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3. Baptism: A Pledge of Allegiance to God from a Good Conscience

Chapter 3

Baptism: A Pledge of Allegiance to God from a Good Conscience

1 Peter 3:21
Montreal, September 20, 1981

 

A great problem for many Christians after they have been baptized is that they don’t know what they are doing in the spiritual life. In some cases in this church, I have observed that the problems origin­ated from somewhere else, that is, they were baptized somewhere else without being given an under­standing of what it is they are doing in baptism. Perhaps they thought of bap­tism as a ceremonial rite of initiation into a “society”. As a result, they carry their spiritual problems with them for many years. I often counsel Christians who are burdened with spiritual problems and live unhappy Christian lives. The church today is full of nominal Christ­ians, phony Christians, half Christians, quarter Christians, living defeated and unhappy Christian lives.

Today I will expound a few things about baptism in Scripture with the aim of making the meaning of bap­tism clear to everyone. I would like to do this under four headings.

First point: Baptism is a pledge of allegiance to God from a good conscience

Let us read 1 Peter 3:21-22 from the Revised Standard Version even if it does not give a good translation of verse 21, as I will explain in a moment:

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1 Peter 3:21-22, RSV)

The word “this” in verse 21 refers to the flood event in the days of Noah, with particular reference to the ark in which eight people were saved through water (v.20). Only eight of that generat­ion survived the flood, their salvation accom­plished by means of the ark.

It is crucial to understand what Peter is saying. The RSV says that baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” This translation is problematic, so it is fortunate that we have a good and accurate translation in the New International Version which says that baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God”. NIV 1984 has “good conscience” and NIV 2011 has “clear conscience,” but both are correct for saying that baptism is a pledge of a good (or clear) conscience toward God.

The word “appeal” (RSV) or “pledge” (NIV) in verse 21 translates the Greek word eperōtēma, which is given three definitions in the unabridged Liddell-Scott Greek-English lexicon.

The first meaning of eperōtēma is a question.

The second meaning is an answer to a question, usually an affirm­ative answer, hence the sense of sanction or approval.

The third meaning is equivalent to Latin stipulatio, which means an obligation, a contract, a commitment, or a pledge. This is also supported by Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament.

Significantly, Liddell-Scott never defines eperōtēma as “appeal”. An appeal is not the same as a question, the two being quite differ­ent. Even the meaning “question” is rare for eperōtēma, a word which more often means a res­ponse to a question, with the further meanings contract, pledge, com­mit­ment. Those who wish to study the technical details are referred to the careful discussion by E.G. Selwyn in his standard commentary on First Peter.

I won’t go into the linguistic details. It suffices to say that I have found no linguistic evidence for the meaning “appeal” in 1 Peter 3:21. Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testa­ment and Other Early Christian Literature gives “appeal” as a possible definition of eperōtēma, but provides zero citational evidence for this meaning, contrary to their usual practice. They don’t even cite 1 Peter 3:21 for this meaning. They present no evid­ence because, as I have said, there is simply no linguistic evidence for this meaning of eperōtēma. Hence eperōtēma is correctly tran­slated “pledge” by NIV. Baptism is a pledge, a commitment to God.

Furthermore, the genitive in the Greek text of 1 Peter 3:21 is correctly translated as the pledge of a good conscience, not for a good conscience. Hence baptism is a pledge made to God from a good conscience. This comes from repentance, and from making a sincere pledge to God with no double-mindedness or deceit­fulness. You cannot have a good conscience if you are untruth­ful or half truthful. Baptism is a pledge to God from a good conscience, a genuine heart, and a right attitude.

Eperōtēma is particularly interesting because it implies a question and a response. In baptism, you make a pledge in answer to a quest­ion. Your response constitutes your pledge or commitment. When you say “I do” at baptism, it is a pledge and commitment in response to the questions posed to you. It was the practice of the early church to ask the baptism candid­ates some specific questions which they must answer in the affirmative before they can receive baptism. Since eperōtēma means answering in the affirm­ative, the reasons for Peter’s use of the word become clear.

Baptism as a sacrament

For this reason, baptism was called, and is still called, a sacrament in the church. In the church we have two sacraments: the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of commun­ion, also known as the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. The English word sacrament is a transliteration of the Latin sacramentum, as can be verified from a Latin dictionary. The basic meaning of a sacrament is an oath, an obligation, a vow. In legal termino­logy, it is a pledge. It can also refer to the money deposited by two parties prior to a lawsuit, a pledge in the form of money paid before the start of a legal case.

