Baptism of Water and the Holy Spirit
"John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost" (John 11.15). No mention of water or method of baptism, just the Holy Spirit baptizing.
"Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God" (Col. 2.12).
Alas, some have been taught to look on burial as a means to death; they try to die by getting themselves buried! Let me say emphatically that unless our eyes have been opened by God to see that we have died in Christ and been buried with him, we have no right to be baptized. The reason we step down into the water is that we recognize that in God's sight we have already died. It is to this that we testify. God's question is clear and simple. "Christ has died, and I have included you there. Now, what are you going to say to that?" What is my answer? "Lord, I believe you have done the crucifying. I say Yes to the death and to the burial to which you have committed me." He has consigned me to death and the grave; by my request for baptism I give public assent to that fact. A Table in the Wilderness, p. 111, Watchman Nee.
Experiencing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Broadly speaking, a Christian who has not yet experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit is rather vague about the reality of the spiritual realm. He is like the servant of Elisha whose eyes were closed to that sphere. He may receive instructions from the Bible, yet his understanding is confined to the mind because he still lacks revelation in his spirit. But upon experiencing the baptism his intuition becomes acutely sensitive and he discovers in his spirit a spiritual world opening before him. By the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit he not only touches the supernatural power of God but contacts God’s Person as well.
Now it is just there that spiritual warfare begins. This is the period when the power of darkness disguises himself as an angel of light and even attempts to counterfeit the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also the moment when the intuition is made aware of the existence of a spiritual domain and of the reality of Satan and his evil spirits. The Apostles were taught in the Scriptures by the Lord after Calvary; but they were made conscious of the real existence of a spiritual realm following Pentecost. Spirit-baptism marks the starting point of spiritual warfare.
Once a believer has contacted the Person of God via the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he then has his own spirit released. He now senses the reality of the things and beings in the spiritual domain. With such knowledge (and let us call to mind that the knowledge of a spiritual man does not accrue to him all at once; some of it may, and usually does, come through many trials), he encounters Satan. Only those who are spiritual perceive the reality of the spiritual foe and hence engage in battle (Eph. 6.12). Such warfare is not fought with arms of the flesh (2 Cor. 10.4). Because the conflict is spiritual so must the weapons. It is a struggle between the spirit of man and that of the enemy—an engagement of spirit with spirit. (The Spiritual Man, 55-56, vol. 2.)
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3.5). This is the word of our Lord to Nicodemus.
When Paul wrote to the saints in Rome he inquired, “Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Paul then continued with these words: “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6.3-5). Both the Lord Jesus and Paul speak of the reality of baptism.
But some people look at this matter of baptism from the physical point of view. Their eyes see only the water. Hence they insist on baptismal regeneration. They have not touched the spiritual reality. Other people try to approach this question mentally. They maintain that water cannot regenerate people. Accordingly, they explain that with some people baptism is real and inward while with others it is false and outward. The first group can enter into the kingdom of God but those in the second category are excluded. They too have not touched spiritual reality in this matter.
The baptism of which the Lord told Nicodemus is a reality. Paul also sees reality in baptism: burial with the Lord for newness of life. He told the saints in Colossae, “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him” (Col. 2.12). To him baptism and burial are one and the same thing; so too are baptism and resurrection. He knows what is meant by being buried with the Lord and also what is meant by being raised with the Lord. He does not see the water of baptism only, nor does he view some as being truly baptized while some others are not. He communicates to others the reality of that baptism which he has touched.
Brothers and sisters, if you have seen baptism as a reality you naturally know what it is. The question of its being true or false, inward or outward, simply does not exist, because you see that to be baptized is to be buried and raised up together with Christ. Having seen this reality, can you refrain from proclaiming that baptism is indeed so big, so real, and so inclusive? As soon as a person is shown the reality, then that which is false can no longer exist. Suppose someone should say: “Now that I have been baptized, I hope I may be buried and then raised together with the Lord.” The one who could utter such a statement has not touched reality, since to him baptism is one thing and burial and resurrection are quite another. But that person who perceives spiritual reality knows what burial and resurrection are. Baptism is burial, baptism is also resurrection. They are one and the same thing.
Do you realize, brothers and sisters, that no one can ever perceive spiritual things with his eyes fixed on the material, that no one can ever think through to the spiritual with his brain? All spiritual matters have their realities. He who has touched reality questions no more. (Spiritual Reality and Obession, CFP white cover only, pp.7-8, by Watchman Nee)
Rethinking the Work, CFP
pp.116-117, W. Nee
(6) One Baptism. Is it by immersion or by sprinkling? Is it single or triune? There are various modes of baptism accepted by the children of God, so if we make the form of baptism the dividing line between those who belong to the church and those who do not, we shall exclude many true believers from our fellowship. There are children of God who even believe that a material baptism is not necessary, but since they are the children of God, we dare not on that account exclude them from our fellowship. What then is the significance of the “one baptism” mentioned in this passage? Paul throws light on the subject in his first letter to the Corinthians. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” (1.13). The emphasis is not on the mode of baptism, but on the name into which we are baptized. The first question is not whether you are sprinkled or immersed, dipped once or thrice, baptized literally or spiritually, the important point is, into whose name have you been baptized? If you are baptized into the Name of the Lord, that is your qualification for church membership. If anyone is baptized into the Name of the Lord, I welcome him as my brother, whatever be the mode of his baptism. By this we do not imply that it is of no consequence whether we are sprinkled or immersed, or whether our baptism is spiritual or literal. The Word of God teaches that baptism is literal, and is by immersion, but the point here is that the mode of baptism is not the ground of our fellowship, but the Name into which we are baptized. All who are baptized into the Name of the Lord are one in Him.
The Better Covenant, CFP
pp.85-86 by W. Nee
Regeneration is being born “of God” (John 1.13), born “of heaven” (1 Cor. 15.47).
Regeneration is being “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3.5). This needs a little explanation. When John the Baptist came to preach and to baptize he proclaimed: “I baptized you in water; but he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1.8). Just as in Mark 1 John the Baptist joined the water and the Holy Spirit together, so in John 3 our Lord Jesus also joined the water and the Holy Spirit. Now since the water which John referred to was the water of baptism, then the water which the Lord Jesus spoke of must also be the water of baptism. The word the Lord answered Nicodemus with must be something which the latter could quickly grasp. At that time many people knew of John baptizing with water. It was but natural for Nicodemus to take the water which the Lord Jesus mentioned as being the baptism of John. Had the Lord had another thought in mind concerning water, it would not have been easily comprehended by Nicodemus. We may therefore conclude that “water” here points to the water of baptism.
The baptism of John was “the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus” (Acts 19.4). The baptism of repentance in which John baptized with water could not regenerate people. Except one be born “of water and the Spirit” he is not born again. The baptism of repentance announces that not only man’s behavior—being deadly wicked—needs to be repented of, but also man himself—being corrupted and dead—must be buried in baptism. When one enters the water to be baptized he is confessing before God how wicked is his behavior and how corrupted and dead in transgressions he is, that he deserves nothing but death and burial.
Yet man is not born again “of water” alone; he must be born both “of water and the Spirit.” He must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Lord Jesus before he can have God’s life. John the Baptist preached “repentance” first (Mark 1.4), with the Lord Jesus following immediately by adding “believe” to it (Mark 1.15). Repentance delivers us from all which belongs to us. Believing gets us into all which belongs to God. We enter the water through repentance, we receive the Holy Spirit by faith. To enter the water and to receive the Holy Spirit in this way is to be born “of water and the Spirit.” To repent and enter the water concludes the life of the old man; to believe and be joined to the Holy Spirit is to receive the life of God. This is regeneration.
Although regeneration is being born of water and the
Holy Spirit, the work of regeneration in its subjective aspect is all done by
the Holy Spirit (the objective aspect of the work of regeneration is all done by
Christ). It is for this reason that the Lord Jesus in John 3 mentioned “born of
water” once but “born of the Spirit” three times (vv.5,6,8).
Baptism in the Millennial Kingdom
p.63 of "Come, Lord Jesus", CFP
The classifications of the living creatures according to Genesis are six in number: (1) aquatics, (2) birds, (3) fowls, (4) creeping things, (5) beasts, and (6) man. But according to Revelation 4.7 there are only four kinds: (1) lion—the mightiest among beasts (Prov. 30.30); (2) calf—the biggest among domesticated animals; (3) man—the mankind on earth (this does not signify the church, for in the kingdom era the knowledge of God will fill the earth—see Is. 11.9). During that era there will be a difference in the church between the saved and the overcomers; but in the new heaven and the new earth there will no longer be such a difference. Though at the kingdom age men on earth may believe in God, there will be no baptism in the Holy Spirit, and hence they cannot become the body of Christ. They can only believe as individuals. In the new heaven and the new earth they will be restored to the state of Adam before the fall. They shall eat fruits, require sleep, enter into marriage, and beget children, though they will no longer die, be sick, sin, or be tempted by the devil. And (4) eagle - the king of birds.
