Romans 6:4 Part 3

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I took a read (several, in fact) into Moo’s commentary of Romans 6:4 (p.361-367) and if I have been wading and testing the waters before, this has turned out to be a swim in deep waters. It is quite overwhelming – so much so that I begin to understand why some of my friends shy away from theology, taking the stand that God’s word is not suppose to be so complicated: it is we ourselves that make it so. That would be an issue for interesting discussion for another time, God willing, but for now, here’s Romans 6:4, according to Douglas Moo.

Paul in v.4 draws a conclusion from v.3: we have been baptised into Christ and into death, therefore we are buried with him through baptism in order that we are also raised like Christ, to walk in newness of life. If we have died with Christ through (δια) baptism, we have also been buried with him through (δια) baptism.

Moo says this raises 3 interrelated and controversial questions (p.361):
1. Why has Paul introduced the image of burial?
2. What is the meaning of the Christian’s being with Christ?
3. How does baptism mediate this being with Christ?

Answers to these questions fall into 3 general approaches:


Immersion-Emersion Metaphor

The basic argument:

  • “burial with Christ” as a metaphor for a complete break with the old life
  • baptism is the symbolic picture of transfer from old life to new life
  • immersion represents death to the old life, the burial
    emersion represents the rising to new life
  • baptism pictures what has taken place in the believer’s life through conversion


  • Why is the argument inadequate:
  • it does not, by itself, provide sufficient explanation
  • Paul makes baptism the means by which we are buried, and not the place, i.e. where we are being submerged and then emerged
  • even though the immersion-emersion interpretation can be traced to a fairly early date in the history of the church, to the time of Tertullian, there is not evidence in Rom. 6 or in the NT elsewhere that the actual physical movements involved in baptism were accorded symbolical significance
  • the argument does not explain what it means by being with Christ nor does it show how this baptism becomes a means or instrument to that being with Christ



  • Burial a Break, Baptism the Mediator

    Basic argument:
  • burial as a metaphor represents, like the above approach, a complete break with the old life
  • baptism, however, is seen as a mediator of that break, whether by water baptism or “spiritual” baptism during conversion as the point of break


  • Why is the argument inadequate:
  • but similarly, it does not explain the συν compound: what it means for believers to be, or to do things with Christ
  • some try to explain that we are being in union with Christ in our relationship with him, though Moo felt that Paul did not say we are joined with Christ, but that we have been buried with him



  • Burial a Description of Participation, Baptism the Mediator

    This approach Moo considers as the correct one. This is basically his argument:

    Here, the burial with Christ is a description of participation of the believer in Christ’s own burial and this participation is mediated by baptism. Not that the believer in baptism is laid in his own grave, but that through that action he is set alongside Christ Jesus in his (Beasley-Murray). This interprets δια naturally and explains συν adequately.

    Baptism however, is not the place or time at which we are buried with Christ, but the instrument, δια, through which we are buried with him.

    With this, it may be an obvious conclusion that the “time” of our burial with Christ was the time of his own burial: that when Christ died, was buried, and resurrected, we were “in him” and so participated in these events “with” him. This is evidence by the usage of aorist passive verbs throughout this passage.

    But how can we tie this is with the obvious that our transition from the old life to the new is a conscious life experience, not something that happens in A.D.30? Therefore, we may be forced to conclude that we are dealing with a category that transcends time (Schlatter): our dying, being buried, and being resurrected with Christ are experiences that transfer us from the old age to the new, while applied at conversion, has been accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ on Good Friday and Easter.

    Paul’s συν refers to a “redemptive-historical” “withness” whose locus is both (1) the cross and the resurrection and Christ – where the “shift” in ages took place historically – and (2) the conversion of every believer – when this “shift” in ages become applicable to the individual.

    Maeghan

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    13 comment(s)

    1. Hard work, but valuable!

      That baptism is the instrument of a thing invisible and eternal is satisfyingly amazing. I love how baptism takes something "true" and makes it "real". It is true that we were in Christ, and that we died and rose with Him, but baptism makes it truer. These words teach us that we do a real action that makes the almost fuzzy, invisible, eternal thing a real thing - ours - here, where we can drip with the wetness of it. Wow.

      Thank you for unravelling all that Greek!

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    2. Saturday my husband was baptized. I can wait to read this to him. :-}

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    3. codepoke,
      Now that I have learnt such significance of baptism, I wish I had my baptism by emersion - like you said - dripping with "wet" reality.

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    4. milly,
      How was the baptism?

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    5. Maeghan,

      This stuff is very cool. I am really thankful that you are trying to swim in these waters. I can't tell you how fun it is to think about it.

      Just some thoughts:

      If the baptism Paul is talking about is metphorical, why does time matter? We obviously weren't physically burried with Christ, so the significance is deriving what the parallel is between burial and baptism.

      This parallel is only complete because Christ arose. In bapstism, we are immersed, as Christ was burried. When we arise, we are a new creation. The water is, of course, symbolic of Spiritual Immersion.

      I don't understand the subject that this has no basis in the early church. This concept was done in obedience by John The Baptist. John even understood that Jesus was going to change the significance of baptism.

      Luke 3:16

      John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.


      This seems to imply that John had knowledge of this immersion/emersion idea. It also implies that we are participants in baptism ---> hence the parallel that we are participants in Christ's burial.