But this word sacra­mentum had a specific meaning: a military oath of allegiance. Roman soldiers would make a military oath of allegiance, called a sacra­mentum, to their country and their emperor. They would sometimes do this by raising their hand, as also seen today when the president or an ordinary citizen makes an oath in a court of law, signifying that he or she will proceed truthfully with a clear conscience. They sometimes declare, “I will speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

In other situations, the oath of allegiance is done with a clenched fist over the heart, again expressing a good conscience and a pure heart. Or it can be done with a drawn sword: the soldiers commit their swords and their lives to their nation and their emperor.

Nazi Germany made great use of the sacrament­um, requiring of every soldier the military oath of allegiance, as seen in docu­mentaries on the Nazis. The soldiers would put to attention, raise their arms, and say ich schwöre to proclaim, “I swear to the country and the need of the country, to the Führer (leader)”.

Why is baptism called a “sacrament”? Because of the baptismal pledge, our oath of allegiance to God as our king of our lives. At baptism, we give Him our loyalty once and for all. It is a pledge made to God from a good conscience. It is important that the conscience is good. You must sever your allegiance to the old life, for how can you serve God and serve the world at the same time? How can you serve God and mammon? Your heart would be divided if the oath of alleg­iance to God is not made from a pure heart and a good conscience at baptism.

I mentioned earlier that the Lord’s Supper is also a sacrament. Around 112 AD, a Roman governor, Pliny the Younger, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan to inform him that upon interrogating certain Christians whom he had arrested, he got from them the information that at their communion, the Christians renewed their vows to God to love Him and to live a holy life. They also renewed their vows to one another, pledging to love one another. Hence the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, also contains the element of commit­ment to God. Every time we take communion, we are renewing our com­mitment. We seem to have forgotten this aspect today, which is why we hardly know that communion is a sacrament.

Confession from a good conscience rooted in faith

The early church attached great importance to baptism, and we too must grasp its vital importance. Baptism is not something that we can take it or leave it. Many think of baptism in this way because they don’t understand the Scriptural teaching on baptism or the early church’s solemn view of its importance. Look again at these words of Peter: “Baptism now saves you” (1Peter 3:21). These are sign­ificant words indeed. We are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Not only water but also the Spirit, not only the Spirit but also water, for the pledge is made in water.

Theologians today are seeing the great importance of baptism in Scriptural teaching and in the early church. A friend of mine, Robert Banks, who teaches at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, wrote a book called Paul’s Idea of Community (1979) which says the following:

Paul’s linking of faith with baptism suggests that it was by means of baptism that the individual actually committed himself to God. (p.82)

Bank’s statement, that it was by means of baptism that one commits himself to God, is quite accurate and close to the Scriptural teach­ing. I don’t mean that in citing my friend’s book I fully agree with everything he says in it. But on this point, he is certainly in line with Scripture.

In Romans 10:10, Paul mentions two important things, both of which are crucial to salvation and explains why Peter says that baptism saves:

For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. (Romans 10:10)

Two things to note here: He believes with his heart and so is just­ified. He confesses with his lips and so is saved. But when did he make this confess­ion? In the early church, it would be made at bap­tism in response to a question placed before him, to which he would reply, “I do confess Jesus as Lord.” By the mouth he confesses, and through the confession he is saved. There must be faith in the heart but also the confession. This is no ordinary confession but a pledge made at baptism, the military oath of allegiance made to God and Jesus Christ.

Baptism in itself does not save, let us be clear about this. There must be the faith and the confession from a good conscience which is of the heart. A proper confession is not just verbal, for there must also be a good conscience that is rooted in faith.

The pledge to God at baptism is legally binding

You may ask, “Didn’t I already confess Jesus before my baptism?” Indeed you have, but that is not the same as making an oath of allegiance. As for the Roman soldier who made his oath of alleg­iance, was he not already loyal to his country and his emperor before he made the oath? Indeed he was. But it is in making the formal oath that the commitment takes on a legal aspect and becomes a binding vow. He places himself under oath, the sacramentum. Up to that point, he loved his emperor and his country, but he hadn’t yet made any vow or pledge or commitment.