A Living Sacrifice, Basic Lesson Series 1, CFP, W. Nee
Realizing the comprehensiveness of baptism in the Bible, we shall focus our consideration on just two of its aspects which, we are convinced, every new believer must know. These two aspects are: (1) What can baptism do for a person? and (2) What is the real meaning of baptism? Before the believer is baptized, he should look ahead and ask: Now that I am going into the water, what will baptism do for me? This is viewing baptism in advance. But after baptism, the believer needs to cast a backward look and ask the second question: What is the meaning of this which I have undergone? The first is foresight, an understanding before baptism; the second is hindsight, an ascertaining following baptism.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.
And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.
That aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I Pet. 3:20-21
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
The first set of Scriptures above is concerned with what baptism will do to the one baptized, while the second set explains the meaning of baptism. The one deals with what the believer ought to know on this side of the water, that is, in advance of baptism; the other treats of what he should know on the farther side of the water, after baptism. Let us look at these respectively.
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”
1. SHALL BE SAVED.
We would suppose that most Protestants become a bit apprehensive over this verse. When they see it, they change it in their mind to read “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” The Lord, however, has not so said. In order to escape the error of the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants unwittingly alter God’s Word and thus fall into another error. The Lord speaks clearly that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” No one is authorized to change it to “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”
THE OBJECTIVE OF SALVATION IS THE WORLD
Now let us be clear as to the meaning of the word “salvation” in the Bible. What is the objective of salvation? This may not be easily understood by new believers because they lack an accurate knowledge of what salvation is. According to the Bible, salvation is related to the world, not to hell. The opposite of eternal life is perdition, while the opposite of salvation is the world. We are to be saved out of the world. As long as we belong to the world, we are in the state of perdition.
It is imperative for us to understand man’s state before God. People of the world today need not do anything to cause them to perish. No one is required to kill in order to perish; nor by not killing will any be spared from perdition. The whole world is perishing, but God is pulling out some from among the perishing. So far as the whole world is concerned, it is already damned; but so far as individuals are concerned, this one and that one are being saved. It is not separating a flock of one hundred into fifty sheep and fifty goats; rather, it is netting some fish out of a sea of fish. All those that are caught in the net are saved while those that remain in the sea are yet lost.
Therefore, in answering the question of whether one is saved or lost, the issue does not rest on one’s personal conduct; it is instead settled by the person’s whereabouts. If he is in the boat, he is saved; if he is still in the sea, he is lost. It makes no difference if one is good or bad, a gentleman or a villain, with or without conscience. As long as he is in the world, he is lost. If he has not come out, has not left that place which is under judgment, he is a condemned sinner.
SALVATION IS A MATTER OF POSITION
“For as through the one man’s disobedience (Adam’s) the many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19). It is not necessary for a person to sin in order to be qualified as a sinner. Because of one man’s sin, all have been constituted sinners. As long as the person is in Adam, that is, in the world, he stands opposite to God, and is therefore an enemy of God. His position is wrong, for it is a lost position. This, then, is the story of the unsaved.
Brethren, let us be absolutely clear as to the real meaning of “salvation.” It is a word frequently used but used with such confusion. So far as today is concerned, eternal life is not as broad in its scope as salvation, for to have eternal life is today a personal matter. But to be saved indicates both a coming out of a particular brotherhood as well as a receiving of eternal life. Hence to have eternal life is purely personal while to be saved is personal plus corporate.
Salvation speaks of my leaving one brotherhood, and entering into another. Eternal life merely tells me what I have entered into, but it leaves unmentioned from where I came. Salvation includes the coming out as well as the entering in, whereas eternal life simply deals with the entering in. As a result, during this present age salvation is more comprehensive in its scope than eternal life, for it deals with the matter of being delivered from the world, of coming out of the world.
Let us notice the four cardinal facts concerning the world as shown in the Bible: (a) The world is condemned or judged before God, (b) the world lies in the evil one, (c) the world crucified the Lord Jesus, and (d) the world is an enemy to God. Please note that the world not only sins, but crucified the Lord Jesus as well. It is therefore God’s enemy. These are the four cardinal facts of the world as God sees it. All who are in the world, irrespective of their personal conduct, are already judged and thus in perdition.
What is wrong with people in this world is far more than personal unrighteous acts of behavior. Their very position is wrong before God. How can a person forsake the world if he is still keenly aware of its loveliness? But one day he is made to see the wrong position of the world before God. However lovely the world may be, it has to be forsaken. So salvation deals with deliverance from an improper relationship with and position in the world.
The Jewish people once cried out, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). Although I am not directly responsible for the slaying of the Lord Jesus, my forefathers did murder Him. Even though I am not personally engaged in the act, yet I belong to that brotherhood which has slain the Lord. The brotherhood I am with is God’s enemy and it is condemned. Whether I myself am right or wrong is another question. What lies before me is this: I need God to enlighten me that I may see that the brotherhood to which I belong is wrong. The world I am in is wrong in that it has killed the Lord Jesus and is therefore constituted God’s enemy. It is already judged by God. I need to be released from such a relationship; I need to be delivered from that position.
What is meant by salvation then? To be saved is to be released from that brotherhood, that position, and that relationship to the world. In other words, I come out of the world. People are usually most concerned with their personal justification, but they need to be reminded of the place from which they have been saved. Salvation is to be saved out of the world, not merely out of hell, for the world is under the judgment of God.
BAPTISM FOLLOWS BELIEVING
There is not the slightest doubt that whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus has eternal life. We have preached this glad news for many years. As soon as one believes in the Lord Jesus, whoever he may be, he receives eternal life and is thereby forever favored by God. But let us remember: believing without being baptized is not yet salvation. Indeed, you have believed; indeed, you have eternal life; but you are not yet reckoned as a saved person in the eyes of the world. As long as you are not baptized, you will not be recognized as saved. Why? Because no one knows your difference from the rest of the world. You must rise up and be baptized, declaring the termination of your relationship with the world; then and only then are you saved.
What is baptism? It is your emancipation from the world. It frees you from the brotherhood to which you once belonged. The world knew that you were one with it, but the moment you are baptized, it immediately becomes aware of the fact that you are finished with it. The friendship which you had maintained so many years has now come to an end. You were buried in the tomb, you terminated your course in the world. Before baptism, you knew you had eternal life; after baptism, you know you are saved. Everybody recognizes that you are the Lord’s, for you belong to Him.
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Why? Because having believed and been baptized, it is now an open fact where one stands. Were there no faith, there would not be that inward fact which alone makes things real. But with that inward reality, baptism puts one outside of the world and terminates the former relationship with the world. Baptism, therefore, is separation.
NO BAPTISM, NO TESTIMONY
“But he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Disbelief alone is enough for condemnation. As long as one belongs to the world brotherhood, his disbelief seals his condemnation. In contrast, he who believes must be baptized, for as long as he is not baptized, he has not come out of the world in outward testimony.
We discover three amazing facts in the religious world of Judaism, Hinduism and Islamism.
(a) Judaism persecutes the baptized. Among the Jews, a person may be a secret Christian without being persecuted. The greatest difficulty with many hundreds and thousands of Jews is not in believing the Lord Jesus but rather in being baptized. Once the person is baptized he is liable to be cast out and disowned.
(b) Hinduism ostracizes the baptized. In India, no one will lay hands on you if you remain unbaptized. But as soon as you are baptized, you will be ostracized. It is as if the world permits you to have eternal life but stands against anyone being baptized.
(c) Islamism murders the baptized. The reaction of Islamism is more severe. It is rare to find a living Mohammedan who has turned Christian, for the Moslems kill those that do. One of the most successful workers among the Mohammedans, Dr. Zwemer, once declared that his work would never be big since the results of his labor all ended in death; no one lived on. Among the Mohammedans, those who believe must immediately be sent away or else within two or three days after baptism they will be murdered.
Baptism is a public announcement that declares, “I have come out of the world.” Never take the word “salvation” purely in the personal sense. According to the Bible, it is more a matter of coming out of the world than of escaping hell.
2. UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS.
“And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Does the word of the apostle sound strange in our ears? Again, many Protestants seem to have difficulty with this verse so plainly spoken by the apostle. In what way can baptism lead to the forgiveness of sins? Is it not strange that the apostle does not lay stress on “believing” in his message?
We may ask ourselves whether Peter in this message recorded in Acts 2 is seeking to persuade people to believe. Not at all. Is this a reflection upon Peter’s ability to preach the gospel? Is his preaching inferior to ours? Is his presentation inadequate? We know that, according to the whole Bible, the most important point touching the gospel is belief. How then is it that Peter overlooks such a cardinal feature? He can omit other less important aspects but surely not this one. Yet strangely enough, he speaks on baptism instead of on faith, and the Holy Spirit causes a pricking of the hearts of those who listen to him. In accordance with orthodoxy, we would claim that faith alone is necessary; but Peter declares that his hearers must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Why is it that Peter speaks only of baptism? It is because all of his hearers were participants in the killing of the Lord Jesus. Fifty days ago they had cried out: “Away with this man!” (Luke 23:18) They had been in the crowd shouting their rejection. Now, though, some of them desired to be separated from the crowd. How? By being baptized. Through baptism they would come out of the world and sever their relationship with that brotherhood. As soon as I step into the water to be baptized, my sins are remitted, that is, I come out of the brotherhood to which I once belonged. This is why Peter on Pentecost tells them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus that their sins may be remitted. This single act of baptism causes them to come out of the world.
