The most fundamental question of baptism is “have we been baptized into Christ?” The language of that question comes from the Apostle Paul and it’s the language of location (cf. Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:27). We are joined with Christ in his death and are then, having been crucified with Christ, are raised into new life with Christ. When I first began preaching, the question I asked of baptism what I was asking is whether or not a person was physically baptized or not. That’s a perfectly good question to ask but twelve years later I’m asking another question as well.
Who Are We?
The other day I walked into a local Christian book store with my eight year-old daughter. We strolled around the store and eventually made our way back to the section where Bible’s are sold. There was nothing new to this section that I haven’t seen before but I still couldn’t help notice the Bible’s for sale.
Standing out was the American Patriots Bible with a cover wrapped in the American Flag and other patriotic images (click link to see image). I wonder at what point does this begin recasting the image of God in our own interest? Then there was the numerous Bible editions, not translations but published editions that are tailored to a variety of interests seemingly covering every conceivable felt need, hobby, or fancy we have. Go online where view every edition on the market at the click of a mouse and you will discover just how vast the Bible business is. It is indeed very American of us that we have found a way to market the Bible — for profit — to consumer interests.
Of course, it’s apparent that the influx of the best selling book of all time wrapped in American culture and marketed with American values is working. Christianity is on the decline while secularism is on the rise. Turn on any social media website and there are Christians who sound more like the American culture than that Jewish carpenter turned prophet who was crucified as the Messiah. More and more Jesus seems to condemn the same people we condemn, approves the lifestyles we approve, and supports the same war we support.
Who’s Been Baptized?
I don’t think the Christian publishing industry is to blame for the growing trend towards nationalism and whatever consequences come of that. We are to blame! After all, the publishing industry only sells what we are buying. The problem is that it exposes a deeper issue.
In Romans 6, baptism into Christ is about death to self so that we live in Christ and that means that baptism is also about our identity. Elsewhere, Paul describes his life saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Though Paul doesn’t specifically mention baptism in that passage, I believe his understanding of baptism explains why he views his life as Christ living in him. That should also be true of us as well, if we have been baptized into Christ. However, given how Christianity has taken on the appearance of American values, I have a question to ask that has everything to do with missional church and whether or not we can make disciples of Jesus Christ…
Have we really been baptized into Christ or have we simply baptized Christ into our American life?