In baptism, the Christian makes his oath of allegiance to his God and King. I hope that you understand this clearly. It’s analogous to the case of two per­sons who love each other prior to marriage. But there is not yet a commit­ment in a legal sense until they declare their marriage vows or pledges. Of course they loved each other before that, and had some sort of commit­ment, but that commitment becomes legal only at their wedding.

Likewise, at baptism your commitment becomes, as it were, legal in God’s sight, established forever in the heavens. You have pledged your oath of allegiance, committing yourself wholly to God as your King.

This is the first point I would like to make clear so that you may under­stand what you are doing at baptism. Anyone who is unclear about this should withdraw from baptism for the time being.

So the first meaning of baptism is that it is a pledge. It is every bit as binding as a wedding vow, every bit as binding as the military oath of alleg­iance. A soldier who turns back on his oath will under­stand and accept the penalty that his emperor and his country will impose upon him for breach of loyalty, an act that makes him a traitor to his country and his people.

The soldier makes the oath of allegiance voluntarily, and not because he is compelled to. But once he makes the oath, he will stand by it unto death, just as at the wedding the couple says, “Till death do us part.”

Second point: In baptism we are united with Christ

The second point on the meaning of baptism is that we are united with Christ at baptism:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4, RSV)

We now look at the first part of this verse, and then consider the second part a little later. The first part says that we were buried with Christ by baptism. Note that Paul says “with Christ” and not “for Christ”. In a past sermon on the words, “he who is not with me is against me,” I explained that there is a world of difference between those two positions, “for Christ” versus “with Christ”.

Many are “for Christ” but few are “with Christ”. The former means to cheer him on. It is like rooting for your football team: “Go for it! You’re going to win!” This can be described as being “for” them. Or you see two boxers in the arena, and you root for one of them: “Come on! Knock him down! Show him what you can do!” You are for him, but not with him. If you are with him, you would be in the ring, ducking punches and fighting for your life. You are fighting “with” him side by side. This is unlike the case of two teams competing in a foot­ball stadium, with the crowds cheering for their favorite teams, and doing this from the safety and security of the stad­ium seats, where no one can knock you down.

Many are for Christ, but are they with him? Do you merely say, “In this corrupt world, we need Christianity and morality. A bit of religion is good for you, but just don’t get me involved!”

Many parents send their children to Sunday school to instill good morals in them, saying, “Religion is good for children.” But when asked why they themselves don’t attend church, they would say, “Church is for children, not for me.”

Our church in Liverpool had a bus, and we would drive around pick­ing up children. The parents wouldn’t come to church but were happy to send their children to church. They are “for” the church and think that Christ­ianity is good. And what about them­selves? Church is good for others but not for them. They are “for” Christ.

But to be “with” Christ is to be with him in the battlefield, not just cheering him on but standing beside him, fighting with him for victory and getting injured along the way. But spectators don’t get injured except by an accident, as when a baseball flies to the stands and hits someone who is eating his sandwich. That is nothing more than an accident that happened to someone who is not on the field.

But Paul speaks of something that we do with Christ: “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). At bap­tism, we are buried with Christ through our pledge of commitment. We are not mere specta­tors who cheer Christ on, but are united with him and ultimately with God, having identified ourselves publicly with Christ.

To die with Christ and be buried with him

Your friends may mock you for becoming a Christian: “What happened to you that you’re becom­ing religious? Is your conscience bothering you? Maybe a psycholo­gist can fix you up. But instead of seeing one, you’re getting all religious!” When you hear the mock­ing, you may feel demoral­ized and your faith may totter a bit. But if you are only cheering Christ on, nobody would bat an eye on you. But now that you have taken your stand with Christ, to die with him and to be buried with him, the situation has changed. You have become an object of mockery or at least puzzlement.

I was a worldly guy in my time. Many of my friends were also worldly, and would spend a lot of time on the dance floor with pret­ty girls. So when I became a Christian, they scratched their heads, thinking: “What hap­pened to him? How come he left us? Why has he become a Christian?” None of them actually laughed at me. I think they were more shocked than amused that I had become a Christian. They would give me a strange look, wondering what had happened to me.

My friends could not imagine me inside a church, or that Eric Chang would become a Christian. Today it is the opposite: You can imagine me in church, but it may be hard for you to imagine the worldly guy I was. You see me as a pastor, a “relig­ious” man, though I don’t wear—and don’t like to wear—a religious gown or collar or any ceremonial apparel. I have never converted to “religion”.

