Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his . (See also Colossians 2:10-14.)
If you were asked whether baptism was central to the teaching of Paul, what would you say? Probably the word would not top a word search on a modern computer. But if you look at the inner logic of Paul’s ‘letters to young churches’ (as J.B. Phillips memorably entitled his translation of the New Testament letters), you may reach a different conclusion. For baptism is the link between the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our baptism shows in our own lives our birth into a new life, the end of the old life, and our being raised to a new life by God. This passage is loved by those who practise baptism by total immersion, but its forcefulness does not depend on that practice alone. These words cover a remarkable range of themes, and provide a reading for a wide variety of occasions from baptism itself, to weddings, to funerals; and what a range of possibilities is implied in that simple phrase ‘so that we too might walk in newness of life’!
Loving Lord, you have united all people by our baptism in your name. Give us grace to live out our baptism continually in our daily lives, that we may experience the power of your resurrection at the end of our days, and enter into your eternal joy; for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.