news. As long as you’re breathing, it’s not too late to be forgiven. If you’re cut to the heart and ready to die to your sins (repent), then find someone who will baptize you for the forgiveness of your sins. But do it today. Truly, you never know when your last breath will be and the consequences of not obeying the gospel are fiery (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).
P.S. Need help finding someone to baptize you? Shoot me an email. I’ll help you. firstname.lastname@example.org
This series is based on evangelistic studies by Curtis Hartshorn.