“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4)
Proponents of baptismal regeneration and salvation-by-baptism will often use this passage as though it obviously and inarguably makes their case. They say, ‘Look at the text. It says that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death; and it says that believers were buried with Him through baptism into death. Seems pretty clear that baptism is the way that a person is buried with Christ so that they might be raised with Him in newness of life.” But is that what the text teaches? To answer this question we will again use the method we used in the previous daily teaching (Does Galatians 3:27 Teach Salvation By Water Baptism?). We’ll (1) examine the immediate context, (2) examine the book context, (3) consider the broader Biblical context, and finally (4) we’ll answer any questions that need to be addressed, such as, “What is the baptism spoken of here?”
I. First, the immediate context. One serious mistake that proponents of salvation-by-baptism make is that they erroneously think that just about every time the word baptism comes up in the New Testament epistles that the writer is speaking about water baptism. Two other kinds of baptism that are spoken about in the New Testament, for example, include being baptized into a baptism of suffering similar to Jesus (Mk. 10:38, 39; Lk. 12:50), and being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). I will come back to this point at the end of the teaching but I mention it here because if you look at the immediate context you will notice that there is no mention of water. The text does not give an indication that the baptism spoken of here is water baptism. In fact, the immediate context suggests that what Paul is speaking about is of a spiritual nature (Rom. 6:3-11). For example, when Paul wrote, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death” (vs.4a), the baptism spoken of here was “into death” and not ‘into water.’ It is a reference akin to Galatians 2:20 where Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ…” The idea is spiritual identification with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection, and not the need for water baptism.
II. Second, what about the book context? We will limit our examination of Romans to the latter portion of chapter 3 into the beginning of chapter 5. If we look at that section of Paul’s writing, it becomes inarguably clear that he is arguing for justification by faith. Consider, then, the following litany of verses that support that premise and then consider how illogical and unlikely it would be for him to throw in two verses that teach, ‘Oh yeah, you need to be baptized to be saved as well.’
- Romans 3:21-22 – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.”
- Romans 3:26 – “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
- Romans 3:28 – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
- Romans 3:30 – “since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”
- Romans 4:3 – “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'”
- Romans 4:5-6 – “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works”
- Romans 4:11 – “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.”
- Romans 4:13-14 – “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,”
- Romans 4:16 – “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
- Romans 4:20-22 – “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
- Romans 4:23-25 – “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
- Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
The case that Paul was making seems both comprehensive and clear – he was laboring to show and prove that justification by faith was (in the Old Testament) and is (now) the means by which God acquits the guilty and makes them righteous. Again, the book context leaves no room for thinking that, in Romans 6:3-4, Paul was teaching that salvation is also accomplished or solidified via water baptism. It would be illogical to think Paul labored so hard to explain how a person is justified and left that out until he mentioned it as a passing thought.
III. Third, the broader Biblical context. With this step, like last time, we are simply seeing if the larger context of Scripture argues for justification by faith or justification by baptism. Again, the evidence overwhelmingly and indisputably supports the former – justification by faith. See: Jn. 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; Rom. 3:21-26, 28-30; 4:3, 5, 11, 16; 5:1; 9:30, 33; 10:4, 9-10; Gal. 2:16; 3:1,2, 6-9, 14, 22, 24, 26; Eph. 1:13; 2:8-9; Phil. 3:9; etc.
IV. Fourth, we come back to where we began with the first point and answer the question, “What kind of baptism is spoken of here?” The baptism spoken of in Romans 6:3,4 is the spiritual baptism that the Holy Spirit performs upon conversion (1 Cor. 12:13), uniting believers into Christ’s body, and identification with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. The immediate context, book context, and broader biblical context do not leave room a different conclusion.