      I don't know where this falls into what Moo is saying, but this is incredibly fascinating.

      Do you see the act of a physical (aka water) baptism associated with the act of a Spiritual one?

      Do you think that a baptism is a necessary for salvation? If so what kind of baptism (water, spiritual, or it is just metaphorical).

      I also keep coming back to the Abaraham's bosom comparison, and the fact that Christ's analogy was that we are 'grafted' into the vine, when talking about being Burried 'into' Christ.

      These are the things weighing on my mind when I read this. I am sorry if I am added to much weight to the subject.

      God Bless
      Doug

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    6. Doug,
      These are the things weighing on my mind when I read this. I am sorry if I am added to much weight to the subject.

      Hey, don't worry about it at all. You all are actually helping me a lot in my assignment :) helping me see things I don't see and encouraging me on. Let me take a closer look at your "weighty" stuff and I come back on it in awhile.

      Thanks and God bless you!
      Maeghan

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    7. Doug,

      If the baptism Paul is talking about is metphorical, why does time matter? We obviously weren't physically burried with Christ, so the significance is deriving what the parallel is between burial and baptism.

      I agree with you. I did not think about time at all until I read Moo. I think he is trying to explain the "with" Christ - what does it really mean by being buried with him. I appreciate his insight - in the sense that I never really though about it until he mentions it. Ever since I started on Greek, preposition astounds me the most :) at least for now.

      And I like his mention of "redemptive historical withness". So in discussing about time, he did come to a very profound thought.

      I don't understand the subject that this has no basis in the early church. This concept was done in obedience by John The Baptist. John even understood that Jesus was going to change the significance of baptism.

      I think what he meant was the interpretation of baptism in the immersion-death and emersion-life is not given explicitly in the NT, though it has caught on early since Tertullian (ca 155-230).

      Luke 3:16

      yes, but it was not explicitly interpreted as dying and then raising up from death I suppose.

      This seems to imply that John had knowledge of this immersion/emersion idea.

      Does it? I don't see it.

      It also implies that we are participants in baptism ---> hence the parallel that we are participants in Christ's burial.

      Yes, this was taken up as the correct approach (acc. to Moo that is): and I am OK with him so far.

      Do you see the act of a physical (aka water) baptism associated with the act of a Spiritual one?

      This reminds us of Paul exhortation about circumcision.

      Romans 2:28-29 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

      So same with us, until and unless baptism reflects true faith, it means nothing.

      Do you think that a baptism is a necessary for salvation? If so what kind of baptism (water, spiritual, or it is just metaphorical).

      I quoted Moo on this in today post (Part 4) - genuine faith is all it takes. I take it that baptism is an outward sign - a declaration of faith and the cut off from the old ways.

      I also keep coming back to the Abaraham's bosom comparison, and the fact that Christ's analogy was that we are 'grafted' into the vine, when talking about being Burried 'into' Christ.

      Yeah ... we are thinking along the same line as I was posting and you were writing. I kinda thought you'd like Calvin's words I quoted :)

      Blessings!
      Maeghan

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    8. I don't remember why, but I separate John's baptism from water baptism after Christ. Am I alone in that?

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    9. Maeghan,

      Luke 3:16,

      John preached a doctrine of baptism to 'clean' away past trangressions. His call was for us to repent.

      Jesus ushered in the idea of baptism to redemption. Meaning all transgressions are wiped away.

      John's baptism -> Temporal
      Jesus' -> Eternal

      Jesus, Himself comanded us to preach baptism.

      Mark 16:15

      15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

      16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.


      Before John the Baptists, the pharasees used baptism as part of the ritual to 'receive' gentiles into the Jewish faith. This was followed by circumcision. This is why Paul lumps circumcision with baptism.

      John changed the focus of baptism. He called Jews to 'come back' to their faith, using baptism as the symbol of this change.

      Post John, we now see that external baptism (water) is not what Christ was truly after, it was a Spritual baptism.

      My take is that Paul, seeing this wonderful transition of tradition that he practice and was very familiar with, to the idea of adoption into God's family must have made him giddy.

      Jesus, Paul, and John (not the Baptist), testified to the internal, or matters of the heart, over the external. Like a bit in the mouth of a horse, if the internal is brought into order, the external will follow.

      Wow I gotta run a do some work.

      God Bless
      Doug

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    10. His Baptism was so amazing that I will be posting about it soon.

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    11. Thanks Doug for your insight - interesting. Yes, I see there is a difference between the baptism practised by the Jews and the Christians, which Paul has picked up to speak to the Jews. Might incorporate that into my paper, which I have not started on it yet :) And what I have done thus far are in these posts. When I complete all 14 verses, I will need to recompile and cover areas I may have missed. Know what? I nearly bought Schreiner today (bookstore is giving discounts) but with already 4 commentaries on Romans, I have to stop myself!!

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    12. Milly,
      Great to hear that! Looking fwd to your post.

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    13. codepoke,
      How do you think it was different? Doug has brought up a difference between the baptism of the Jews, which is more of an initiation which is definitely different than water baptism after Christ.

      What I can see is that baptism after Christ happened in the light of his death and resurrection, which brought new meaning to the entire experience.

      Hmmm ... yeah ...

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