Christ’s Death and Resurrection and the Mystery of Baptism

          

  What is Baptism?  Simply put, baptism is our death, burial, and resurrection in union with Jesus Christ.  It is a rite of passage, given by Christ to the Church as an entrance into the Kingdom of God and eternal life.”  (OSB, 2008)

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

(Romans 6:3-4)

            Baptism is a covenant between God and man.  “In the words of Gregory the Theologian, “the power of baptism is to be understood as a covenant with God for a second life and purer lifestyle” (Alfeyev, 2019, 36) He also stated, “The word of Scriptures recognizes three births for us: from the body, one from baptism, and one from resurrection.” (p. 38)

            “But the chief place among all such expressions with relation to Christians is the conception of “resurrection in Christ.” The mystery of Baptism is a personal resurrection in Christ: “Ye are risen with Him”, (Col. 2:12) (Pomazansky, 2009, p. 207)  By His death on the Cross, He accomplished the cleansing of all the sins of all, reconciliation with God, by His Resurrection, new life has been given to the world for all. Fr Slobodskoy, in his Law of God, states, “Thus Baptism is spiritual birth, and as a person is born once, so also the Sacrament of Baptism is done once, One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Eph 4:5) (p.473)

            The Orthodox Study Bible tells us there our two deaths we go through.  During Holy Baptism, we die with Christ on the His Cross and descend into Hades with Him (the immersion). Then we ascend out of Hades with Christ, renewal and born again. As Saint Cyril of Alexandria (4th century) wrote to new converts, “You were led by the hand to the holy pool of divine baptism […] and each of you was asked if he believed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And you made that saving confession; you descended into the water and came up again three times. In the very same moment, you died and were born.” (OSB, p. 1532)

The second dying we experienced is our continual death to sin. Every day and hour, we must die to sin.  When we allow ourselves to sin, we have quite literally forsaken/rejected our baptism. Saint Paul writes to the Colossians: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” (Col 3:5, KJV). (OSB, p. 1532)

As the OSB continues, The resurrection of righteousness. This is our life in Christ, our new birth and entrance into God’s Kingdom (Jn 3:3), our “newness of life” (Rom 6:4). It is our being joined to Christ in His glorified humanity and indwelt by God Himself (Jn 14:23). Our relationship with God is not something static, a legal fiction given to us by a Divine Judge. Rather, this is a dynamic and real life in Christ, holding the promise of everlasting life. Our resurrection to new life now forms a prelude to the resurrection of our body at Christ’s second coming. (OSB, p. 1532)

An intimate and continual communion with God. We are raised to new life for a purpose, union and communion with God. Baptism is the beginning of eternal life. For this reason, Peter writes that baptism now saves us (1 Pt 3:21)—it is not the mere removal of dirt from our bodies, but provides us with “a good conscience toward God.”  (OSB, p. 1532) 

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1Peter 3:21)

            Fr Daniel Sysoev states in his The Law of God, “This great gift is rooted in sacred redemption.  In Baptism, we symbolically die together with Christ as we are immersed in the water, and are resurrected with Him as we emerge from the water.  Though this participation in His death takes place symbolically, our salvation is accomplished in deed.” (p. 141)

            In the Old Testament Scriptures, Baptism is pictured by the passage of God’s people with Moses through the Red Sea (1Co 10:1, 2), and the salvation of Noah’s family.  Both incidences were a prefiguring baptism of God’s people (Gen 5:29-32).

In addition, throughout the New Testament Scriptures John the Baptist, the last prophet of the old covenant, baptized in water for repentance (Mk 1:4; Acts 19:4)., Jesus received John’s baptism, thereby transforming the water and baptism itself. In the New Covenant, Baptism is the means by which we enter the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:5), are joined to Christ (Rom. 6:3), and are granted the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  (OSB)

            Holy Baptism introduces a very real correction in our mind, heart, soul, and body. We die with Jesus the Christ on His Cross and are resurrected with Him to a renewed life in which we die to sin; because of this rebirth and renewal, we can now attain full communion with God. We now have an authentic relationship with Him, as we work toward our salvation. Therefore, we should thank and praise God for giving us this incredibly beautiful, touching gift, unworthy as we are.

   “In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God; burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever; then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead. As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfills all this.” (St. John Chrysostom, from Homily 25 on John 3:5)

            In the sacred Mysteries, then, we depict His burial and proclaim His death. By them we are begotten and formed and wondrously united to the Savior, for they are the means by which, as St. Paul says, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Baptism confers being and in short, existence according to Christ. It receives us when we are dead and corrupted and first leads us into life. The anointing with chrism perfects him who has received new birth by infusing in to him the energy that befits such a life. We become ‘Sealed’ in the Holy Spirit.

            We believe this because baptism is a complete rebirth, where the old man, with his sinful inclinations, dies, and is reborn in the Spirit. Our Lord said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

            As an Orthodox Christian, through Holy Baptism, we participate in the Death and the Resurrection of Christ. By accepting the general salvation which Christ offered on the His Cross, we make it our individual salvation by using God’s Grace in our in our daily life, imitating Christ’s life.  We do this daily as we pray, fast, and attend the Divine Services of the Orthodox Church. 

References

‌Alfeyev, M. H. (2019). Orthodox Christianity Volume V: Sacraments and Other Rites. St Vladimir’s Seminary Pr.

Pomazansky, M., & Rose, S. (2009). Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition (Third Expanded ed.). St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Publishers, T. N. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible: New King James Version, Black, Bonded Leather (Lea ed.). Thomas Nelson Inc.

Slobodskoy, S. (1993). The law of God: For study at home and school. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery.

   Sysoev, D (2016), The Law of God, An Introduction, New Jersey, Daniel Sysoev Inc

About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR.
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