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THE MISTS CLEAR AS THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARISES
AND HIS GLORY IS THE CONTROL AND OBJECTIVE
Romans 6 continued
A Call to Consecration in Crucifixion, and Blessing in the Divine Dynamic
In Romans 5, Paul made the point that sentence of death for man universally precedes the donation of life for redeemed sinners, and that those who receive the gift of righteousness will reign in life. In Romans 6, he expands: though Christ dies for you, you die with Him, and live from Him; and he uses multiple imagery to apply this fact with the full force of its vitality.
SIN ANY LONGER, that grace may abound, he asks ? Certainly not. You notice, this is a chapter about pilgrimage, not initial purification. Being buried in baptism in Christ, like being baptised into Moses in the sea (I Cor. 10:2), has nothing to do with coming to the Lord in this context, formally or functionally. Far from the Passover site was the Red Sea, and conspicuously after it, that drama! It not this any more than could Peter and John by water be baptised with the baptism with which Christ was baptised, as His death approached (Matthew 20:20-28). Romans 6 is about the transformation of life which endures, the excision which continues, the sanctification without which there is no excuse. It is that perpetual baptism into His death, His Spirit and His life, into HIM, Lord of the Covenant in His blood.
Here then, in terms of the theme, continued from Romans 5, from which it would be unwise to seek to disjoin it, as if Paul forgot what he was talking about, rather than some misled expositors: baptism then ? It is into HIS DEATH! As His baptism in this setting was to die to cover our sins, our baptism here in parallel is to die to sin, dead to its call, and to live from Him - rendering to Him the life for which He gave His own, in dying, just as He renders the life with which He lived and then rose again, to us!
Death is the focus and feature on the one side, permanent, classical, transformatory, and life in and through that death, in Him, on the other. It is synthetic, not episodic; it is Christ-centred, not self-centred. it is all containing, not dispersed little atoms. It is ONE CHRIST, in one continuity, giving permanent removal to one thing, and permanent accruement of the other. It is literally life and death, the living of the one and the total disjunction in theme, of the other.
Death, then, it requires burial - so our 'baptism' is a burial too, and from the dead we get new life, not a shivering with drips. ALL THAT is past in the thematic conception. It is victory, not initiation, which is the topic, continuation not commencement.
Planted with Him (Romans 6:5) - which again involves of course the continuity in the ground, not coming out of it, the image continues - and planted in death, we gain a resurrection like His.
Burial to death ? Yes, this is the destiny of the 'old man', formerly dominant (Romans 6:6), of the sinful nature which is not 'washed off' but crucified, planted and buried, left in its depths to die. Buried ? the contextual theme goes: Indeed it was planted and crucified as well, fixed permanently, interred, left to die in situ. There indeed, therefore, even the summary EXECUTION is in view, the very crucifixion of the "body of sin" (6:6), that looses a person from sin's 'slavery'.
Exclusive of other themes, this one dominates and must direct thought, if we are to avoid daydreams and obsessive, eisegetic intrusions.
Let's now pursue the spiritual parallel to our spiritual regeneration. Christ is the centre of the theatre. Death has no more dominion over him, the One in view in this dynamic work. So he who dies in and with Christ, dies to sin once and for all (Romans 6:9), and is alive to God simultaneously in this twofold explosion and implosion into sanctity, the topic. This baptism is deadly reality faced, not sin washed.
Sin reign ? What a topic, what a suggestion! (Romans 6:11-12). Rather reckon yourselves dead indeed to sin! You are buried, aren’t you! That is the enduring reality, just as is life. Neither ceases on this earth in this Age.
Sin's dominion over you is excluded. Its region in the earth, is on the cross: "I am crucified with Christ" says the apostle (Galatians 2:20). It is permanently affixed to the Cross of death, permanently planted in the ground of faith, permanently buried in the assault of this baptism which, if hard to hear indeed, is programmatically incessant and procedurally permanent. Thus you put to death (Romans 8:13-14) the deeds of the flesh, in a ceaseless dynamic, as they seek admission (cf. Galatians 5):
if you live according to the flesh you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
Sin reign ? what is this then! is the flow of the apostle's diction. Return from a death dealt once and for all!
Sin's dominion over you is excluded, its planting irremediable, its burial consistent, its crucifixion irrevocable, and life proceeds from the tomb, its masterpiece always in place.
