Paul writes, regarding the Scriptures, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:3-4). Thus, not merely for the sake of knowledge, nor for use in warfare, but for comfort, God has graciously caused men to take his word and record it in written form rather than simply leave it to be shared orally.
For me, one of the Scriptures that gives me comfort does so because it grounds my relationship with God in Christ outside of myself. Romans 6:3-4 takes what might seem to be a grisly and demanding subject and, because of its connection to who I am and because of the topic it discusses – Christ’s death and its meaning for us, makes it a great comfort when I am attacked by the enemy’s efforts to separate me from Christ and from the Church so that he might devour me. For this to make sense, it might be helpful for me to introduce this passage to you:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3–4).
Many Christians seem to prefer to pass quickly over Christ’s death, preferring to park at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I understand that, especially when we consider the illustrations that we see of Christ after the resurrection. His wounds, though present, are no longer bloody, his face, no longer marked by the fists and whips of Roman and Jewish torturers, is restored to the calm, serene strength that we are accustomed to seeing. But it is Christ’s death to which I am united in holy baptism: the rite and ritual that establishes, by the very word and promise of God, that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13).
The fact that baptism specifically unites me to Christ in his death means that I share in his sufferings in my identity, not in my activity.
It is this power that God has committed to baptism, expressed in this passage, that comforts me as I go through life in a world that is fixated on death and destruction. Daily we receive reports regarding the continued presence of the COVID-19 pestilence. Daily, we hear about the continued unrest and demands for transformation related to the issue of race-based slavery and its aftermath. Daily, we hear about protests for liberty on both sides of the political spectrum which call not upon the gracious benevolence of our Heavenly King, but upon the ability of humans to remove all sources of pain or discomfort, even verbal ones.
The fact that baptism specifically unites me to Christ in his death means that I share in his sufferings in my identity, not in my activity. I don’t have to suffer to share in his sufferings; I only have to be his, which is what he promises in Holy Baptism.
In baptism, Christ’s payment of body and blood, given for you, is applied to you, the individual, as it brings you into the household of faith, the communion of saints. Baptism makes being “in Christ,” one of the ways that Paul loves to describe our relationship to God through faith in his beloved son, the reality that both defines who we are and shapes what our lives should be. We can look to this fact when the storms of life rage about us, and we are tempted to sink beneath its waves, surrendering to the maws of Satan as he does his best to convince us that he has the lion-like power to devour.
Because even the little children can come to Christ, or more accurately, that he comes to them, in the waters and words of Holy Baptism, means that Christ truly is sufficient for all. This passage puts my safety in Christ’s nail-scarred hands instead of my strength, either of will or character. It gives me an anchor that truly is steadfast because I do not control it. Christ’s death and burial are not subject to my ability to believe in them, feel them, or even articulate them. His death and burial are not the stuff of legends; they are the naked truth of the cost and penalty of sin. His crucifixion shows how truly God took flesh and dwelt among us, how completely he “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7).
This passage puts my safety in Christ’s nail-scarred hands instead of my strength, either of will or character.
“As Christ was raised from the dead,” so now we look forward to death, not as the end of life, but as the end of the threat of destruction. Because he is risen, life has meaning and purpose. Romans 6:3-4 tells me that my life is included in that great, divine-human purpose. In our better moments, we long to be connected to something greater than ourselves. To some of us, our contemporary history gives us the opportunity to live through a time of heroic focus like World War II or the Civil Rights Movement. Yet this will fall short, because “this too shall pass,” one way or another. We cannot sustain this kind of anxious pressure for change, if for no other reason than the fact that “it is appointed to man once to die.” Whether by the hand of pestilence, violence, accident, or the simple claim that the dust has upon our mortal bodies, we will die.
Because Christ died for us, and baptism unites us to him in that great and holy sacrifice, I am comforted today, tomorrow, and always. Every day, he reminds me of my baptism and the power of his word to bring into being the things that the world, the flesh, and the devil say are not, to the praise of his glorious grace.