The baby is in hand, the water is set, and loving family members dab tears of joy. Yes, it’s time for another Christian Baptism! This has become a common scene on Sunday morning for all Christians. Baptisms give us the opportunity to share in the love of Christ through His Heavenly ritual. However, there is a baptism that we as Christians often forget about, one that the early Church preached with great zeal and compassion. Today we baptize by water (and of course there is nothing wrong with this), but first century advocates of Christianity also taught baptism by death.
As Christians, we are all baptized in the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul makes this abundantly clear in his letter to the Romans:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. (Romans 6:3-9, NIV)
Paul’s description of baptism unmistakably demonstrates the immense importance of baptism in death to the Christian community. Our baptism in death releases our burden of sin and frees our spirit – calling this “Good News” appears to be quite the understatement! It is because of our baptism in Christ’s death (dying with Him) that we become purified (like Him) and thus become conquerors of Hades (like Him). No more should Christians overlook the immense importance of baptism; it is far more than a Sunday morning ritual. True Christian baptism reaches beyond the water from the preacher’s hand, it permeates the very soul of Christianity.