Do you now see that you who originally were of the world and therefore were enemies of the Lord will be saved if you come out of it? You need to confess before God and man that you have come out and are today no longer associated with the world. This is the greatest teaching of Pentecost. Let our minds be molded by God’s record instead of by any system of Protestant theology.
3. WASH AWAY SINS.
Let us next consider the case of Paul. Ananias says to Paul, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
Paul is universally accepted as the foremost teacher and prophet and apostle in Christianity. What if there were some flaw in his experience as well as in his teaching? He is told not to tarry but to arise and be baptized. Why? To wash away his sins. The Roman Catholic Church errs here in changing this verse into a personal experience before God. They fail to see that this Scripture deals with the question of the world. Consequently they baptize dying people in order to wash away their sins. They do not recognize that baptism is related to the world instead of to God. But Protestants equally err in attempting to hide the verse.
Being formerly a person of the world, Paul, now that he has both believed and seen the Lord Jesus, should arise and be baptized. Thus baptized, his sins are washed away, for he has severed his relationship with the world. If one becomes a Christian secretly without being baptized, the world will still consider him one of its own. The believer may say he is saved, but the world will not accept his statement. Not until he is baptized does he compel the world to see his salvation. Who would be so foolish as to go into the water unless there were a good reason for it? Yes, as soon as a Christian is baptized he is freed from the world. Hence this water is linked to the world.
The world will still reckon a person one of its own if he does not give an outward expression of his inward faith. For example, in Kuling, Foochow, there is an idol festival in the autumn. Every inhabitant is supposed to contribute to it. If one merely says he has believed in the Lord and cannot therefore participate, he will nonetheless not be excused. But let him be baptized, and he will immediately be known as having left the world. Consequently, baptism is the best way of separation. Through baptism the believer declares to the entire world that he has severed his relationship with it and has come out of it.
Since baptism is a public testimony, it should be openly conducted. Oftentimes unbelievers may come to a baptismal service. But some believers suggest that in order to avoid confusion there should not be too many spectators in a baptismal service. Well then, does this mean that John the Baptist has yet something to learn at their feet, for without doubt the scene at the Jordan River was quite disorganized! No, let the world witness what we are doing!
4. SAVED THROUGH WATER.
God’s words maintain a unity of thought. It is said in 1 Peter 3:20-21 “. . . in the days of Noah . . . wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” This gives a slightly different angle to salvation. The Lord states that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”; Peter declares on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”; Paul is told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away (his) sins, calling on his (Christ’s) name”; but Peter here shows us how to be saved through (“dia” in the original) water.
Whatever cannot pass through water is not saved but is drowned. At the time of Noah all were baptized, but only eight souls came safely out of the water. Except for the eight, all were washed down and failed to come up. In other words, to them the water became the water of death. But to us, this water is the water of salvation. They were immersed by the water and sank to the bottom, but we emerged from it. Do you not notice that there is something positive in Peter’s word? It is quite true that when the flood came, all mankind was drowned. There were nevertheless eight persons in the ark who emerged from the water. The water could not retain them. These eight were saved while the remainder all perished. Today the whole world lies under the wrath of God. Yet if I am baptized, I have passed through God’s wrath and have come out from the condemned world. This is the meaning of baptism.
Baptism is immersion on the one side and emergence on the other side. It speaks of passing through the water and of coming out of it. Let us emphasize the side of emergence. All went into the water, but only eight persons came out. Today we too are saved by baptism. How is this? Because we have entered into the water and have then emerged from it. No person who has not yet believed in the Lord Jesus should be baptized, for he will not be able to emerge from the water. But we believers can testify to the world that we have found the way out.
HEREAFTER WE ARE OUT OF THE WORLD
From this first set of four Scripture passages, we now ought to be clear as to what baptism can do for us. As we are baptized, we are delivered from the world. The new believer should not let many years pass before he is liberated from the world. The first thing he should do is be baptized. He must understand what the state of the world is before God. What is it to be saved? It is to be dissociated from one’s former state. It is to have one’s relationship with the world cleanly dissolved. Henceforth the believer is on the other side of the world. The newly converted needs to be shown this way.
Soon after one has believed in the Lord, he should be shown that he is one who stands outside the world. His baptism is a definite expression of his being delivered from the world. Hereafter he abides in the ark and therefore has gone over to the other side. Many things he cannot do, not only for the sake of his having believed in the Lord Jesus but also because of his having been baptized. He has crossed over a bridge to the other side. This makes baptism most meaningful.
BAPTISM MEANS YOU ARE FINISHED
The error of Protestantism is in overlooking the significance of baptism when it seeks to perfect the doctrine of salvation. We must restore the place of baptism today. What is its meaning? It is a coming out of the world; it is the proper procedure for being delivered from the world. When one is baptized he declares to people that he has come out of the world. Miss M. E. Barber has put it in poetic form: “Then the grave, with dear ones weeping, knowing that all life has fled.” These dear ones know that you are finished, that you have come to the end of your road. Such baptism is most effective. Anything higher than this would be impractical. You must come out of the old realm. To have eternal life is the story of your spirit before God; but to be saved is your testimony to the world by declaring you no longer have any part in it.
Now that the Christian is baptized, he needs to look back and assess the real meaning of baptism. “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). This is a looking backward, not forward. Remember that the words in Mark 16, Acts 2, Acts 22, and 1 Peter 3 were words spoken before baptism, while the words in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 were spoken after baptism. After baptism, we are notified by God that in our baptism we were actually baptized into the Lord’s death and were buried with Him, and so also we were raised with Him in resurrection.
Romans 6 stresses death and burial, though in addition it touches upon resurrection. Colossians 2, however, emphasizes burial and resurrection. It is therefore a step further, for its focal point is resurrection. The water serves as a tomb. What is buried must be dead, but what emerges must be alive in resurrection. Romans describes the first part of the truth and Colossians the last part of the same truth.
1. SO GREAT A GOSPEL
Perhaps one time when you sensed the heaviness of your sins, you heard of the death of the Lord Jesus. Such news was truly the gospel to you. Or, perhaps at a time when you were conscious of how wicked you are and, tried your best to free yourself from the dominion of sin and yet couldn’t—perhaps at that time you learned that you were already dead. That indeed was the gospel to you. Praise be to God, for such is the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the death of the Lord is a great gospel, so our death in Christ is also a great gospel. It is a joyous thing to know of the Lord’s death; it is equally joyous to know of one’s own death in the Lord. What is your first thought upon hearing of the news of death? Like Joseph of Arimathea, you think of burial, for burial is the first human reaction to death. The gospel proclaims today that you are dead in Christ. The first thing to do thereafter is to prepare for burial.
Therefore, beloved, when you step into the water of baptism or when you look back to your baptism after the lapse of many years, you need to remember that you are one already dead. You ask people to bury you because you believe you are dead. You would no doubt vigorously object if anyone should want to bury you before your death. Even if you were too weak to voice your objection, you would certainly resist being buried before you had breathed your last breath. Death is therefore the prerequisite of burial.
New believers should be instructed that at the time of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus they too were crucified. It is on this basis that they request to be buried in water. But just as the Lord Jesus was raised from among the dead, they too shall be raised through the working of the same power of resurrection within them. In coming out of the water, they become resurrected ones; they are no longer their former selves.
This is something which they ought often to look back upon. Having believed that they were dead, they asked to be buried. Now having emerged from the water, they thus shall walk in newness of life. They are now on the resurrection side.
2. WE ARE IN CHRIST
Once there was a heading in a newspaper which read: “One Person, Three Lives.” The story was this: after a pregnant woman had been murdered, the medical authorities subsequently discovered that there were twins in her womb. Hence, the peculiar headline! May we draw your attention to the fact that in the case of our Lord, it is one Person but countless lives. This is actually the meaning of the scriptural phrase, “in Christ.” Outwardly the murderer killed only the mother, but since twins were in the mother’s womb, they too died when the mother died. Likewise, this happens to those who are in Christ. When Christ died, we too died.
“But of him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30). It is of God that we are in Christ, and the fact is we are in Christ. Since one died, we all died. Were we ignorant of the meaning of being in Christ, we could never understand what co-death with Him is. The twins could die, together with the mother, because they were in the mother’s womb. Spiritual truth is even more real than physical fact. God has joined us to Christ, hence His death is our death.
We have already died in Christ. Let us believe this fact. In being immersed in and emerging from the water, we declare that we are on the other side of the tomb. This is resurrection. The reckoning in Romans 6 is to reckon to our being alive to God in Christ Jesus as well as to our being dead to sin in Christ Jesus. Though in ourselves we may not feel any difference, yet this glorious experience is in Christ.
