If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. Colossians 3:1-7NKJV
I love baptisms. Not only are they instituted and commanded by our Lord Jesus, but ultimately they are for our good. Before I came to the covenantal view of baptism, I thought baptism was a personal experience. I still do believe it is a ‘one time, means of grace event’. But the question I pose: How does a ‘covenantal’ view of baptism transform us from spectators to participants? In other words, when I witness someone else’s baptism, what does that mean for me? Is there a responsibility on my part? Larger Catechism 167 uses very specific language:
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others…by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to…by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body. (Passim)
Colossians is extremely helpful concerning this subject. The Apostle Paul in Col. 2:12 has already informed the Church they have been ‘buried with Christ in baptism, and raised through faith’ (Rom. 6:4 as well). These believers are crucified, hidden, and now they are alive together through Jesus Christ. After laying this foundational principle, Paul now encourages them to seek, treasure, and set their minds upon that which is above. Here are a few things to keep in mind while participating in a baptism service. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some practical things we should observe during the sacrament of baptism.
You were buried with Christ in baptism– Paul begins by saying in vs. 1, ‘if you were then raised with Christ’. It should go without saying, but the old ‘you’ is dead. You are a new creation in Christ (II Cor. 5:17). You are now hidden in Christ. It is no longer you that live, but Christ that lives in you. We were all once among the ‘sons of disobedience (vs.7), and the full and eternal wrath of God was our inheritance. Yet, God, who is rich in mercy and abundant in love has delivered us through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. This Jesus who saved us now sits at the right hand of the Father and ever lives to make intercession for His Bride.
Baptism reminds us to put sin to death– We are called to mortify our members. In the literal sense, this means the old man or body of sin still dwelling in you must be put to death on a daily basis. Christianity is bloody. The Bible actually gives us a checklist of things to watch for: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (which is idolatry). As we improve our baptism we need to examine our own hearts and see if there is any wicked way within us. Is there some goal or thing in this world which has occupied my heart instead of Jesus? Is there some sin that I refuse to kill? We are called to cut off and pluck out anything which causes us to sin.
Baptism reminds us to long for things above– Jesus told us: ‘Lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. So often, we labor and long for that which will ultimately pass away. In baptism, we are reminded of an eternal soul that needs to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. And for those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, we must check our hearts. As Christians, we are told to pursue these things: tender feelings of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and, above all, put on love. At the end of the day, baptism points us to Jesus. We need to pursue and put on Jesus Christ who is all in all.
The next time you participate in a baptism service, remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. Meditate on the grace and mercy extended to us who were once ‘the sons of disobedience’. Ask yourself what areas of your life need to be strengthened through walking by faith. Pray that God would reveal to you what remaining sin needs to be put to death. Finally, never forget to consider where your treasure is. In our culture of the here and now, we can so easily forget about what is to come. And we should believe our Lord; the best is yet to come. But we must prepare for it today.