Buried with Him in Baptism; Raised with Him to New Life
When a person comes to saving faith in Christ Jesus, something really and truly happens within that believer. For one thing, we are made “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are given a “new self” created after the image of God (Ephesians 4:24), whose “seed” abides within us (1 John 3:9). These are all ways of speaking of a new principle of spiritual life that is given us upon our rebirth. Then, too, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, guide, advocate, helper, and guarantee (John 14:25-26; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 4:30). In short, our rebirth (regeneration) does not leave us as we were but changes us from the inside out.
Which is why the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question in verse one, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” is a hearty, “By no means!” Paul alludes to those who accused him of teaching such a thing in 3:5-8; now he answers this calumny with a further exposition of the gospel of grace. And his message is simply that grace not only saves us from sin but empowers us against it. Paul uses baptism to describe what actually happens when a person is born again. (Please note: it is not the event of baptism itself that empowers the believer but the grace given the believer at his regeneration; Paul uses baptism as a symbol of that regenerating experience.)
Paul’s argument is that the one who has been reborn is dead to sin; that is, there must be a death before a new life can be born. That death is our death, the death of our old self when we came to know Christ, when we repented, and believed. Our baptism witnesses to this as we are buried (submerged under the water) with Christ into his death. As Christ died, so must we die. And, as Christ was raised from the dead to new resurrected life, so we too are raised to a new life (witnessed in our baptism by coming up out of the water). Now understand that Paul is not speaking metaphorically or poetically; he is describing a real spiritual event in the life of the one born again. There is a real death and a real resurrection, just as our Lord experienced as well. And how is this made real? Paul answers, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his,” which is all to say that the reality of that which Paul speaks is predicated on our union with Christ. And from this union, the believer is delivered “from the domain of darkness and transferred … to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). And from this union with Christ and deliverance from darkness comes the power to walk in newness of life.