When I became a Christian, I had a long discussion with a close friend of mine. This handsome fellow, very popular with the girls, asked me, “What happened to you? Why did you become a Christ­ian?” He was slumped on the sofa with his legs bent, trying to figure out why I had become a Christian. He was deep in thought and would fire questions at me which I couldn’t answer because I had only just be­come a Christian. He kept saying, “Why did you become a Christian? I don’t understand!”

Well, two or three months later, he himself became a Christian! He finally figured it out. This time it was his turn to be quest­ioned by his friends: “What happened to you?” At first he wasn’t even at the level of “for Christ” but he gradually became “for Christ” after some struggle. Then the day came when he took his stand to be “with Christ”. What a great joy it was to see this dear friend of mine, whom I love very much, to take his stand with Christ!

Our death and burial with Christ at baptism is our first step towards being united with him, as Paul makes clear: “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrect­ion like his.” (Romans 6:5)

Romans chapter 6 is about baptism. The only way for you to be united with Christ in a resurrection like his is to be united with him in his death. Paul makes this point very plain. The phrase “united with him” occurs twice in verse 5, just quoted. It is not just for him, but with him.

We die with Christ of our own free choice. No one compelled us, and nothing compelled us. I didn’t become a Christian because I was afraid to die. I was never afraid to die. The fear of death was never part of my makeup. I don’t know why some people are terribly afraid of death. Nobody can frighten me into God’s kingdom with the talk of death or ghosts. I have never been afraid of death or ghosts. I became a Christian only because I had come to know the truth, and because I, of my own free choice, made my commitment to the truth in order to be freed from the slavery of sin. When we do this, God will raise us up to the new life in Christ.

United with Christ: God’s resurrection life in you

I would like to stress one more point about being united with Christ. Only when you are united “with” Christ—and not merely cheering him on, not merely being “for” him—does God’s life in Christ begin to flow into you. If you have experienced this, you would know understand Jesus’ words, “Abide in me and I in you,” in John 15:4. God’s life in Christ will flow into you, and you will bear much fruit.

It is theoretically possible for you to read John 15:4 without experienc­ing it. Have you ever experienced God’s life flowing into you? It may flow quietly and gently, yet it transforms you power­fully, and trans­forms others through you. When I was talking with my worldly friend, I didn’t know much about the Bible, yet my stum­bling words spoke to him. Something in this new life flowed through me and reached out to him. And this worldly man who had spent much time on the dance floor was trans­formed. Somehow God’s life in Christ flowed to him through me. I don’t know how my answers touched him because I couldn’t even answer his questions, being new to the Christian faith. But all that mattered was that God’s life was flowing through me. In the end, not only he but several other friends of mine were transformed, one by one.

Another dear friend of mine was willing to give up a university career. He became a Christian under the Communists and was den­ied entrance to university. He accepted this sacrifice because he had exper­ienced some­thing of greater value. Such was the power of the new life in him, which comes from God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.

God gives us the Holy Spirit as an earnest, as a pledge, as a down pay­ment. (We will discuss this in the next chapter.) When we make our pledge to God in baptism, He will make a pledge to us by giving us His life and His Spirit. It is not some­thing that you philosophize about but something that you experience. It is not a matter of philosophy but the realities of life. If I don’t experience this new life, I would be just talking philosophy, and I am not interested in that.

Some Christians are willing to lay down their lives for God. An early martyr, Polycarp, when he almost 90, was able to say, “I have known God and experienced his kindness in all these 86 years, so how can I deny or blaspheme him?” The Roman official didn’t want to execute an old man, so he tried to get him to deny Christ. But Polycarp refused and was killed.

Third point: The Spirit incorporates us into the body of Christ at baptism

Our first point is that baptism is a pledge, a committing of ourselves to God. The second point is that in baptism we are united with Christ. The third point is that in baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ.

Church membership does not make you a member of the body of Christ. The New Testament church is not a religious society of baptized Christians, many of whom, in reality, are not members of Christ’s body, and hence are not Christians in the biblical sense.

