Some time ago, I read about a preacher who preached a funeral sermon and said over and over, “All I can say about the deceased is that he was baptized.” The preacher was accused of “preaching the man to torment.” Of course, what the preacher said had nothing to do with the man’s eternal destiny. Preachers are not judges and neither send people to torment nor to paradise! What the preacher did was emphasize for the living that simply being baptized does not stamp your ticket to heaven.
The sixth chapter of Romans shows that baptism is not only the end of something, but also the beginning of something. We “died to sin” when we were “buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (v. 4). When we die to sin, we not only escape slavery to sin, we also become “slaves of righteousness” (v. 18), and must produce “fruit to holiness” (v. 22).
In baptism, we are “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). Baptism is the instrument of circumcision (it does not take the place of circumcision). Paul described it this way: “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:11,12).
Another way to describe baptism is a new birth. Jesus said one must be “born of water and the Spirit” in order to enter the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). Paul described the same process as being “sanctified with the washing of of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). The person who is baptized in obedience to the word of God is in the kingdom (Jn. 3:5), or the church (Eph. 5:26). Another way the Bible describes it is “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). When a person is in Christ, he is a “new creation (creature), old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Jesus said “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (Jn. 15:2). What will happen to the one who has simply been baptized and does not produce fruit? “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (Jn. 15:6). We are “in the vine” (Christ) when we are baptized into Him, but branches in Christ are expected to bear fruit. We bear fruit in personal growth as well as in teaching others.
Peter said newborn babes should “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). How is your appetite? Simply being baptized does not make one grow up in Christ. Growing must follow the birth!