We sincerely hope that all new believers will be brought into this exercise. In realizing they are dead, they allow themselves to be buried in water. By seeing they are resurrected, they come out of the water to serve God.
BAPTISM AS AN ANSWER TO GOD
Gleaning in the Fields of Boaz, CFP, 30-32, W. Nee
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name. (Acts 22.16)
I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor. 10.1-2)
Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom. 6.3)
In these three passages we will see the meaning of baptism. Baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3.21). Since it is an inquiry or demand of a good conscience towards God, it is therefore an answer to God. God must therefore be asking a question. The answer to His question is an act, which is baptism. It is logical for us to believe that the question God asks is also formulated in an act—in the cross. What God asks of the believer is the following three-fold inquiry: (1) Look at the cross where My Son was crucified for your sins; what is your response to it? (2) I have included you in the death of Christ; you were nailed with Him there on the cross; what is your answer to this? and (3) Having been given such a wonderful Savior, what is to be your attitude to Him hereafter?
Baptism is our answer to all three parts of this question. It is our answer to the cross. First of all, God placed the sins of us, the worst persons in the world, upon Jesus, the best person in the world. The blood of Jesus washes all our sins away. What have we got to say to this? Our answer is “Baptize me.” Baptism is the answer of a good conscience towards the matter of sins. If one is baptized, he must know that the blood of Jesus has washed all his sins away. God puts a representative thing before us—the cross; and we, too, put a representative thing before Him as our answer—baptism. Baptism is our response to God, embodied in an act. Though we say nothing, God understands, the angels understand, and even Satan understands. This act of confession reaches God, who also accepts it.
Secondly, God declares that it is not only our sins but even ourselves whom He has nailed to the cross with Christ. We are altogether rotten and sinful, and therefore He can do nothing with us except to finish us on the cross. How do we respond to that? Again, our answer is baptism. Since I have died with Christ, I will be baptized to show that I am baptized into His death. I am rotten and vile, from inside to outside; there is no hope for me; and hence, I must be eliminated. Thank God, in Christ I died, I am finished.
And thirdly, having the issues of my sins and my self settled through the blood and the death of Christ (for His blood has cleansed me from my sins and His death has eliminated me), what should be my attitude towards Christ from now on? Once more, I answer with baptism. For in baptism I am baptized into Christ. From now on “it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2.20). Whatever Christ does I do. His all becomes my all. His power becomes my power; His glory, my glory. All that He is and all that He does become mine, even my very life. We have become one. No one sees me anymore; all only see Him.
Baptized into Christ. What shall I do with such a Savior? What will be my life from now on? My answer is certain: from this moment on Christ becomes my aim, my goal, my Lord, my life, my all. I live for Him alone, not for the world nor for self, but wholly and only for Him. Baptism is like the “second edition” of Calvary, that is, it is my personal version of Calvary.
It came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose. And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God. (Gen. 6.1-9)
God remembered Noah, and all the beasts, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. (Gen. 8.1a)
The ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. (Gen. 8.4,5)
It came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dried. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dry. And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee of all flesh, both birds, and cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. (Gen. 8.13-18)
Noah builded an altar unto Jehovah, and took of every clean beast and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And Jehovah smelled the sweet savor; and Jehovah said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake, for that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. (Gen. 8.20,21)
That aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3.20,21)
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16.16a)
The story of Noah’s ark is familiar to all. What we would like to do is to learn what the Bible really shows us in that story. In the matter of our salvation, the Bible approaches it from several different angles: some of it speaks of our position before God; some of it, of our acceptance by God; some, of our communion with God; and some, of our position with the world. All this may sound complicated, so let us use some illustrations to explain them.
The coats of skins mentioned in Genesis 3—“Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them” (v.21)—expresses salvation. But what aspect of salvation does it represent? It pictures for us how we human beings may be justified before God.
The offering of Abel told of in Genesis 4 also expresses an aspect of salvation. Now the offering of Cain was rejected by God, but Abel’s offering was accepted. This is because Cain offered what was of himself, whereas Abel offered what was of God—even the lamb of atonement. All the proper sacrifices mentioned in the Scriptures are a reflection of God’s acceptance of us human beings. The story, for example, of the prodigal son recorded in Luke 15 speaks of God’s acceptance of sinners. The first chapter of Ephesians discloses how God accepts us in the beloved Son (1.6 AV). Likewise, too, the fourth chapter of Genesis with its narrative of Cain and Abel suggests this aspect of salvation, which is, God’s acceptance of man. Even the rapture of Enoch spoken of in Genesis 5 reveals God’s salvation—in this case, that aspect of it which denotes victory over death.
Thus Genesis 3 expresses that facet of God’s salvation which the Bible elsewhere calls justification; Genesis 4 speaks of God’s acceptance; and Genesis 5 stresses the matter of overcoming death. The ark in Genesis 6 also expresses salvation, only it deals with an aspect different from those of Genesis 3, 4 and 5. For it reflects the relationship of Christians to the world. How is a Christian to be delivered from all which is condemned by God? How is he to be released from all which is subject to God’s judgment? We shall see how, through accepting God’s salvation, we are freed from the condemnation and judgment of God.
Sin has its various aspects. That sin depicted for us in chapter 3 of Genesis is a sin against God—both a sin before Him and a sin that is rebellious against Him. Wherefore, in the very same chapter, we are told how such sin before God needs to be covered by the coats of skins provided by God, so that man can be justified before Him. The sin told of in chapter 4 is likewise a sin against God, but it is also one against man’s neighbor. Cain committed the sin of murdering his brother. He violated the two greatest commandments of God: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”; and, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Such sin requires sacrifice to be offered by man to God so as for him to be accepted. Even sin against man needs acceptance before God, otherwise that sin shall remain. The sin of Genesis chapter 5 is again different from the aforementioned sin since it tells of the sin of forgetting God. For by this time people had largely disregarded God and walked according to their own will. They ate their own meals and passed their days as they desired. Only one person at that time—Enoch—walked with God. The whole world was full of death because people did not want God. However, God redeemed Enoch completely from this deadly world so that he should not see death. Yet while the sin of chapter 5 was the sin of the multitudes, the sin delineated in chapter 6 was a corporate sin. It was a sin which was committed against God by the world of mankind as a “kosmos”—as one grand organized entity. Hence the world was its scope, and thus Genesis 6 tells of how the entire world system had sinned against God.
At the inception of chapter 6 we discover that the fallen angels sinned together with fallen men. The “sons of God” spoken of here were the fallen angels and the “daughters of men” spoken of were the fallen men. Both had been created by God and both had spirit. But when they joined themselves together to sin, the world was bound to come to an end. Those who sinned in the first world were angels in the heavenlies; those who sinned in the second world were men on the earth. And when they sinned together, the end unquestionably was soon coming to pass. Sinful angels and sinful men would shortly be judged by God. Now man had become especially “flesh”—whether in doing good or in committing sin, it nonetheless was flesh. Therefore, God would not strive with man forever. Formerly the Spirit of God strove with man, but still man refused to hear the voice of God. Consequently, He finally gave man up. In other words, man had become so corrupted that the Spirit of God could not strive with him anymore, which meant that even the Holy Spirit could not change him. As a result, the Holy Spirit drew back and let the world go through judgment.
Please understand that your own flesh today is not any better than the flesh was in Noah’s time. Unless we allow the flesh with its lusts and passions to be crucified, then the Holy Spirit has no way to work in us either. As in Noah’s day, the Holy Spirit will not attempt to persuade man to reform, for he is beyond repair; He today can only try to convince man to be born again. The flesh can do nothing except to sin; the regenerated of God alone can do any good. Regeneration is not tears, confession or zeal; it is not being a good church member, reading the Bible, and praying; regeneration is the act of receiving a new life from above, that is, from God himself. In short, regeneration is a second birth.
If the world becomes full of sin, something must be done first before the Holy Spirit can commence to work. That first thing is for God to send the Lord Jesus to this world. Once man becomes a sinner, the Lord Jesus and not the Spirit must come first. Should the Holy Spirit come first, He can do nothing. Only after the Lord Jesus has the sinner judged will the Holy Spirit be able to work. Hence, the first of the many parables found in Luke chapter 15 is that of the shepherd—the Lord Jesus—seeking the lost sheep. The second parable is the woman—the Holy Spirit—who sweeps the house to find the lost piece of silver. Without the redemptive work of Christ, the Holy Spirit can do nothing. If the work of Christ remains unfinished, the work of the Holy Spirit cannot commence. But since the work of Christ is already done, the Holy Spirit is now able to work. Accordingly, in Genesis 6 we have delineated for us first the work of redemption, and only then in Genesis 8 do we observe the dove which expresses the work of the Holy Spirit.
“The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6.13). God saw that the earth was filled with violence and sins, that it was corrupted to the core. So, He declared that its end had come. There was no other way but to bring all before Him to an end. God judged them all and destroyed all flesh—both of men and of living things—by the universal flood.