The body of Christ is a spiritual reality, not an organizat­ion or society. The only way to become a member of the body of Christ is by the work of the Holy Spirit in your life:

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1Cor.12:13)

Paul says that the Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ. I won’t go into the technical and exegetical details of this verse. Suffice it to say that Paul’s use of the word “baptized” in this verse is unusual. If all he wanted to say is that we are placed into the body of Christ, the word “baptized” does not quite have that meaning, for it simply means to dip or to immerse. If Paul simply wanted to say that the Spirit put us into the body of Christ, he could have used the Greek word for “place” or “put,” or could have said that we are “grafted” into the body of Christ. His use of the word “baptized” is rather curious because it generally means to put something into a liquid.

For the technical details, see T.C. Conant’s The Meaning and Use of Baptizein: Philologi­cally and Historically Investigated. Baptizein is the Greek word from which the English baptize is derived, and it gener­ally means putting something into a liquid, not a solid. Hence it is curious that Paul uses baptizein to say that someone is being placed into a body.

Baptizein is sometimes used figuratively of the plunging of a sword into a body, with the idea of a sword being plunged into the blood of the victim. This cannot be the meaning that Paul has in mind. He cannot be talking about plunging a sword into the church or the body of Christ. It does not fit the context because it is an act that is destructive rather than constructive to the body. Sometimes baptizein expresses being over­whelmed by a calamity such as a flood, but this meaning does not apply here either.

The only remaining reason for Paul to use “baptized” is to refer to water baptism. It is as simple as that. Just as we are placed into the water of baptism, analogously the Holy Spirit places us, baptizes us, into the body of Christ. This takes place at baptism, accom­panied by commitment on our part and God’s power on His part. Not only are we baptized through water, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.

At what point do we become members of the body of Christ? At what point does the Spirit put us into the body of Christ to become members of the body, the New Testament church? Paul indicates that these take place at baptism, at which we make our pledge to God from a good conscience.

Fourth point: Die to the old life, enter the new life

We come to our fourth and final point: In the New Testament, baptism symbolizes death, but it sometimes goes beyond the basic meaning of death to symbolize martyr­dom. We find this in Jesus’ teachings, for example in Mark 10:38-39 (“the baptism with which I am baptized”) and Luke 12:50 (“I have a baptism to be baptized with”). From the context we know that Jesus, in speaking of the bap­tism he will undergo, is referring to the death that he must die.

Why the stress on death? Death is a mor­bid topic to some peo­ple, so why do we talk about it? The reason is given in a well-known verse:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor.5:17, RSV)

Why the stress on death? Because if the old does not pass away, the new cannot come. That is the problem with many Christians. The resurrected life in Romans 6 is not real in their exper­ience because they are still in their old lives. They enter into baptism without making a pledge from a good conscience. A common reason for this is a lack of proper teaching on the meaning of baptism.

I beg of you to under­stand, especially if you are a Christian, that if the old is still in your life, if you are still holding on to your old sins and old ways of thinking, the new cannot come.

If I had clung to my old thinking when I became a Christian, I would not have experienced the fullness of the Christian life. If I had held on to my military ambitions with the goal of making myself great in the world, leading my own army, I could not have become a true Christian. First I had to renounce my old way of life and my selfish ambitions. Ambitions are not necessarily wrong in themselves, for there are spiritual ambitions versus selfish ambitions.

I agonized over my ambitions for over two months. I wanted to hang on to them because they meant so much to me. For years I lived for those ambitions, disciplining myself and getting up early in the morn­ing for physical training. I was very muscular in those days in contrast to my bony condition now. I owned a Bullworker for building up muscles which were bulging everywhere.

I delighted in shaking hands with big, strong men, and then watching their faces. I would squeeze the hand so hard that the other person’s face would wince, but he would be too proud to let anyone see his discomfort.

Every day I practiced martial arts with my Japanese instructor, and did rigorous training early in the morning. I studied hard to train my mind, working at mathematics which was my best subject and the only thing I was good at. I took it as mental discipline. So my whole life was focused on my military ambition. I didn’t just dream about it, but constantly worked towards it system­atically and unrelentingly. I even cultivated my think­ing to remove all fear of death.

But when I came to God, all these selfish ambitions had to go. What a struggle it was! I am amazed that some people can come to God so easily. I fought and struggled, and finally surrendered to God, saying to Him, “I know that I cannot have two conflicting lives or sit on the fence. I know that I cannot be a Christian if I bring my old thinking into the Christ­ian life.”

