Justified by Faith in Baptism: The Relationship between Romans 5:1-2 and Romans 6:3-7, Plus other Scriptures
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. … Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 5:1-2; 6:3-7
“Set free from sin” in Romans 6:7 has the same Greek word as is used for “justified” in Romans 5:1. Clearly faith and baptism go together in bringing justification, which is why I have combined the two passages above. Let’s now look at what separates faith and baptism in Romans 5-6, noting it is certainly not the case that justification occurs at faith but before the baptism that follows:
From 5:3-11 we learn how God’s love, shown in Christ’s death, brings reconciliation between God and man: how, despite man’s sin, God’s love found a way to bring us back into His grace. Then, in 5:12-21, Paul shows:
1) where sin started,
2) the spread of sin to all, resulting in death for all humanity throughout history,
3) the writer then contrasting this with God’s grace abounding as Jesus brings eternal life to all people.
In 6:1-2, the writer introduces his teaching on baptism, in an unusual way, by refuting the erroneous argument that we can continue to live in sin, after being justified, because our sin gives God more opportunity to show that His grace will take care of it! In a sense, 5:3-6:2 is a kind of parenthesis between faith and baptism.
Romans 6:3-11,16-18, then explains how it is the sinner’s obedience of faith in baptism that enables him to be buried with Christ in the likeness of His death, raised to new life in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection, and thus freed from sin or justified. Here you see the picture of baptism as a burial with Christ, and hence an immersion, which is the meaning of the original Greek word. Baptism is thus a burial in water into Christ; an immersion in water that by faith connects us with Christ’s death, and then Christ’s resurrection as we emerge from the burial.
Romans 6:12-23 argues that, after obeying in baptism to be set free from sin, we either continue to live as slaves to sin, resulting in death, or we continue to live as slaves to the obedience of righteousness that gives eternal life. Baptism is not an automatic passport to the impossibility of further sin. What we do with our new life in Christ is a choice we must make. It is not forced upon us. “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” Romans 6:10-12.
Thus Romans 6 reminds us that since it was in our baptism that we died with Christ to sin, then as a result of that baptism, we must live our new life unto righteousness with Christ.
Romans 6:23 summarises the argument from Romans, begun in Romans 3:23, with these words: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus the Lord.”
Notice Romans 3:24, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” The gift of justification, redemption, or freedom from sin, leading to a new life in Christ, and eternal life, is received through faith when faith obeys in baptism, and our appreciation for the gift leads us to quit sinning! Romans 3-6 explains all this. Chapter 7 then shows that trying to beat sin by living by the Law of Moses won’t work, while chapter 8 says that the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ does work for the Christian. Romans 1-8 is really one sustained argument on how to be righteous through Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Here now is yet another Scripture where faith and baptism are bound together as we become sons of God:
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26-29
Notice that, in the Galatians’ Scripture, there is no parenthetical explanation between faith and baptism
– the Scripture showing clearly the connection of faith and baptism in establishing our new status as children of God.
Therefore both Scriptures here, Romans 5-6 and Galatians 3:26-27, are saying the same thing in two different ways, as is made abundantly clear, and simply, in the following words from Jesus immediately before he ascended to heaven:
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-14
Colossians 2:11-14 links the circumcision of Christ, burial in baptism, raised through faith, and the forgiveness of sins – proving that Christ cuts away our sin and God forgives us when we are buried in baptism and raised through faith. The truth is, it takes both faith and baptism to bring about what faith without baptism cannot!
Without baptism, we can believe in what God accomplished by atoning for the world’s sins through Christ’s death and resurrection. But it is in baptism where we believe that Christ circumcises our flesh and God forgives our sins and raises us up with Christ to new life!!
This is why we find faith and baptism together so often in the Book of Acts. The two always go together in a sinner’s salvation under the New Covenant.
In Acts, it is clear that faith, repentance and baptism all work together as a “salvation package,” even though repentance is only mentioned three times in a sinner’s becoming a Christian in the whole of Acts (2:38; 3:19; 17:30). In fact, even faith is not always mentioned, as seen in Paul’s conversion (see 9:17-18 and 22:16), and in a number of instances, baptism is not mentioned (such as 4:4; 13:12; 17:4; 17:12; 17:34 and 28:24).
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ Acts 22:16
Acts 22:16 shows Paul’s conversion. On the basis of Acts 22:16, if you argue that Paul was saved by faith before he was baptized, then you are arguing that Paul was saved before his sins were washed away!!
We know, from Jesus’ great commission commands in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16 and Luke 24:46-47, and from Peter’s first conversion instruction in Acts 2:36-40, that faith, repentance and baptism are all prerequisites for being forgiven and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Acts 2:36-40
The promise of forgiveness, to those who repent and are baptized (with faith understood), is not just for Israel, but for “all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” “All nations.” Matthew 28:18-20.
Confess Jesus as Lord. Be baptized. Or, to put it as Ephesians 4:5 puts it, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”!!