What many Christians fail to realize is the position of the world before God. Today when the brothers and sisters are exhorted to be separated from the world, it is almost as though it were as difficult as trying to snatch away a piece of chocolate from a child’s mouth. It appears so hard because of the fact that Christians do not discern the position the world has before God. Let us recognize that salvation has not only its personal aspect but also its corporate aspect, just as sin too has its corporate dimension as well as its personal dimension. The people who crucified the Lord Jesus at Calvary were not only the Jews but the whole world as well. Those at enmity with God at that time were not merely Jews, they included all and everything that constituted the entire world system.
Let us take, for example, the enmity between two nations: is it something personal or corporate? We of course know that this cannot be termed a personal relationship. If some person in one of the two countries was to treat somebody in the opposite country well, then this would be a personal relationship. But today it is not a matter of being good or bad on the part of one or several individuals in one country towards one or several individuals in the other, such as in the case of a personal animosity emerging as a result of one person’s parents being killed by one or several people from the enemy country; it is instead a matter of the whole country standing as an enemy nation. It is a corporate antagonism between country and country. So that here is not a speaking of one individual but a speaking of the entire world system—including its organization, customs and reputations—as the enemy of God. As long as you and I are part of that world system, we are an enemy of God, from which we need to be delivered. And once having seen this, you and I will not be found exhorting people to reform or change, for we know that all these are useless. In the eyes of God, the entire world system—the “kosmos” itself—is corrupted. So that God is at enmity with the world, and the world is at enmity with Him. All who love the world do not love God, and the love of God cannot be in their hearts. All who befriend the world just naturally become enemies of God. And this is precisely the way God perceives it.
Let me ask you, do you want to be delivered from hell, which is the lake of fire? I believe we all desire to be delivered from such a destiny and to enter New Jerusalem. Many expect to be saved and to go to heaven. And this aspect of salvation is called, in the Bible, justification and acceptance by God. Yet there is another aspect of salvation which Biblically can be termed deliverance from the world. Deliverance from the world actually goes hand in hand with deliverance from the lake of fire.
The Bible tells us God found but one man, Noah. The first man Adam had been corrupted and had come to his end. Nothing could be done with him. So God found another man, and this second man was Noah. Noah was accepted by God, and he served as a type of Christ. Through him, God set up a way of salvation by which to save people from the world. God ordered him to build an ark with gopher wood and bring all kinds of living creatures, birds, cattle, creeping things—each after its kind—to the ark. He then caused rain to fall upon the earth till the whole earth was deluged. Who were the saved? Those who were delivered from the world by staying in the ark. Those who were delivered from the world were those delivered from the flood. In like manner, therefore, whoever is delivered from the world is delivered from the lake of fire. For it is not sinners who are going to hell but the people of the world who are. Preachers often say sinners go to hell, but actually they should say that the world goes to hell. As long as you are among those of the world, you are destined to go to hell.
Once I met a man on a boat. He asked me: “What kind of person is qualified for hell?” My reply to him was: “People such as you should go to hell.” I said this to him because all mankind must go to hell. To be saved means you are saved from the perishing federation. Although we are not all criminals we nonetheless are all sinners, for the Bible says that all men are sinners. You and I may not commit a certain sin or violate some special law, and therefore we are not criminals; yet all of us are sinners. To be saved from the world is to be saved from the world which is under God’s judgment.
At the time of the Deluge, Noah and living creatures—birds, cattle and creeping things—were saved. Noah as well as the ark typify the Savior. But whereas Noah is a type of the Son of God, the ark stands as a type of the Son of Man because it is made of gopher wood, it thus representing the human nature of the Lord Jesus. Those who were saved in the Deluge were manifested to be those who were saved from the world. As all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened, the whole world, and not just some individuals, was condemned. Consequently, to be saved is to be saved from the world federation. All who are in the Ark of God are saved, that is to say, they are saved out of the world. Today a saved person cannot be saved and yet remain in the world, even as no one in Noah’s day could have had one foot in the ark and one foot in the world: all who entered Noah’s ark were shut into the ark.
Since that day, therefore, it is impossible for a saved person to love the world on the one hand and to love the Lord on the other. Although you may do so stealthily, you are not permitted so to do by God. One who believes in the Lord must wholly reject the world and not love it. Do not fancy you can change things to make them less worldly, because salvation means God has fundamentally already taken you out of the world. And since you are outside the world, you ought, accordingly, to live such a life. Now this which has just been said is something quite different from exhorting people not to love the world. Countrymen of one nation hate the people of an enemy country not because their faces were slapped by their adversaries but because hostility exists between the two countries. And such is now our problem.
As we have said, we are a people who have been delivered from the world. Yet how are we delivered? God shows us that since the world is occupied by the enemy and it thus opposes Him, He saves us out of it. He as it were “builds” an ark in the person of His Son and brings people out of the world into His Ark. In Noah’s day God caused all the living things upon the earth to die except for what He kept both of men and living things in the ark through the death of the flood, and then He released them to fill the new world. So that what is illustrated here is that the old federal head Adam and all who were in Adam were rejected by God, and only the new federal head Noah and all who were in Noah would manifest new life with their seeds replenishing the entire earth.
Now those who were in the new earth of Noah’s day typify all who in the future day shall inherit the new heaven and the new earth because they are in Christ. The people who were in the ark represent the people of our day who are in Christ. Accordingly, all who are in Christ are those who shall be in the future new heaven and new earth. Those who were outside the ark of Noah represent those people who are in Adam, and therefore they are the people who will be judged by God in the future. On the other hand, those who had entered the ark were brought through the judgment of water and entered and filled the new earth. And this can explain how Christ is to fill the future new heaven and new earth.
“The ark rested . . . upon the mountains of Ararat.” Ararat means “holy land.” It thus stands for resurrection—the coming out of death.
It also speaks of the ascension of our Lord Jesus. As the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat, their tops were seen. It only awaited the moment for the ground to become dry. Likewise, we are today resting on the mountains of Ararat, having seen their peaks and waiting for the ground to dry. Because our Lord has died, been resurrected, and has ascended, we wait until God has finished His judgment upon the earth.
What we would like to focus on, however, is not this that we have briefly touched upon above, but rather to lay stress on the matter of baptism. We have seen what Noah did and how he and his family passed through death by entering and remaining in the ark until they inherited the new earth. In 1 Peter 3 we learn that the ark, in passing through water, expresses the act of New Testament baptism. The waters of the Deluge signify the water of baptism: “[who] that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (vv.20,21). How are we saved and what saves us? Baptism saves us. Are you surprised at my saying this? Does baptism indeed save people? May I frankly tell you that unless we are baptized we cannot be saved. For Peter likewise declared that the baptism as typified by the flood saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mark 16.16a declares that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
How we change Mark 16.16a to read: “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” The Bible, though, puts baptism before salvation. And thus we become confused. Our view is that only the saved can be baptized. Yet the word of God asserts that without baptism there is no salvation—that “he that . . . is baptized shall be saved.” In short, a person is saved because he has been baptized.
Please do not misunderstand the meaning of being saved through baptism. For the Bible tells us of various aspects of salvation, not just one. Justification, for example, is that aspect which emphasizes man’s position before God; the aspect of God’s acceptance of man emphasizes the difference between the believing ones and the sinners; forgiveness, the remission of our past transgressions; and eternal life, the disparity between us and death. But the aspect of salvation as represented by baptism emphasizes our relationship with the world. For salvation speaks not merely of our escaping hell in the future; according to its strictest interpretation, salvation points to our deliverance from the world today.
Who will know you are saved? Who will know you as being of Christ? You may readily say you are saved, yet you are not able to open yourself up and expose your faith to people. We as human beings are unable to see man’s inward faith. Only God can see faith in man. He knows you are already justified, accepted by Him, that your sins have been forgiven and you have received eternal life. But men do not know all this. James asserts that men cannot see faith; they can only see works. Hence the first work every Christian must do before men is to undergo baptism.
The first act before God is to “believe,” but the first act before men is to be “baptized.” To be baptized is to come out of the world and enter into Christ. It is to come out of the house and enter the ark. Baptism is a declaring—as Noah did in his day—that the judgment, wrath and punishment of God have fallen on the world because it resists and rejects Him. Baptism is also a declaring that we are not willing to be ranked among the people of the world but will come out of them and enter the Ark that God has prepared for us. Accordingly, baptism is not a ritual of having water sprinkled upon us or of our being immersed. It is rather a declaration that there is no longer any relationship between the world and us since you and I have been delivered from the world.
The real meaning of baptism lies in the fact that we who formerly lived in the world are now dead and shall never rise again because of the judgment which Jesus Christ has suffered for us. Though physically we are in the water for but one or two minutes, spiritually speaking, it means we shall never come up out of the water again. From the viewpoint of the world, we are hereafter separated forever from it. We have no part with it. Our parents, wives and children are dearest to us. Yet if they are dead, they will be put away. They will not be taken out of their graves and kept in their house with the living. Similarly, in the eyes of the world, Christians are looked upon as being dead and buried.