MESSY METAPHORS FIDDLING WITH WASHING
Baptised into Christ (I Cor. 12:13), is then here a burial, a planting and a crucifixion. You do not wash in burial, are not cleaned by planting, and crucifixion is messy.
Efforts therefore to induce a ceremonial concept into the theme of sanctity and its means, are as apt as effort to induce some ceremony into Hiroshima when the bomb struck. The topic is life and death, and any 'baptism of fire' or other, is to be understood as transformation, confrontation and the violent vigours and rigours of death, not some lustration or illustration of it!
You are indeed, never literally crucified, at least in the general run of Christianity which is here in view, and certainly not as part of the process of your salvation; nor are you literally planted, nor buried. These three modes, illustrate the change from sin's mode of life, through death, to a life which finds grace over it, power in it, and judgment excluded and in a sense, on display! They are based on Christ’s actions, applied to our plight, His covenant anointing our sight and operative dynamically in continuity.
Even were a non-thematic approach be taken, and it were to be said that though planting and baptism are here metaphors, yet the inside of baptism holds burial for the meaning which must now be exported for the sacrament: this is far worse than irrelevant. It subdues the whole point. Paul is envisaging metaphors to cover a life crisis and specialised metamorphosis in spirit, a permanent death and a permanent life, each maintained in place; and he proceeds precisely with this in eminently graphic form. To seek to transfer the meat of the spiritual meaning to the method of an introductory sacrament is to void the dynamic drama in favour of a mere form.
To seek to put such a meaning into such a form is to deform it, deride the topic, miss the death thrust and confound it with lustration's symbolism.
This is depiction of the thing that happens procedurally and processively in life, in its elemental simplicities, not twiddling with drips. The topic is sanctity, not ceremony; it is death and life, not washing and acceptance into a church by faith. Nothing could be further from the context than a treatise on horticulture, a book on ceremony or an outline on the method of crucifixion. Would we mix it even further, and talk about planting in terms of burial, and perhaps irrelevantly also, apply the burial to the foot of the cross, and cross-fertilise all thought into a hideous abandonment of disciplined interpretation of what someone, who here is God, is talking about!
The fault is not small, the danger immense. Such things, and they are all one, represent more than eisegesis: it is daydreaming. It is not that the rite of baptism denotes burial, but that this burial is your baptism, this planting your interment, this life your crucifixion. Ceremonialising it into an entrance topic is to make thought an absentee.
Such irrelevances, one and all, make obnoxious the confusions to be wrought.
The baptism with which Christ near His death, at the end of His ministry, challenged the two apostles was death and burial, not a quick dip. He after THIS baptism, did not come out dripping, but triumphant in the resurrection. In His washing, said He (John 13), a part of the body sufficed for all, and HE WAS ADAMANT ABOUT IT (cf. Exodus 40:30-31), yielding to no literalist confusion, even though Peter pushed for the whole bodily coverage! Was the sprinkling of purification procedures, ranging from the ancient days of the people and the book with Moses (Exodus 24), the altar’s sprinkling for sin and trespass offerings (Lev. 4), to the treatment involved in certain leprosy issues, to be ignored after so many centuries!
Was the fact that even when a mass in Israel would at last return in their hearts (as in Romans 11:25ff., Ezekiel 36:25ff.), there would be a sprinkling with water, to be ignored; was some bath to be invented and made mandatory! Is this to be done, even when as here, it is the burial of death itself that features ? and you move in the covenantal Christ, not in a tub. It is a covenantal depiction of death and life, not an illustration of lustration.
Is this to become a matter of washing, or the grave to be a wash-stand! Do worms wash ?
Endeavours therefore to use these and any such metaphors to depict a ceremonial type of thing are not only impossible for the three metaphorical cases which Paul uses in one common death theme, in one grand interment procedure which remains like the roots of the plant; but they are derelict in understanding, and devastating to the thrust of his thought.
So far is this passage, indeed, this phrase, from talking about the ceremonial aspects of baptism, the mode of immersion, or the methods of entry into the church, that its whole tenor is reproof to spiritual sleaziness, captious departures and unsanctified attitudes. Such a misconception would be like imagining that the departure from Egypt was the equivalent of the subduing of Canaan, or that the crossing of the Red Sea was the same as that of Jordan.
