Why is baptism important? This passage answers that question with joyful clarity. Baptism is important because it represents Christological cosmic warfare and triumph. It reminds us of Christus Victor, or Christ the victor, the champion, the one who has triumphed and we belong to him! The context of this message from the apostle is very important, so let’s establish that first.
The book was written by the apostle Paul and Timothy (1:1), most likely Timothy wrote for the apostle as he dictated to him during his Roman imprisonment. His purpose in the writing of the book is twofold: He has to rebuke false teaching and encourage the Colossians to grow in maturity in Christ. The rebuke is aimed at a peculiar false teaching that blended Jewish legalism (2:16-17) and Gnostic philosophy (2:18). Gnostic philosophy taught that God was good and matter was bad, so Jesus couldn’t have become fully man because God wouldn’t become a man, and Jesus couldn’t have been fully God either because a fully divine being wouldn’t become a man (2:9). These philosophies all mixed together into a melting pot of messed up thinking that commentators merely refer to as “the Colossian heresy”. You have to admit, your heresy is impressive if it gets its own title! Paul also wanted to encourage the Colossian believers in spiritual maturity, however. He says that is his goal in 1:28-29 and he bases the maturity of the people upon their understanding of the supremacy of God over everything in Christ. Your view of the God-centeredness of God in Christ is the most important distinction as you read and study the Bible, as you celebrate God in worship and as you look to the water in the pool of baptism. I want you to see the God-centeredness of God in Christ through this passage in three ways.
Salvation is from the hand of the Lord, symbolized in baptism. “In him also you were circumcised [BY GOD] with a circumcision made without hands [I.E. A spiritual circumcision], by putting off the body of flesh [destruction of the dominance of the flesh over the soul] by the circumcision of Christ.” How is the circumcision of Christ seen in the New Covenant? Baptism. Baptism is the new circumcision, for circumcision in the Old Testament was the sign of the covenant made with God. Thus, after one enters into covenant, they partake of the sign of the covenant which is baptism. In a wedding, people say their vows and put rings on as a symbol of their vows. Look at the next phrase: “having been (spiritually) buried [BY GOD] with him (Jesus) in baptism, in which you were also (spiritually) raised [BY GOD] with him (Jesus) through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him (Jesus) from the dead.”
So, in Baptism, we see the symbol of our union with Christ, specifically our spiritual union with him in his death, burial and resurrection. According to this passage our union with Christ in baptism means three things:
- Baptism is better than circumcision: (11) Romans 2:28-29; 9:6 (Not all Israel is Israel)
- Our old self was dethroned in Christ: (12) Romans 6:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17
- We walk in newness of life by faith: (12) Romans 6:3-4; 10:9; Galatians 2:20
So we see that salvation is from the hand of the Lord, symbolized powerfully in baptism. God saves.