The world is composed of two sizeable federations: one is the men of the world, the other is the saved ones in Christ. To be saved is to come out of the world federation which opposes God, is sinful and unclean, and to enter into the Christ federation. And therefore, we must be baptized, because baptism can save. (Of course, one must first believe in the Lord; otherwise he cannot be saved). According to Mark 16.16, to be baptized is to be liberated. Baptism thus stands as a great liberating force from this world and all that is of it. Yet baptism is even more than a liberation, it is also an entry; through baptism we enter into Christ because it is a being baptized into His death.
The Bible declares that all who believe have eternal life. This fact of spiritual life is due to the blood of the Lord Jesus; and this is irrefutable. But to be saved from the world is due to our entering into the Ark of God. And baptism serves as a demonstration of the fact that we have indeed come out of the world federation. Should someone ask you, for example, if you have really believed in the Lord, you should say, “I truly do believe in the Lord Jesus, and through His blood my sins are forgiven.” For the Scriptures declare that “he that hath the Son hath the life” (1 John 5.12). You are very clear about this. But suppose you lose your temper and fight with some brothers. You may ask yourself after this incident whether you still believe and are saved. Your answer comes forth in the strongest affirmative, you not having the slightest doubt about it. Nevertheless, these brothers will doubt about your salvation. How is it? Let me now observe that many people are most certainly qualified to live in heaven but they are not qualified to live on earth. They are able to live before God but not competent to live at home. Allow me to say, therefore, that you should not permit people to baptize you merely on the ground of your saying you believe. You ought to know what baptism truly expresses before you are ever baptized. You ought to know you have been delivered from the world, because baptism is that action which declares to the entire world that you are no longer joined to it and are no longer standing with it because you have been emancipated from it. Baptism declares that henceforth you and I stand on the side of Christ.
I am not pressing you today to be baptized; I simply want you to understand before you receive baptism that the world federation and the Christ federation stand as opposing camps and that there is no ground of negotiation between them. Ages ago at the time of Noah, God had declared that the world was His enemy, that it was at enmity with Him. In the face of this reality, the salvation He provided was the ark; and all who entered it thereafter stood on God’s side, they having capitulated to Him. And hence the Bible quite amazingly explains to us that the entering of the ark in order to pass through the flood now signifies and expresses baptism.
I would consequently speak not merely to those who are yet to be baptized but to all brothers and sisters in Christ: Today many of you have already been baptized. Yet why were you baptized? Was it because baptism to you is only a church procedure? Merely a church ritual? Or perhaps a command of the Bible? Or even that it is an appropriate expression of a Christian? Or a matter of following what other Christians have done? In contrast to all these explanations, let us ever keep in mind that basically baptism is a turning our backs towards the world and a turning of our faces towards Christ. It is a leaving of the world federation and a joining with the Christ federation. And between these two—between the world and Christ—there is no middle ground. For let us not forget that there was a door in Noah’s ark. And that spiritually speaking, within the door is Christ but without the door is the world. If you would see this at your baptism, you would have no need for people to tell you how you must change a little here and change a little there. For your leaving the world is not as though it were a pulling out of a hair or two from your head, but a shaving off of all the hairs. Unfortunately, though, many believers have not seen this.
We are often thinking of how we may change this world; but God’s intent is to judge this world and give us a new one. No human ways such as religious doctrine, literature, science, philosophy or ethical teaching can change this world. God has shown us that in spite of the loveliness and enjoyment this world gives, it nonetheless is His enemy. So that if you are still loving this world and living according to the world, it is because you have hope that the world will change. Yet God has no other way to deal with the world than to judge it.
The world of Noah’s day became new through the washing judgment of the universal flood. In that day, God washed the world with water; and in the future day He will burn it with fire. Are we today like Lot who lingered in Sodom and Gomorrah which were ready to be burned? Or are we those who are unmoved by the world’s blandishments. How sad that many are like Lot’s wife living in and according to the world. Like her, are we the willing inhabitants of the earth, or are we those who let everything of this world pass us by because our expectation is the new heaven and the new earth where righteousness dwells?
“A light [a window] shalt thou make to the ark” (Gen. 6.16a). This Hebrew word here translated as “light” is used 24 times throughout the Old Testament, of which on 23 occasions it is translated as “noon” (that is to say, twelve noon)—although here it is translated as “light” or “window.” So that the light spoken of here does not signify a small amount of light but a fullness of light, which is to say that it bespeaks a living in the Light of God.
At this point I would say a few words to the unsaved. You need to realize that we humans cannot change the world. God will instead judge this world; such is quite certain. How, then, can you prepare to escape God’s judgment? Please note that the ark was pitched within and without with pitch. This word “pitch” in the original is the same Hebrew word translated as “atonement.” Hence the word “pitch” betokens the atoning of sin; in other words, it signifies the covering of sin. The pitching of the ark within and without with pitch speaks of the atonement made by the Lord Jesus. Having the ark pitched within and without means that through the atonement by the blood of Christ the lives inside the Ark of God—Christ himself—are preserved. Outside Noah’s ark—that is, in the world—was the flood, and all in the world died of that flood. Inside it, however, the ark was dry and clean. Spiritually speaking, today all our punishments have fallen on God’s Ark—Christ—while none has fallen on us. Whoever looks for peace, forgiveness and salvation has but one way to go: to walk into the divine Ark.
Although the world is full of the judgment of God, you who are believers should know that Noah’s ark had been pitched within and without with pitch, which today represents the redemptive work of Christ. And if you are in the Ark of God, not a drop of God’s judgment on the world will fall on you. Suppose someone in the ark of old—say, the wife of Japheth or Noah’s wife—had wept and cried aloud, “What if the ark should leak or sink?” We would today laugh at her! Yet let me ask you, If you consider the redemptive work of Christ to be real, if you believe the Lord Jesus was crucified to redeem you, why, then, do you not dare to say you are saved?—why are you still uneasy? For perhaps you too speculate, What if the blood of the Lord Jesus should lose its effectiveness? What if the divine Ark should leak? If this is your thinking, then I need to ask you if you really do trust in the finished work of Christ.
Once a person came to Dwight L. Moody with tears in his eyes. When asked the reason, he answered, “I am afraid of perishing. I have believed in the Lord but what must I do in order not to perish?” Mr. Moody responded by observing that the Bible makes clear that “he that believeth hath eternal life” (John 6.47), that “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6.37), that “he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him” (Heb.7.25). Moody used Scripture verses like these while he talked with the man, but after two or three hours this man’s problem was still unresolved. He insisted he truly believed in the Lord but that he was afraid of perdition. To which Moody replied: “Now I am beginning to think you are like one of Noah’s daughters-in-law who might have cried in the ark out of fear lest it leaked.” Upon hearing this, the man retorted by saying: “Mister, there is no such thing, for the ark is unleakable!” “But you are that very person,” said Moody, “who cries in the ark of safety because you are afraid it may leak.” Now as the man heard this, he immediately understood the implication and realized how faithless he had been.
The Lord Jesus is able to save to the very end all who approach God through Him. There is no difference between the wise and the foolish. To be saved or to remain unsaved depends on whether or not one is in God’s ark. It has nothing to do with whether a person is most wise or most foolish, whether one is wealthy or quite poor. Those are not relevant issues at all because the one and only question is, are you or are you not in God’s Ark of Refuge? Those who depend on the work of Christ and enter the divine Ark are saved. As many lives as there are today in the ark—that is, in Christ—exactly that many will be those who are kept by God in the future.
If you want to be a real Christian, you must—like Noah and his family—be in God’s ark and not on the ground. You cannot be saved by your works. But you must tell the Lord, “Whatever is of the world is not mine, for I stand on Your side.” Alas, many have believed in the Lord, yet they have not severed themselves from whatever comes from the world. May you be faithful to what you have done at baptism.
Finally, let us be clear that the water of baptism does not save, it is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus which saves. Baptism is that which expresses our salvation. The blood of the Lord Jesus saves us before God, and the water of baptism saves us from the world.
The Meaning of Baptism
Grace for Grace, 49-65, CFP, Watchman Nee
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name. (Acts 22.16)
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6.3,4)
What Baptism Means
What is the meaning of baptism? What is the teaching of the Bible concerning baptism? What is the emphasis? Why does the word of God command us to be baptized? Before answering these questions, let us first ask why we usually wash ourselves in water? It is because of the fear of physical uncleanness. Dust and dirt may be on our body, so we wash them away. No one will go to the water to wash in order to make himself unclean. People wash in water to get clean; otherwise they will not go into water. Hence, the Bible teaches that the first meaning of baptism is to wash oneself clean. If it were not for cleansing, we would not be baptized.
We should also ask why we throw things into the water. Why do you cast the garbage into the water? Because you want to get rid of it. And the Bible makes clear that the second meaning of baptism is to be buried. You do not want it anymore, therefore you bury it.