They were indeed BAPTISED into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, but there is no hint of inundation, far less of ceremonial cleansing, or indeed of washing in any way, shape or form. This was a procedural matter of response to divine direction of those long since called. If that baptism had any immersion, it was by its absence that it was conspicuous, and if any water were intermingled, it was as in Hebrews 9's rendition of baptism, when it is indeed related to ceremony, a matter of sprinkling (as shown in the examples after the 'baptisms' of 9:10, which in Greek, it assuredly is!).
To render the theme in this manner, indeed, is a gross perversion and manifest deception, whether from traditionalistic confusion or other of the dynamics of distortion. The whole focus is not on washing, but on death, not on entry but on exercise within it, not on manufacture (as in regeneration) but on maintenance (as in sanctification), not indeed on anything more than this, the DEATH, the BURIAL and the CRUCIFIXION which must be wrought, and maintained, not in the dripping emergence of the dipped, but in the transcendent power of those who with Paul can say, "I am crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20, perfect sense signifying a condition, not an action).
You DO NOT come "OUT" of this! It is a permanent feature and focus on earth of the deliverance from the 'old man', the dynamics of sin, so that it is even BECAUSE you are NOT brought 'out' of it, but maintained IN it, that Paul can say, Reckon yourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11)!
The theme of death, in planting, in crucifixion, in burial, is the point; contrasted with the counter-theme of life, gained THROUGH this death, so that the continuing dynamics of spiritual life is death maintained and accomplished. Life is granted and not only formulated but functional with the former life permanently interred. Any thought of seeking to import a ceremonial wish-list into this theme is like imagining the champagne ceremony when a building is built, to be the launching of the work at the laying of the foundation! It is more than slightly ludicrous: it would be a gaffe sufficient to bring down a government witless enough to be so confused.
The burial, the nailing, the planting, these control all the concepts coincidental, not vice versa. The baptism is the reality, not the mode, the control is the concept, not a sacramental imagination, the burial is permanent, not transitional, the topic is sanctification, not introduction. The parallel is baptism into Moses in the Red Sea, where water is absent, baptism into the body of Christ by the SPIRIT, where engrafting not washing is the controlling concept.
It is as in the case of Peter and John, asked if they could indeed be baptised with the baptism of Christ! They could, but no one was even thinking in terms of washing their feet and hands, that again, shown by Christ to be sufficient to cover the whole body, let alone this ‘baptism’ being a symbol not a bath. It was the culmination of the Cross which was in mind, not baby stuff, form for the newly converted, whether symbolic or actual.
It is indeed no more apt to make the baptism “into Moses” in the Red Sea, where water's ABSENCE was the criterion, something to do with a baptismal ceremony, than to attempt to do so here. Baptism's ceremony is not to be deduced from either of these events, and if in the former case it were, it would be based on the exclusion of water. That, after all, was the whole point in the Red Sea ‘baptism’, which is another testimony to the unworthiness of preoccupation with what the scripture denies, and the context abhors, in order to make a point at odds with the theme. What is buried here, does not arise; no water is in view, but blood and dismissal. Symbolic ceremonies of a bath simply clash in concept and form.
THE APPALLING BULGE
Indeed, efforts to import preconceptions of baptismal ceremony into this field reminds one of the efforts to seek to compress the flesh of a large woman into stays, or corsets, or perhaps even a man in some cases, with flesh bulging out here and there, because it simply does not fit.
The baptisms with blood in Hebrews 9:10 focus a sprinkling in the examples to follow, not a bath; but the death in Romans 6 features a burial. There is nothing of an episode in this sanctification setting. Based on episodes in CHRIST, it is endued with PERMANENT FEATURES from Christ. Thus you do not, in this field, theme and setting, arise out of death, both the death and the arising being permanent. You, ‘the old man’, are buried and stay that way; the new creation 'arises', and stays arisen. There is a double focus, exclusive, sleek like the modern streamlining, secure and with its own dynamics.
You, ‘the old man’, are buried and stay that way (Ephesians 2:22-24); the new creation 'arises', and stays arisen. There is a double focus, exclusive, sleek like the modern streamlining, secure and with its own dynamics.
Sanctification is not at all a baptismal ceremony nor does it even resemble it in its essence.
