– – – – Is it possible to believe that when scripture says water baptism (immersion) is “for the forgiveness of sins” and to “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.38) that it actually means just that? I think so! That is why the Apostle Paul taught in Romans 6.3-7 that Christians are those who have been…
…baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death… [and] 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 in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaved to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (TNIV)
It seems like Paul was pretty explicit concerning baptism. Wow! Once a person believes that Jesus is the Christ, they must then follow Jesus to death and loose their life (to use the idea of Mark 8.34-35) so that God can raise them into the resurrected Jesus. Yes! And it is God who does the work, just as it was God who did the work (the causal agent) in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What is the human role? SUBMISSION to God’s will, submission to God being allowed to baptize the subject into Jesus Christ. That’s right, from God’s point of view we do not baptize rather we are the ones baptized. God is the active agent and we are the passive agents. And in baptism, God is actually, not symbolically, transforming the sinner from a fallen life controlled by sin to a new eternal life marked by the Holy Spirit and experienced now in part but will be experienced in whole when Christ Jesus returns to claim his church. Thus baptism is eschatological.
The strongest objection to the above is that this is a work oriented or human achieved salvation that denies the grace of God experienced only by faith. However, I see baptism as a gift of God’s grace. That is, God actually has given the sinner a road to life in Christ – but instead of the sinner traveling that road on their own, they must allow God to transport them. Therefore baptism is not only a gift of grace from God, but it also is an act of faith on the part of the sinner – so much so that we, who still live in a mortal body, will never know the outcome of our baptism fully until Christ returns and we experience eternal life in the full aspect. Only in the resurrection of Christ do we see the future, our future in Christ. But to presently live that future in Christ is to live by faith. Baptism only becomes a work of salvation when one thinks that salvation is deserved because we have been baptized or when we divorce the practice from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God is calling on all who confess Jesus as the Christ, the crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior, to come and die in baptism and allow God to raise them up into an eternal life in Christ Jesus!