This is the month for New Year’s resolutions, and there is none better than “walk in newness of life.” Paul declares, in his convoluted artistic language, “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). What does it mean that we have been “buried with Christ through baptism into death,?” And how would you explain “walking in newness of life” because “Christ was raised from the dead”?
There are three key words – “baptism”, “newness”, and life”. Go ahead. If you know the meaning of these words, try to answer the two questions.
Baptism represents expelling all sin, which leaves a person holy and righteous. Water baptism is symbolic of this process of purification. With the coming of Christ, Spirit baptism “enabled” a believer to expel sin from his or her person in order to become righteous, or to walk in “newness of life”. John tells us that the Holy Spirit “guides” us into all truth (John 16:13), but we must “activate” this gift by our faith and love of Christ in order to walk in righteousness. By the way, there is a future baptism by fire (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16), which will complete this process of righteousness so God’s children can come into His righteous presence.
However, what does it mean that we have been “buried with Christ through baptism into death”? The answer is in the Hebraic sense of time, so throw out your linear thinking about “eternal life” as something future. In the Hebraic sense of time, God created time, so God is in all aspects of time. Now listen carefully. To the extent that you are “one with God”, that is, you are walking in righteousness (which you CAN and SHOULD do from time to time), then you are WITH God when He is in all aspects of time – past, present and future.
Let’s start with the past. You were “one with God” when you first believed in your heart that Yeshua was the Son of God whom the Father had sent. In that instant God saw you as righteous and you were one with Him. You were like a newborn baby, holy and without sin. That is what Paul meant when he said we have been “buried with Christ through baptism into death.” When we first believed in God’s Son, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit that baptized us in righteousness. It was our past sins that were metaphorically put to death!
“Newness” represents something completely different. We can now turn to the present. What happened after God created us in righteousness when we first believed in His son? In a sense, God “patted us on the back” and said, “Now I am putting you in the world where sin exists.” However, God gave His people the “law” to lead them in a walk of righteousness and then He guided them through a process of “testing”. (For an explanation of “testing” see the account of manna in the wilderness). For those with faith in Christ Paul tells us that the law is “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Co 3:3). This is the gift of the Holy Spirit that guides us into the righteousness of the law by our love and faith in Christ. It is a process that allows us to walk in “newness of life.” Why is it new? Because existing without sin is a totally new and different way of living.
“Life” is our third key word, and we can only appreciate what Paul is telling us by understanding his irony. True life can only occur when we are “one with God.” Paul tells us that “sin results in death” (Rom 6:16), but when we first believed in Christ we were baptized by the Holy Spirit and sin was dead in us. We were truly alive with God through our faith in Christ. Yet, what about now? Paul tells us to “focus” on what God has done through Christ. Believe it, walk in it, and live in it. “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death”, death of sin, that is. Christ accomplished that, so now we are able to walk in righteousness, which came with the gift of the Holy Spirit, through our love and faith in God's son.
We can now turn to the future. We will not be completely righteous and totally without sin until sometime in the future. (Hint: there is more to God’s work in the future than the Great Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom, so keep searching the Scriptures). However (there always seems to be a however), don’t forget the Hebraic sense of time. When you walk in righteousness and are one with God (yes, that is possible although not all the time), then you are witnessing what is still future. You can look for this witness in others, and you certainly should strive for it in your own life.
Our New Year’s resolution: “Walk in newness of life.”
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