I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Galatians 1:6-9
These are some of the verses that can bring out the fight in me in a good way. They remind me that I have something to fight for. That there is not only a right way to share the gospel, but a wrong way. There are different gospels being preached today that have the appearance of the original, yet have been distorted in some way mixing some truth with error. Paul says that anyone who does this — even an apostle or an angel — is to be accursed! Yikes!
It’s clear to see that in the book of Galatians Paul is dealing with the distortion of Judaizing teachers trying to bind upon believers that they need to obey the old law along with the new law of Christ, and while there’s still some misunderstandings about that today, we currently have a bigger distortion that involves a key element to obeying the gospel — baptism.
When it comes to salvation through the gospel, most religious people can agree that believing in Jesus, repenting of your sins by turning away from your former life, and confessing Jesus before men are all necessities to be saved. Yet when it comes to baptism, there are so many variances in beliefs — what it is, when to do it, where to do it, how to do it, who can do it — that we must ask ourselves, what are the distortions and what is the truth? Paul told the Galatians they must examine this by looking to what he and the apostles preached. So must we.
Jesus gave the charge to His apostles to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). We have their actions and teachings in reguards to this recorded in our New Testament, and because baptism was a significant part of their teaching, there is an abundance of evidence to support the message they delivered. Romans 6 is one such place.
I find it interesting that in the midst of warning the Romans not to take advantage of the abounding grace he had just described in Romans 5, Paul goes back to their baptism in Romans 6 to remind them why it would be outrageous to do this (1-3). Because they had been buried with Him through baptism into death and raised from the dead in the likeness of His resurrection, their bodies had been crucified with Him, putting away the body of sin so that they should no longer be slaves of sin, but freed from it (4-7). Paul reiterates this by saying IF they died with Christ, they could believe that they shall also live with Him (8). Much more can be said about these verses, but the obvious point is, baptism was the point at which these Christians died to their old self, did away with their body of sin, and began their new life freed from sin.
Further on in verses 17-18, Paul expresses his thankfulness that they had been obedient from the heart to the form of teaching that had been delivered to them and now having been freed from sin, they are slaves to righteousness. What form of teaching were they obedient from the heart to? The very act he was describing that was their death, burial, and resurrection to a new life — baptism.
Of course, Paul is in no way saying it’s only baptism that did this. Other elements have to be there and we see this clearly in Romans 6. How can one be obedient from the heart to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and not believe in it? They can’t. How can one become a slave of righteousness if they have not determined to turn from their former life in repentence? They can’t. So, baptism without the other key elements is just getting wet, but with them, it’s the freedom from sin resulting in sanctification that gives eternal life (22).
What’s amazing about all this is that after making a mounting case that through their baptism the Romans began their new life in Christ and thus should not take advantage of grace, this chapter ends with Paul calling all this a free gift of God (23). Not a free gift in the sense that there’s no conditions or nothing someone has to do. If that were the case, it would make everything he just said void. But a free gift in the sense that the wages of sin is death, yet God provided a way that we never deserved. He could have left us with that debt to die eternally with no way out and there’s nothing we could’ve done about it. However, He did what we couldn’t do. He gave the perfect sacrifice of Jesus who died to sin once for all, so that when we obey His gospel, we are dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (10-11). What a gift!
After examining Romans 6, I ask you, have you been a part of the distortion of the gospel when it comes to baptism? Have you taught or learned that baptism is a necessity to be free from sin? That this obedience from the heart is just as important as believing, repentence, or confession? That in baptism you are crucified, buried, and raised in the likeness of Christ? That this is the point where the body of sin is put away and the new life in Christ begins? That you must die with Him to live with Him? If not, I highly encourage you to examine yourself and the teachers around you. According to Paul, anyone who teaches contrary to what was delivered and distorts the gospel will be accursed. I don’t want to be accursed nor do I want you to either. That’s why I share this with you today. That’s why this is something to fight for.
Merciful and gracious God, You gave mankind a free gift of salvation through the gospel of Christ. This grace is a blessing beyond anything we can ever imagine or accomplish ourselves, and I know it is so important for us to abide by the teaching Jesus gave to His apostles just how they were delivered. Paul makes this apparent in his writing to the Galatians, and I pray that You will help me never to be a part of any distortion of it. Thank you for the clarity Your word provides in the midst of the confusions on baptism. I am grateful that through baptism we can be obedient from the heart by the crucifixion of our old self to the resurrection of our new self. That those who have died with Him, shall also live with. As a slave of righteousness, I have all hope and confidence in this truth of the gospel. For I am dead to sin but alive to You in Christ Jesus. Amen!
Truth in love,