Now your problem may not be the same as mine. You might not want worldly grandeur. Maybe your problem is the love of money. I myself was not particularly interested in money. I don’t think that any true soldier is interested in money. If anyone is interested in money, he cannot be much of a soldier. A true soldier is committed to his military ambitions, so money doesn’t interest him. But many Christ­ians love money. Unless you forsake this love of money, you cannot be a true Christ­ian, for Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt.6:24). Many Christ­ians try to serve both, and they justify it under a spiritual cloak. But you will only deceive yourself in the end.

Baptism signifies death. Unless the old passes away, you cannot exper­ience the resurrection life, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). Maybe you are afraid to die at baptism. Death is the one thing that never scares me. If I have to die, so be it. If death on the spiritual plane is the way to finish with the old life, so be it. The reason many Christians are not fully com­mitted is that they don’t want to let go of the old life. Death cannot take place unless there is total commitment to God.

When we in China became Christians, we had as our motto, “Loyal to God unto death”. It was total commitment. Like­wise when a Roman soldier makes the military oath of allegiance, he not only pledges allegi­ance to the emperor, he understands his oath as loyalty unto death. Every Christian must understand that his pledge of alleg­iance at baptism is a pledge of loyalty to God unto death, of being faithful to God to the end, of following in the steps of Christ.

Death is always total. You cannot be half dead. If you are half dead, you haven’t really died. Because many Christians are half dead, they are only half alive. That kind of Christian life is not worth living. Have you seen someone half dead and half alive? He is lying on the floor moaning in pain, and is too weak to get up. Is this the Christian life?

If you decide to die only half way, forget the whole matter and just be a total non-Christian and soak in whatever the world has to offer you. There is no point in being a half dead Christian. It is a wretched state to be in. Just go out in the world, soak yourself in sin to the hilt, die with it, and accept the eternal punish­ment. But don’t live a half-and-half existence or drag your feet into the church, which wouldn’t do you or the church any good.

I have pleaded time and again that if this is the way you’re going to live, the sensible thing to do is to refrain from being a Christian. What is the point of being neither here nor there, struggling to live a Christian life and failing all the time? You will wonder to yourself, “Where is the victory? I thought I was going to experience freedom, but I am always defeated.” You might as well go to the dance hall and enjoy life to the hilt. If you like drinking, drink yourself into the ground. Eat and drink because you are going to die tomorrow!

What kind of a Christian are you? If you are neither here nor there, or if you find the Christian life hard and miserable, then forget it! Go back into the world and enjoy your remaining time on earth. Then wait for the eternal consequences.

Or best of all, die to your old way of life! Die to the love of the world once and for all! Finish with the world and enjoy the Christ­ian life! How many Christians truly enjoy the Christian life? When I look at Christians today, I sometimes wonder. But the fact is that the true Christian life is fulfilling and joyful! It can be a tough life, like the life of a soldier. A soldier goes to battle, and gets scars and wounds, but there is the glory. Why do soldiers enlist in the army? To fight for a cherished cause, and for a king they love.

Roman soldiers refuse to surrender even when they are outnum­bered, surrounded, and wounded. They stand by their alle­giance. They refuse to surrender down to the last man, and are triumphant and exultant unto death. Similarly, some Communist soldiers have charged into machine gun fire and a spray of bullets. They would even plead with their com­manders for the privilege of martyrdom.

We may think they are crazy, but in fact they have a glorious vision for which they are willing to live and die. But we Christians have been given a grander vision from God. If the Communists are ready to die for a vision, what about us? I was prepared to die for a military vision and ideal, but now I see my folly after discovering God’s truth. I now have God, and not just a vision or an ideal. I have a new life from God to live for and, if God so permits, to die for.

Baptism is a commitment to die to the old way of life so that we may be freed from sin and have the power to serve God effectively. Enjoy the Christian life! If you don’t enjoy it, what is the point of being a Christian? Do we like to torture ourselves? Some might like to sleep on a bed of nails, but not me! If I see something of the truth, I will go all out for it. If it is not of the truth, then forget it!

To summarize: First, baptism is a pledge of allegiance to God from a good conscience. Second, we are united with Christ in baptism. Third, we are in­corporated into the body of Christ at baptism. Fourth, at baptism we die to the old life, so that we may have the new resurrection life with our Lord Jesus Christ.

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church