"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation... all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). As a new born baby sees a chair, a table, a brother or sister, for the very first time, so do we after baptism. It is so hard for us to appreciate the newness of everything to a baby or small child. " All things are become new" in our attitude of mind after baptism. Yet we live in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), as if this process of birth is ongoing throughout our spiritual lives. After baptism, therefore, we set out on a life in which we should be gazing, in wide eyed wonder, at new spiritual concepts and realities. How patient we should be with others who are in this position. "Old things are passed away" at baptism, just as the old world order will " pass away" at the Lord's return (Rev. 21:5). The dramatic change that will come upon this planet in the Kingdom should therefore be paralleled in our new spiritual vistas after baptism, and throughout the process of being re-born and becoming a new creation. Nothing exists in the same light as it did before baptism. Yet we would all admit that this is not totally true of how we see or saw things after baptism. The reason is because at baptism, the life of newness just began; we were born, but we must grow now to maturity. The challenge goes out to us all our mortal lives to more zealously and fundamentally allow God's word to make us new.
Israel's passing through the Red Sea was an undoubted type of baptism and the new creation (1 Cor. 10:1). God brought them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea baptism, " and brought you unto myself" (Ex. 19:4). It was as if God was waiting for them there, in the wilderness; as He waits to receive every man or woman who passes through the waters of baptism. Time and again they were bidden look back to their exodus/ Red Sea experience. In times of dire spiritual failure or sluggish indifference to their God, as well as at their pinnacles of faith, the Spirit in the prophets directed their minds back to these things- either by explicit statement, or by indirect allusion. We too, as the baptized new Israel, ought to likewise look back to our baptism with an ever-increasing appreciation.
The Red Sea was parted by a great wind, or Spirit, from God- pointing forward to how the path to baptism is created by the work of the Spirit in a person’s life, so that we are born of water and Spirit (Jn. 3:3-5). The new creation is modelled on the natural creation, again brought about by God’s Spirit. But much of the creation record doesn’t actually talk about God creating things out of nothing, ex nihilo. Rather did He create situations where life and growth was possible. Thus the light was revealed, the waters were gathered together to reveal dry land, and we read that “the earth brought forth…” and not something like “God caused the plants to grow”. The earth as it were cooperates with God to bring forth fruit. The same is true in the spiritual creation- God doesn’t force spiritual growth, rather does His Spirit enable the environments for it to occur; in another figure, He does all that could be thought of so that His vineyard brings forth good fruit (Is. 5). We of course may be tempted to doubt this, considering that if only this or that situation in our lives were different, we would be enabled to grow spiritually. But God knows best, and His Spirit works in various ways to provide [by ‘providence’] the best situation for our growth and new creation. There is a very positive feel in the record of the natural creation- each creative action is concluded with the comment “And it was so”- literally, “it was Yes” (Hebrew). This same positive upward spiral will be found in lives which submit to God’s new creation.
The New Testament principles outlined above are founded in several Old Testament types.
Israel crossing the Red Sea is one of the most well-known types of baptism / the new creation (1 Cor.10:1). They were being chased by the Egyptians, and were trapped against the sea. The only way of escape was for that water to open and allow them to go through it. If any Israelite had refused to go through, there would have been no salvation. Going further, it is evident that the people of Israel as a body were going through the death and resurrection experience of the Lord Jesus, through the process of the Passover and Exodus through the Red Sea:
|Ate Passover (Ex. 12:6)||
|Died on the cross as Passover lambs slain|
|Left Egypt the next day (Num. 33:3)||
|Journeyed three days (Ex. 8:27)||
|Jesus three days in the tomb|
|Came through the Red Sea||
As we come out of the baptismal water, we really are united with the resurrected Lord- a new creation. His newness of life, His deliverance and successful exodus from the world- all this becomes ours. Israel were slaves in Egypt, and then after the Red Sea baptism became slaves of God. Ps. 68:18 pictures them as a train of captives being led out of Egypt, merging into the image of a train of a captivity led into a different captivity. Romans 6 powerfully brings home the point: we were slaves of sin, but now are become slaves of righteousness.
Noah entering the ark (representing Christ; 1 Pet. 3:21) is equally powerful; it was no use standing near the ark when the rain came. The only way of escape was through being inside the ark.
Col. 2:11 speaks of circumcision as another type of baptism, in that only the circumcised were in covenant with God. " The uncircumcised...that soul shall be cut off from his people" (Gen. 17:14). We either " cut off" the flesh, or God will cut us off. He who would not accept Jesus as Messiah in Messiah were to be “destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:25), using a very similar phrase to the LXX of Gen. 17:14, where the uncircumcised man was to be “cut off from his people”.
Tit. 3:5-7 implies that the priests washing in the laver also typified baptism: " They shall wash with water, that they die not" (Ex. 30:20). All God's people are priests, in a sense (1 Pet. 2:5,9); the washing of baptism is an absolute necessity before we can be God's priestly people.
