January 1, 1991 Issue
by Richard DeGough

In all of God's word, there is probably no other subject that has produced more interest among the religious minded than water baptism (immersion). It has been the subject of controversy on the polemic platform of the past, and in some quarters remains so until this day.

In the early days of the Restoration Period the sectarian world waged a battle against the reformers when they were fervently calling men and women back to the Bible, and asking for a "thus saith the Lord" for every practice in religion. Men were accustomed to their creeds, and were very reluctant to give them up and accept the word of God as their only guide and authority in religion. There is no doubt that the "doctrines and commandments of men" had obscured the truth concerning many subjects, and especially water baptism. Centuries of apostacy from the Word of God has clouded multitudes from having a proper understanding about baptism. It seems to me that of all the subjects of the Bible, baptism is the one that has had sufficient light shed upon it and should not be misunderstood by anyone. But, in this modern day there is not only misunderstanding, it is held in contempt, and blatant unbelief by the masses. May I say that it is even being questioned by some in the Lord's church who are giving up on the "good fight of faith," and "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints." (I Tim 6:12, Jude 3)

To the Romans Paul wrote: " have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Rom 6:17-18 What form of doctrine did they obey? The word form is also translated "1ikeness" or "mold." In Romans 6:5 Paul said; "For if we have been planted together in the "likeness" of his death, we shall be also in the "likeness" of his resurrection." The word planted is translated "united." How, then, are we united with Him in the likeness of his death and resurrection? The answer is baptism. Paul said: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:3-4) When we are baptized there is a likeness of his death; so also there is a likeness of his resurrection.

But Paul said the form of doctrine they obeyed was "delivered" them. And they became free from sin by obeying from the heart that form of doctrine, that is, the likeness of it into which they had been delivered. Macknight comments: "The original word (tupos) among other things, signifies a mold into which melted metals are poured to receive the form of the mold. The apostle represents the gospel doctrine as a mold, into which the Romans were put by their baptism, in order to their being fashioned anew. And he thanks God that from the heart--that is, most willingly and sincerely--they yielded to the forming efficacy of that mold of doctrine, and were made new men, both in principle and in practice." The form of doctrine or teaching they obeyed was the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Christ Jesus. Paul wrote the Corinthians saying he had declared unto them the gospel. They had received it, were standing therein and saved by it. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." (I Cor 15:1-4) We are not baptized into the literal death of Christ, but into the benefits of his death, including the freedom from sin. "Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom 6:6) To be dead to sin is to be separated from it, and that separation takes place in baptism. "For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Rom 6:7) If a slave dies he is free from service to his master. If a slave of sin dies to sin, he is free from service to that master. Sin rules him no more. So, we are baptized into Christ, "baptized into his death," resulting in his being raised to "walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:3-4) We, having been made free, "became the servants of righteousness." (Rom 6:18) Finally, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."(Rom 6:11)

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