It has a different and non-episodic ambit. As with the figure of a literal baptism: just as the topic transcends all ceremony into which any might seek to distort it, so does the 'fat' of the misused 'body' of the matter extrude from any such misled compression! Blood and washing ? Mess and cleaning ? It does not fit any more in symbol than in theme.
THE TOPIC, THEME, IMAGERY
Thus the topic is not ceremony but sanctification;
the theme is not commencement but containment,
the imagery is not episodic but permanent.
Don't therefore tiredly dismiss sin by a form or formula, but operate by faith that can breed its own imagery! This is the thematic equivalent. To ignore this, it is to fly in its face. Just as death by burial, planting or crucifixion is to the point; not washing; so the field is one of deadliness, not exuberance; the impact one of facing things, not entrancing entrance; and the ‘baptism’ here is one of gaunt dissolution, with blood about, dripping, as on the cross. It is this which is here in focus, not an entrance, bath or form. This, it is not a ceremonial ablution but an ontological continuance; not a wash but a way of life.
You want His baptism here then ? It is one of blood, so why bring sprinkling or purification! You want burial, you want unison with Him ? It is planting below the ground. You want life ? - the funnel, channel and canal is the Cross. That is the topic. To seek to transform what is said in Romans 6 to entrance symbolism, ceremony and figures of another domain is a sign of desperation not dedication. Alien in concept, it is a shiftless symbolising of the mortal thrust of the point.
THE ESSENCE and the OUTCOME
Whether it be incorporation or unity or life, it all means death and its implements. The imagery always bespeaks death that is permanent, and life no less, in a perpetual duo in the life of the saint, the believer where FAITH is nor formal but functional, and victory can involve labouring to enter into one’s rest! (Hebrews 4) by having the operative faith IN CHRIST and with His own life enshrouding, who by covenantal promise and living power produces it.
What is common to the imagery and the reality is death, horror and permanence; and the life. That is all its risen joy and strength comes rushing it after all the tragedy and loss, which is really victory and triumph, the more surely because the permanence that precedes continues; and the sanctification is bound to the permanently enforced loss, as the rose to the thorn.
That is what we find here in Romans 6.
To the contrary, the ceremony of baptism shows washing and union - all pleasing, focussing on entry. Again, Paul in Romans 6 shows anguish and life in large letters, and each sustained, as you crucify the old man with its lusts and its affections.
The one field is entry, the other eternal life itself, breaking out of a death that never releases its hold on the crucified, dead and buried; for that cannot arise which is not of the Christ, but instead is the 'old man' whose destiny is not resurrection but interment with the roots, while life arises.
The one is a picture of entry; the other a mode of life. The one is an entrancing acceptance, the other a dedicated realisation of living's rigours in the liberty which disciplines that it might be free, as in Galatians 2, and 5. They relate as sky and earth.
Thus, later, in Romans 6:15-16, Paul does not state that law merges into grace, which is the wayward manner of some, or that all merges into a fuzzy image "under grace" where you kick command.
Quite to the contrary, he urges this: that sin stays sin, pin-pointed by law (as in Romans 7), and that ‘grace’ is not grace which would imagine that breaching law is sin no more! LOVE to Christ MEANS love of His word issuing in action, humble but glad submission! not surpassing it in philosophic splendours of splenetic, frenetic freedoms, like some colt kicking its lawless heels, in the loving eye of its doting master!
What is common to the imagery in the first verses of Romans 6 is the reality is death, horror and permanence; and the life drawn from the covenantal King (Romans 6:11-15, 8:13,30). That in all its risen joy and strength comes rushing in after all the tragedy and loss, which is really victory and triumph, the more surely because the permanence that precedes continues; and the sanctification is bound to the permanently enforced loss, as the rose to the thorn.
Obedience is your cue, and that to God, not sin; His word is its definition, not some flummery of whipped up presumption that speaks its own mind and has God assent. Shall we SIN that grace abound ? shall we do so by remaking the model, the master-plan, the word of God which is always either fulfilled or to be done? God forbid! The reality is here one of being as Paul states in Romans 6:13, slaves of righteousness, and it is this which is fruit, product and evidence of grace, not quick dip forgetfulness which comes 'out' to be who knows what in its renditions astray from its foundations, whether in text, context of scripture or of life!
