|Vol. 14 No. 7 July 2012||
How is Baptism an Identification
with the Death of Jesus?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone inquired, “How is Baptism an Identification with the Death of Jesus?” New Testament passages provide a clear answer for this question. Especially two passages enlighten us about the relationship of baptism to the death of our Lord.
…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. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him (Romans 6:3-8 NKJV; see also Colossians 2:12).
Baptism places one into the likeness of the death of Christ. We also imitate the resurrection of our Lord as we arise from the watery grave of baptism. He walked anew in physical life, while baptized believers walk anew in spiritual life. Baptized believers leave their past sins (Romans 3:25) in the spiritual grave of baptism. One cannot live for Christ until he has united with Christ in His death through baptism.
No wonder other passages throughout the New Testament emphasize that salvation (from past sins) occurs at the point of baptism. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved… (Mark 16:16 NKJV). “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). “There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Bible baptism (immersion) may appear to the uninformed to be a bath, for the cleansing of the body, but Bible baptism has as its purpose the cleansing of the soul from sin. It does that by uniting one spiritually with Jesus Christ in His death, which is where he shed His sin-cleansing blood (John 19:34; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asked a question about being an ambassador for Christ. Is that something that Christians can do today? The biblical references come from two passages. Especially 2 Corinthians provides us the phrase “ambassadors for Christ.” “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NKJV). Ephesians 6:20 reads, “for which I [the apostle Paul] am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
The English word “ambassador” means first, “1 : an official envoy; especially : a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment” (Merriam-Webster). Primarily, then, “ambassador” in the English language refers to someone occupying an official, governmental capacity. Thinking about the kingdom of Jesus Christ, certainly, the apostles of Christ, of which Paul was one apostle, qualified in the truest sense to be ambassadors of Christ.
The secondary English meaning for “ambassador” reads, “2 a : an authorized representative or messenger b : an unofficial representative (traveling abroad as ambassadors of goodwill)” (Merriam-Webster). In the sense, then, of the second definition, Christians may be considered ‘authorized representatives’ or, at least, “ambassadors of goodwill.” Certainly, this concept is what most people mean when referring to Christians as ambassadors of Christ. Only the apostles themselves were afforded by our Lord the responsibility of speaking doctrinally on His behalf (i.e., appearing to be making binding decisions for the Godhead, Matthew 16:19; 18:18).
Strong’s says of the Greek word translated “ambassador” that it means, “to be a senior, i.e. (by implication) act as a representative…” The commentator Albert Barnes observed, “At all times, and in all countries, an ambassador is a sacred character, and his person is regarded as inviolable. He is bound implicitly to obey the instructions of his sovereign, and as far as possible to do only what the sovereign would do were he himself present.” Though that is the legal sense of the word “ambassador,” both Clarke and Barnes envision a secondary use of the word today respecting Christians other than the apostles, especially ministers of the Gospel. “Ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another; and is supposed to represent the person of the sovereign by whom he is deputed. Christ while on earth represented the person of the Sovereign of the world; his apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; apostles, etc., declare the will of Christ to the world. We are ambassadors for Christ” (Clarke).
Coffman specifies the primary sense in which assuredly Paul used it respecting himself. Further, Coffman quotes from David Lipscomb who contests any secondary application of ambassador that would include Christians today.
Throughout history, the office of an ambassador has been one endowed with plenary authority; and it is this aspect of Paul’s ministry which is stressed here. David Lipscomb laid heavy stress upon this most important office of Christ’s apostles. He said:
The apostles were and are the ambassadors of Christ. They sustained a relation to the gospel that no other preachers in their day or since ever sustained or could sustain. They were the REVEALERS of the gospel. All others are only proclaimers of what the apostles revealed. No preacher today has any revelation, nor can he claim to be a witness of the resurrection. He has no authority to declare remission of sins; but he can only point to the apostles’ declaration on the subject. He may preach the gospel, but he cannot reveal it. He has no message that is not already made known. He does not have the credentials of an ambassador; he cannot work miracles; and God will not work with him in signs and wonders confirming the word that he preaches… We may not expect any more ambassadors until the Lord has a new message for mankind.
Strictly speaking, the contexts in which the word “ambassadors” appears in the New Testament or for that matter how the word typically is used today pertains to people with the authority to make biding decisions. In the realm of religion, in that sense, an ambassador could make religious decisions by which both God in heaven and mankind would be obligated to comply. No one living today occupies that position of authority.
However, were we to use the illustration about being ‘ambassadors for Christ’ and applying it to Christians in our time, we would need to do two things. First, we would need to identify the legal sense in which it is used in the New Testament and is typically used in the world today. Secondly, one would need to emphasize that we are using the term “ambassador” in a secondary sense in place of the word “representative.” For me, it would be more suitable to use the word “ambassador” in the way in which it is ordinarily employed in Scripture and in today’s world, rather than explaining that we are not using the word in either its biblical or legal sense. In the truest sense, we are not “ambassadors for Christ,” but Christians are representatives – good or bad – of Christianity that we espouse.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Barnes’ Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 2006.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU Press, 1989.
Merriam-Webster, I. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993. CD-ROM. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 1996.