Wash Away Sins
In the passage we have quoted from the book of Acts, it records how Ananias was sent by the Holy Spirit with a clear vision and with the word of God to Saul: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” So then, why be baptized? The purpose is clearly to wash away one’s sins.
However, this Scripture verse can easily be misunderstood. Sometime ago two brothers came from the north of the River Yangtze and asked me about washing away sins. Suppose a person is not baptized, they asked; are his sins unwashed? Many other people have the same misapprehension. The Bible plainly says, Wash away your sins. What does it mean?
Furthermore, the Bible not only denies that baptism is merely a ritual, it also reveals to us that baptism is a testimony. Why do people go into the water? That they may testify before God and men and angels and Satan that they have believed in Jesus and that what Christ has accomplished is true, perfect and trustworthy. This is what baptism expresses and testifies.
Ananias called Saul to rise up and be baptized. Why? For the sake of washing away his sins. Yet Ananias did not suggest that baptism could get rid of sins, for it is not water baptism itself that washes away sins but it is the reality which baptism expresses and testifies to that washes away sins. The water of the whole earth cannot wash away one single sin, yet what the water of baptism represents and testifies to—even the blood of the Lord Jesus—is able to wash away all sins. Have you believed? If you have, arise and be baptized to wash away your sins.
It ought to be clearly realized that none who in God’s eyes is unclean and whose sins are unforgiven may be baptized. No one who is ignorant of his sins being forgiven and of his having eternal life can be baptized. It is not right for such a one to be baptized. Every one who goes into the baptismal waters is to testify to what he knows. What is testimony? To testify is to bear witness to what is seen and known. First seeing, then testifying. He who has not seen cannot testify. For this reason, one must know his sins forgiven through the washing by the blood of the Lord before he can testify of this reality before men.
Such being the case, infant baptism is improper. If the baptized one is not able to testify, his baptism is void. The baptism of a person who is baptized in unbelief or before believing in the Lord Jesus does not count. Only the one who can testify to the fact that his sins are forgiven is qualified to be baptized. For what he does in the water bears witness to what Christ has accomplished.
What should one do after he knows he is saved and his sins are forgiven? He should testify. How? Where? The first testimony is given in the water of baptism. For this testimony is made before God and men and angels and Satan to the effect that his sins are forgiven, they are washed away. This is therefore the first meaning of baptism as well as its condition.
The Two Sides of Sin
Whatever the Bible teaches is most amazing. Sin has its two sides just as the way God deals with man’s sin is also two-sided. One side of sin is towards God, and the other side of sin is in us. The sin before God needs to be forgiven and washed by Him, while the sin within us must be overcome and delivered. As regards the sin before God, the Lord Jesus has borne our sins; as regards the sin within us, we must reckon ourselves as dead to it. For the sin before God, there is the washing of the blood of the Lord; for the sin in us, there is the deliverance of the cross of the Lord. The sin before God requires God’s forbearance and forgiveness; the sin in us demands liberty and emancipation.
We will not go into the nature of these two sides of sin at this time, but we will focus on the effects of these two sides of sin. First, then, the sin before God. Such sin will cause you to lose peace in your heart. As you think of judgment, hell, death, and the end of human life, you know you have sinned before God. When you reflect on the holiness, righteousness and the determinate will of God, you tremble in fear. All who have not believed in the Lord Jesus as Savior will have such experience. If you do not, I pity you because you are so insensitive and ignorant of your danger. All who ponder a little on hell, death, eternity, judgment and sin will doubtless have no peace and they are fearful even of thinking about punishment, death and the final end.
Yet man has sin in him as well as sin before God. Once a seminary student told his professor that he found a new thing in the Bible, even the truth of sin. The professor responded this way: “Why, you have just found the truth of sin in the Bible today? I had already found it in my own heart!” One does not need to discover the reality of sin in the Bible, he can find it in his heart. Everybody can prove that sin is not only before God but is also within him.
Suppose you frequently lose your temper. You rationalize that outside things stir you up. Actually, it is not any outside thing, it is a fire within you which often breaks out. You try to suppress it but you cannot. As opportunity arises, it explodes. When an explosive explodes, it cannot blame an outside fire; it has the explosive material within. Sin comes out of the heart. Many theorize that their mind being unclean and full of sins is the result of their being tempted by the pornography they read. But may I ask you if your heart is wholly pure when you are under the purest environment?
Sin dwells in man and is deeply rooted. Many sinners love to gamble and smoke opium not because they are drawn by outside things but because they are compelled by the sin resident within them. Sin will receive its punishment before God, but the sin within has power over you to force you to do things you do not want to do. You may exercise your will power to suppress it for a while, but as soon as it has opportunity it will explode forth. This is the actual situation of man: sin reigns within: it has power to impel us to do what we would not want to do, because we are its slaves.
The Two Sides of Deliverance
Just as sin has its two sides—before God and in man—so deliverance has its two sides too. Sin has its penalty and power, therefore salvation consists of two sides as well. Yet this is not two deliverances but two sides of one deliverance. The Lord saves us from the fear of penalty, the accusation of the conscience, and all agitations; at the same time, He delivers us from the power of sin. And thus His salvation is complete. He saves us from the penalty imposed by God and He delivers us from the power of sin in us.
How does the Lord die for us in order to affect these two sides of sin? The Bible tells us that he who sins must die. But the sinless Lord Jesus bore the penalty of death for us. He shed His blood to redeem us and to wash away all our sins before God. The blood of Christ has washed us. It is most amazing that the Bible never says that the blood of Christ washed our heart. Hebrews 9.14 observes this: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Notice that it does not say the blood cleanses the heart, it only cleanses the conscience.
What is the conscience? It is that which accuses within us, telling us we are wrong, therefore deserving of death and perdition. The blood of Christ cleanses our conscience so that we are no longer being accused by it, thus securing peace. His blood causes us to know that although our sins are worthy of punishment, Christ has died for these sins and has fulfilled the righteousness of God. However, no one by the cleansing of the blood is transformed to be morally good and sin no more, thereby becoming free from sin. For the blood of Christ can only cleanse us before God and eliminate the accusation of the conscience; it does not wash our heart and make it so clean that sin no longer is hidden in us. The blood of the Lord is objective, not subjective, in its effect. It does not cleanse the heart; it cleanses the conscience.
Men are all defiled and corrupted. Through the blood of Christ, sins are forgiven and the penalty of sins is paid. But the Bible never tells us that the blood can eradicate the power of sin. This is that other side of which we spoke earlier. The word of God tells us, on the one side, of the blood of Christ and on the other side, of the cross of Christ. Blood speaks of death, and so, too, does the cross. Yet blood is related to penalty, for it deals with man’s sins before God; but the cross deals with the power of sin within us. It is through the cross that our heart is purified and is made capable of overcoming sin.
Let us reiterate the difference between the cross and the blood. The blood of Christ takes away our sins before God, whereas the cross of Christ deals with the sin that is in us. Be aware, however, that the cross does not crucify the sin in us. Many advocates of holiness err here. The cross of Christ does not crucify sin. Nowhere in the Scripture can anyone find a verse saying that the cross crucifies sin. Then what does the cross crucify? The Lord was crucified on it. The Bible also says our old man was crucified there as well. It was not the powerful sin that was crucified, but it was the old man—who loved to be directed by sin—that was crucified. It was not the root of sin which was eradicated, but it was the old man—who was so intimate with the root of sin—that was crucified by the Lord. Let me tell you the good news today: that when Christ was crucified, not only He himself was crucified, but God also had the corrupted and defiled you and me crucified with Him. We were crucified with Him!
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Rom. 6.6). Notice that what is said here is that the old man was crucified with Christ, not that sin was crucified with Him. Have you not heard people say that sin may be crucified or that the root of sin may be eradicated? Let us recognize that there is no such thing.
In this verse in Romans, we see three things: (1) the old man; (2) the body of sin—that is to say, the body that sins; and (3) sin. It also tells us of three important matters: (1) that our old man was crucified with Christ, (2) that the aim was that the body of sin might be done away, and (3) that the result would be that I should no longer be in bondage to sin. Thus, with the old man crucified, I should no longer sin nor will to sin. But sin itself will not have died, sin itself is yet alive.
Let me illustrate it as follows: Here are the three things: the old man, sin, and the body of sin. Sin is like a master, the old man is like a steward, and the body is like a puppet. Sin has no authority nor power to direct the body of sin to sin. As a master, sin directs the old man, and with the consent of the old man the body is made a puppet. As long as the old man is alive, it stands between the body at the outside and sin on the inside. When the inward sin tempts the old man and stirs up its lusts, the old man gives an order to the body to commit sin. The body is rather weak; it will do whatever it is made to do. It has no sovereignty of its own, nor can it do anything on its own. It does whatever the old man orders it to do. Now though, the Lord comes to rescue us. He does not kill our body nor does He eradicate the root of sin, He instead has our old man crucified with Him.
