Why did the Creator command baptism? Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is not an empty form—it is a very rich and meaningful commandment. It is much more than “an outward sign of an inward Grace,” as some have described it. Baptism is part of that form of doctrine the Romans obeyed. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. 6:17). What was this form of doctrine the Romans had obeyed?
First, he describes baptism in the epistle to the Roman Christians as one part of the form of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He describes baptism as a burial—the same way Christ was buried. Like Christ was crucified, there must be a crucifixion and death of the old man before there can be a burial in baptism. Like Christ was raised from the dead, the child of God is raised from baptism “through the faith of the operation of God” to “walk in newness of life.”
Second, each part of the death burial and resurrection takes place “with him.” “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). We note that they were crucified “with him.” “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death” (Rom. 6:3-4). We note that they were buried “with him” in baptism. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12). Again we note that the child of God rises “with him.”
Third, each part of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection specifically relates to the old man or the new man. Crucifixion puts the old man to death, while burial destroys the old man. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed” (Rom. 6:6). After the old man is destroyed, then the new man must be resurrected from the dead. He told the Galatian Christians, “. . .seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man” (Col. 3:9, 10). After the old man is put off by being crucified, and buried, then the new man is put on by being resurrected from the dead.
Fourth, the crucifixion and burial are a part of “the circumcision of Christ.” “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12). New Testament circumcision is not a cutting off by man. It is a “circumcision made without hands.” God is the one who does the circumcising. Old Testament circumcision is a cutting off of the flesh. New Testament circumcision is a cutting off of the old man. Immediately after describing the circumcision of Christ, he refers it to being “buried with him in baptism.” They were raised “through the faith of the operation of God.” God is the one who circumcises his children by cutting off their old man. When the old man dies, he dies from the rudiments of the world. “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Col. 2:20-22). Thus the old man is killed by crucifixion, cut off, and destroyed in burial.
Fifth, being resurrected with Christ is being born from the dead. When the old man is crucified with Christ, he is cut off with Christ’s circumcision. At that point the child of God is without any “man.” He must be made “alive from the dead.” The Roman disciples had been made alive from the dead. He told them that they should, “…yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead…” (Rom. 6:13). Those who are alive from the dead begin a new life. He stated “…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” (Rom. 6:3-4). They were raised like Christ was raised. How was Christ raised from the dead?
Jesus was not only raised from the dead but he was also “born from the dead.” “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” (Col. 1:18). If they were raised “… like as Christ was raised up from the dead,” then they must have been—not only made alive from the dead—but they must have been born from the dead. God’s children must be born from the dead for he commanded his children that they should, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” (1 Pet. 2:2). They were new born babies when they rose up from the dead like Christ was raised from the dead. Jesus informed Nicodemus of the same thing. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). At the same time they were born into God’s family, they were born into the kingdom of God and became citizens, and members of His household. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
When were they born from the dead? They could not be alive from the dead until they had been crucified with Christ and the old man was dead. They could not be raised with him until the old man had been buried and destroyed in the grave. Thus their burial (baptism) had to precede their resurrection (birth) from the dead. Their new birth could not take place without being raised in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection (birth) from the dead.