Sinning that grace may abound, sinning in continuity when allegedly dead, being crucified in absentia by self-fulfilment and a life of self-realisation: these contradictions are but some of the vague and vaporous substitutes for biblical Christianity which have led to the spiritual sleaziness, the personal laziness if not deceitfulness and the 'hallowed be thy hypocrisy' cross-strains which are as like to the religion and call of Christ, to the depth of His doctrine and to His teaching as are fleas to bees*1.
In fact, what is taught may be done by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:31-32, Ephesians 1:19), the illumination of His enlightening grace (Ephesians 1:17ff.), the residence of His enabling self (Colossians 1:27), the leading of His Shepherd's skill (John 10:27-28, Hebrews 7:25), the entreaties of believing prayer and the gifts of divine mercies: but none of this is either available or even meaningful to those who hallow their unholiness and seek help for their wilfulness.
It makes little difference in the end whether such distortions are wrought in the traditions of men which Christ so broadly condemned in their arrogant aspirations to participate in the doctrine of God (Mark 7:7ff.), or in the innovations of those who dare to use Christ's name (II Corinthians 11), while directing as lords or cresting as gurus, to invest and direct those who nevertheless have only ONE master, and that, it is CHRIST (Matthew 23:8-10), and at that, the LORD's Christ (Luke 2:26).
Christian apologetics makes no apology for the ersatz, the artificial, the non-biblical, the other-Christ, the new-Jesus plagiarism (as in II Corinthians 11); for how would false apostles and false creeds relate, but by impudent assimilation lust, standing not on their own merits, but on His whom they lacerate in their abuse, while frequently praising what they invent, and mingling names like any other name-droppers, whose own names have nothing and hence receive the boost of such empty and irrelevant boasting.
The teaching and the reality of the Bible, of Jesus Christ, it is far from all of this. Indeed, part of it is to PREDICT it, which now coming, fulfils this as all else in its time, is always fulfilled (Matthew 24:24, II Peter 2, 3, II Timothy 3, I Timothy 4, Acts 20, Revelation 13,17). Let us however revert to the actualities of Christian life.
Salvation itself is not away FROM the life of obedience, nor is it TO oneself; but addressed to that life of Jesus Christ, given in redemption, raised in resurrection, base for the sending of the Spirit (John 15:26) in the presence and power of the revealed God who speaks and has spoken.
As to such a life as His: It is not FROM it but FOR it that salvation is wrought. It is not for oneself but for Him that one is bought!
Thus we see in I Peter 1:2 -
an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
in sanctification of the Spirit,
for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
"Grace to you and peace be multiplied."
Love propels it, obedience impels it (John 14:21-23).
This exposition of biblical truth is naturally and by no means to depreciate the value of covenantal sprinkling in the sacrament of baptism, or for that matter, of the Lord's Supper: symbolic sacraments.
It is however to appreciate the crucial significance of sanctification and, to the uttermost the Lord's actual crucifixion, with its manifold and massive outcomes: realities past all symbols but using them.
See on aspects of the above, also News 51, Endnote *1, with
Questions and Answers 11
for what is in some ways a fuller and
more general treatment,
covering in significant detail the covenantal fixity regarding infancy,
in the light - or darkness - of such things as
the political intrusiveness of concepts, cultural invasion,
as also in this field, the unchanged emphasis in the Bible concerning
non-saving through covenantal symbol, through sacramental vogue.
With this may be taken
The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 5 and
What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1.
For cases if varied kinds, whether categorical conflict, while borrowing actual content, or misuse of the very name of Christ, ideological, idiosyncratic, cultural synthetics or other prosthetics of no power, basis or verification: see the following.
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 10, Part II,
SMR pp. 743 (pseudo-ecumenical),
749 ('Beast') , 750A (UN), 750B (demonic head),
News 5, 42,
TMR 7, FM 3,
NFF 6 (and the European Community);
INOVER 5, 7 (and synthetic
syncretic simulation, with autonomous additives, sited for century 21),
NFF 13 (and religious 'unity'machine, inspected as at August 2000);
NFF 14 (communism, point of departure) cf. REF 4, Excursion 2; ;
ROP 5, esp. pp. 102ff.,
AQ 4, esp. p. 89 (in array);
GG 2 (and displaced-person-religions).