Consequently, only two out of the three things mentioned in Romans 6.6 are left; the body is at the outside and sin is on the inside. But now, in the middle, a new person has taken over the position formerly held by the old man. So that today in order to induce the body to sin, the sin within must come to tempt the new man, trying to stir up lust; but the new man will not listen to it nor agree with its suggestion. Formerly the old man contemplated a love and desire for sin; but now the new man will have nothing to do with sin nor will it respond to its demand. And thus, the body is not able to practice sin.
Let us look at Romans 6.6 further. We know that sin is most corrupt in its nature, so we all hope to have it eradicated from our body. Nevertheless, we do not realize that the existence of the root of sin or the existence of the devil actually has nothing to do with whether or not we bear the fruit of holiness in our lives. What is actually at the bottom of it all is our old man. Each time we find ourselves tempted, stirred and committed to sin, it is all because our old man is alive. However, the Lord has already had our old man crucified with Him.
What is the aim of having the old man crucified? It is just this: “that the body of sin might be done away.” In the original Greek, the word translated “done away” actually means “disemployed”; which signifies that without the old man, the body of sin is disabled from doing anything. Formerly the body of sin daily worked according to the order of the old man. Sinning appeared to be its profession. Apart from sinning, the body seems to have had nothing else to do because the old man loved sin too much; and hence, the body simply followed suit and became the body of sin. But now the old man has been dealt with by the Lord by it having been crucified with Him on the cross, and thus the body of sin has become unemployed. Formerly, when the old man was still alive, the body of sin daily sinned as though sinning was its profession, its job. Thank the Lord, the irrepressible old man, the old man of you and me, has been crucified! And the body of sin is now unemployed! Even though sin still exists and attempts to be master, yet you and I are no longer its bondman. In spite of its repeated efforts to cause the body to sin, the new man, under the dominion of the Holy Spirit, will not cooperate. Consequently, sin has now no way to cause the body to sin. The Bible shows us that the result of having the old man crucified and the body of sin unemployed is “that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin.”
The old man is dead; therefore, we can overcome sin completely. The blood of Christ was shed to save us from our sins before God and to cleanse our conscience from accusation. It tells us that we are now no longer people of perdition but are those instead who have peace with God. However, if we only know this aspect of salvation, our daily living will still be miserable. Though we know our sins are forgiven, we yet continue to make sinning our profession. We still cannot overcome sin in our daily living, nor can we bear the fruit of holiness. We are forced to sin daily; we have no peace in our hearts; and our communion with God is frequently interrupted. We know we are saved and have eternal life, but such sinning daily deprives us of the joy of salvation. Thank God, though, that the salvation of the Lord is no half-way measure. The Lord sheds His blood to cleanse us from our sins, and His cross sets aside the old man and delivers us from the power of sin.
Please be assured continually of this fact that each believer is dead as to the old man, yet not by his committing suicide. Some preach that each Christian ought to put himself to death in order not to sin again. Such counsel, however, is an error, simply because that at the time when the Lord Jesus was crucified, He brought us to the cross with Him as well. Let me ask you today if you are dead. Let me say that you and I can thank the Lord together for His having already crucified this hard-to-deal-with and impossible-to-kill old man of ours. Thank and praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
I wonder if we really know how utterly corrupted we are! I know I am most corrupted. How many times I was oppressed by the power of sin; how I longed that I would die. But sadly I could not put myself to death. Later on, I began to see that when the Lord was crucified, He put my old man to death with Him that the body of sin might no longer be in bondage to sin. And how happy I am today!
Due to the work of Christ, sin has been trampled beneath my feet, for it now has no power over me. I praise and thank the Lord!
Please recognize that your sin cannot be gotten rid of through prayer, Bible reading, piety, worship, self-restraint, or suffering. It is only the Lord who can do this, and who has already done it when He took your old man with Him to the cross that you might be delivered. Always remember this: that the blood deals with our sins before God while the cross deals with the old man.
What, then, should be our attitude toward sin? “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6.11). Some think we should reckon sin to be dead; but let me tell you that it is not a matter of reckoning sin as dead but one of reckoning self as having already been crucified.
However, many believers do not understand why it is that their experience does not bear out the fact that since the Lord has already had their old man crucified, their body of sin ought today to be unemployed and that they should no longer be in bondage to sin in their daily lives. Yet they still continue to sin, they still are not freed from the dominion of sin, and their body is still busily driven to commit sins. Why is this so? It is because in spite of what the Lord has accomplished for us in His perfect salvation, we have not yet accepted His work and believed in what He has accomplished, and taken His victory by faith. He has indeed crucified our old man, but we have not single-mindedly believed that the old man was crucified, for we continue to consider our old man to be alive.
It is in view of this very situation that Paul after telling us in Romans 6.6 the fact of salvation, shows us in Romans 6.11 what we should do. Romans 6.6 states that our old man was crucified; verse 11 reasons that if the Lord has already had the old man crucified, then we must now reckon it as truly dead, thus unable to force us any longer to sin. We may now therefore say to sin: my old man is dead, I am consequently no longer your slave. It is impossible for us ever to see sin die or our lusts die. Sin is far more vigilant and active than we are. And as soon as there is opportunity, it will attempt to lay its hand on us. It will never die. Nevertheless, it need not be feared, for our old man is dead. We may overcome sin not by our reckoning sin to be dead, but by believing the accomplished work of Christ in our reckoning our old man to be dead indeed.
How do we reckon? Perhaps a basic lesson in arithmetic can be helpful here. Two plus two equals four. Why do we reckon it as four? Simply because two plus two is really four. Hence the command of Romans 6.11 to reckon ourselves to be dead does not at all mean to imply—much like the Chinese proverb which says, “Consider yourself as having died yesterday”—that we, not really having died, are nonetheless to imagine ourselves as dead. No, the death of our old man has already been carried out by God; therefore, we reckon it as indeed most real. Reckoning simply means that since God has reckoned me as crucified, I therefore also reckon myself to be dead. I reckon two plus two as four because it is neither three nor five but in truth four. God says I was crucified; I believe this word, so I acknowledge myself to be dead. Faith is merely saying what God himself has said. God has declared my sins have been forgiven, so I also declare my sins have truly been forgiven. God has declared I have died, hence I too acknowledge and declare myself to have died. Christians who stand daily on the ground of what God has said in Romans 6 are able to overcome all sins. There is not a single sin which cannot be overcome, because the Lord has crucified our old man.
Now let us return to our original subject of baptism. Why are we baptized? The cleansing of sin is one side, and I being dead is the other side. Since my sins have been washed clean, I should be baptized to testify to the fact of sins cleansed. But then, too, because my old man is dead, I should also be baptized to testify to the fact that my old man is actually dead. What is the first thing done after death? Would anyone retain the corpse many days for viewing? After so many days the corpse will probably start to decay. Last year a sister among us died. We really missed her, but we could not retain her body. Since a person is dead, there is no use for the dead body, and so we bury it. Burying testifies to the fact that the buried one is dead.
Suppose you have a dear one whom you love as your own self. But he is sick almost unto death. He still exhibits some pulse and some breath, though he lies motionless and speechless. Would you put him in a coffin? No you would not. Why? Because you do not believe he is dead. When do you bury your most beloved parents, wife, or friend? Only when you know he or she is dead and cannot ever live anymore do you bury that person. If there is a thread of hope, you will not bury that one. But after the loved one is dead and beyond hope, you can do nothing more but to bury that person.
The Bible tells us that after our co-crucifixion with Christ we need to be buried with Him too. The biblical meaning of baptism is not only a cleansing but also a burial. We must be baptized because in so doing we testify to the fact that we believe we are dead. Hence we ask someone to bury us beneath the waters of baptism. This confirms our belief that we have died. Anyone who does not believe that he is dead should not be baptized. For this would be a burying him alive! He who is baptized must believe he was crucified with Christ. How do you express your faith? How do you testify to the completed work of Christ? Through baptism. When you are buried in the water and are baptized, you express your faith (1) in the cleansing of your sins through the blood of Christ and (2) in the co-crucifixion of your old man with Christ on the cross. You believe the fact; therefore, you receive baptism to prove you are now cleansed and dead.
Hence the condition of baptism is two-fold. The Bible not only tells us to rise up and be baptized to wash away our sins because we believe God has already atoned for our sins and cleansed them; it also tells us to rise up and be buried in the water because we believe we are dead. Not only sins washed away, but also the person buried out of sight. Sins are washed away, and the person is likewise washed away. Such is the meaning as well as the testimony of baptism.
As you read this, are you able to bear such testimony? I really have no need to persuade you to be baptized. If you have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus and your sins have not been forgiven, I hope you will quickly believe. If you have believed but still are ignorant that sin can be completely overcome, then you ought to know that our Lord has already had you crucified with Him. Now, nothing can tempt you to sin, for you can overcome all sins. With a believing heart, stand on Romans 6, believing yourself to be dead. What can sin therefore do to you? Believers must stand on Romans 6.6 and 6.11 in order to overcome sin. Reckon yourself to be dead, then prayer and Bible reading will be effective.
Anyone who believes the blood of Christ has cleansed him of his sins and also believes his old man was crucified with Christ, let him rise up and be baptized.