These Old Testament types were related to entering into covenant with God. Having crossed the Red Sea, God sealed His covenant with Israel at Sinai. After emerging from the ark, God made a covenant with Noah. And circumcision was the entry point of covenant relationship with God. The record of these Old Testament occurrences also brings out the converse- what happened to all those who were not in covenant with God, who had not received the typical 'baptism'. The unbaptized Egyptians were " cut off" " (Ex. 9:15); " all flesh" that was not baptized into the Christ-ark was " cut off" (Gen. 9:15). " The uncircumcised man child...that soul shall be cut off" (Gen. 17:14). The New Testament matches this by the oft repeated teaching that outside of Christ, there can be no salvation.
Being outside Christ does not mean that we are just in spiritual limbo; our sins provoke the wrath of God. We are " saved from wrath" through being in Christ (Rom. 5:9). Before baptism we were " the children of wrath" , " having no hope, and without (any relationship with) God" (Eph. 2:3,12). The enmity and alienation which there was between us and God is only ended by becoming " in Christ" (Eph. 2:13-16). There is a constant, unending hatred and conflict between the seed of the serpent, and that of the woman (Gen. 3:15,16). Without baptism, we are the seed of the serpent. We are in the Biblical devil, the man of the flesh. Through baptism into Christ, our real spiritual selves are " not in the flesh, but in the spirit" (Rom. 8:9). We are then allied with the seed of the woman; and the conflict between us and Christ ceases. Of course, by nature, we are still in the flesh. Our natural mind will always have violent enmity with the man Christ Jesus which is growing within us. But by baptism into Christ, the fundamental enmity between us and Christ has been breached; there has been a reconciliation, an at-one-ment.
Many new converts express confusion at how to treat the world and especially, the surrounding religious world; 'Shouldn't we kind of feel more in fellowship with them than the others in the world?', it is asked. Grasping the importance of baptism will help us have the correct attitude to those who are unbaptized. We will see them as out of Christ; to court or fellowship them is so illogical! Instead, we are driven to pity them, seeing the urgency of our task- to help them to baptism. In the Old Testament types, our attitude to the unbaptized is typified by the relationship God intended between Israel and the Egyptians and the Canaanite tribes, and between Noah and his surrounding world. Israel were intended to be a missionary nation, witnessing to the world around them, as they did to the Egyptians. Noah preached to the world around him. God desired Israel and Noah to be very clear in their minds as to who was in the world and who was not. There was no blurring at the edges.
Unless a person has believed the true Gospel and been baptized, they have no relationship with God. Being a " nice" person by the world's (so-called) standards is irrelevant to how God sees them. For those in Christ to openly declare themselves 'in love' with one who is in the world is therefore highly obnoxious to the Lord Jesus. We cannot love God and love the world. If we do love the world, we hate God, we are again at enmity with Him. James 4:4 is painfully clear about this. This shows that God counts us as one with those whom we love and fellowship. If we fellowship those who hate God, He counts us as hating Him. If we fellowship with the darkness of apostasy, we share the same relationship with God as they do.
Realizing the true position of the unbaptized world helps us to be better motivated in being separate from worldly organizations and politics. Abstention from voting is an obvious example. But being part of any worldly group should be avoided as much as possible. Any intimate linking of ourselves with other human beings who are alienated from God should be something we come to subconsciously sheer away from.
In these matters we must be very careful that we do not become self-righteous, and that we do not try to separate ourselves from the world in the wrong ways. We must be ever mindful that " the world" is right inside our very natures; John defines " all that is in the world" as the inherent lusts of our very natures (1 Jn. 2:16 cp. Ecc. 3:11). And we need to be aware that unless we are " in the world" to some extent, we will not be able to save them. Christ went right into the world, He mixed with all types of people, but He did not allow them to corrupt his own understanding of God. We must do the same. We must go forth with true spiritual love into this God-forsaking world, just as God does with the Gospel. By learning how other people think, why they refuse to accept the real Christ, we will be better able to present our message. The parables of Jesus show that He was a man who had carefully reflected upon the everyday experience of his fellow men, and brought true spiritual values to bear upon their crises and situations in life.
Recognizing others as being “in Christ” imparts an altogether higher quality to our relationships. The cynicism and negativity which we naturally bring to many inter-personal encounters is taken away by a deep recognition that our brethren are indeed in the Lord. Having noted that the Galatians did not any longer “believe the truth”, Paul can say that he has “confidence to you-ward in the Lord” (Gal. 5:10 RV). Because they were “in the Lord”, he could hope against all human indications, that they would indeed rise up to an imitation of the Lord in whom Paul believed them to be. And so we have to ask ourselves, whether we indeed have that “confidence” about others, because we know them to be “in the Lord”? Or do we judge them after the flesh…?
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