Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?…
1. We are called upon this Easter morning to contemplate the master miracle of Divine love as set against and triumphing over the masterpiece of Satan's malignity. As death must be regarded as the supreme development of evil, so resurrection must be regarded as the highest triumph of good. Now not only does God triumph over death, but He actually employs the enemy to produce this greater benefit.
2. The question of Nicodemus is a natural one. He might well conclude, "I must of necessity carry my old self along with me to the grave." Not so, "Ye must be born again." But what form of birth is there for the man grown old in habits of sin? The great discovery was not made until from the womb of death there arose the newborn man, "the first-begotten of the dead," "the first born of many brethren!" and from that time forward it became possible for the sinner to be severed from the incubus of the past, and to rise into newness of life in virtue of his union with Christ.
3. Now, observe the difference between God's way of dealing with fallen man, and ours. Nicodemus objects, "How can a man be born when he is old," etc. A moment's reflection will show us that the change in itself is exceedingly desirable. But all that we can suggest is to patch up the old creature; but a thing seldom looks well after it is mended, and it becomes less and less serviceable the more frequently it is mended; and the fact of its being patched indicates that it is nearly worn out, and will soon be laid aside. But a man with a new garment makes a fresh start. Now God does not mend — He recreates, and He presses death into the service, and through that we rise to newness of life, in which we are able to stand free from sin.
4. As we go into the country at this springtime, and gaze on the opening leaves and flowers, the newness of everything powerfully impresses us. God might have restored nature by a process of repair; but no! until the withered dead leaf is swept away into the tomb of corruption the new leaf does not unfold itself; but as soon as the old is dead and buried there arises a newness of life. How like the work of God! The most skilful artist who endeavours to imitate nature cannot reproduce nature's freshness. So there are many imitations of religion, but they are all devoid of that virgin freshness which is only produced by the touch of the Life-giver.
5. As the Lord teaches us this lesson in nature, so He enforces it by the striking symbolism of one of the sacraments. Baptism is not a mere washing; it is a burial and a resurrection. Not that the mere outward observance of the ordinance can ever produce this; there must be faith in the operation of God. When I have this whether it takes place at the moment of baptism, or after, or before, makes no difference. The point is this, that when my faith lays hold on the operation of God, manifested in the resurrection of Christ, and which is symbolised in baptism, then that ordinance in itself is a pledge that the reality of the blessing which the ordinance typifies is actually mine.
6. With these thoughts in our minds, I want you to observe that Paul says that we are buried and raised up again with a definite object, viz., the walk in newness of life. You cannot walk inn place if you do not reach that place; and I cannot walk in newness of life without having first of all been introduced into a condition of newness of life. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, even so walk in Him. And now what are the distinguishing characteristics of this newness of life?
I. THE NEWNESS OF RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. In the old life we felt there was something wrong between God and us; we desired that that something should be set right, and we hoped gradually to win His approval by a life of consistency. Some of us laboured very hard, and yet the end was disappointment. How was all this to be changed, and every barrier to confidence and love swept away? Not by patching ourselves up. We saw ourselves, represented by Christ, as enduring the penalty of the law; and were content to reckon ourselves as crucified with Christ; but "he that is dead is justified from sin," and so we found that there was now no further condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus. From the grave we rose into newness of life, and our first experience was the discovery that God was a reconciled Father.
II. NEWNESS OF POWER. Faith introduced me into this blessed condition; faith is to be the law of my experience in it. There is a power now working within me; the power of God, whose mighty Spirit has taken possession of me, and is working out His purposes within me. Electricians tell us that our nervous system is so constituted that under the force of electricity we can perform prodigies of strength and endurance which would be impossible under ordinary circumstances. We will suppose this book to contain a weight of several pounds. I hold it out at arm's length. Presently the sense of fatigue comes insupportable, and my arm must fall to my side; but turn on a current of electricity to the outstretched arm, and I am able to sustain the weight indefinitely, without any such sense of fatigue. Where does my part in the matter lie? — not in struggling to force my arm to do what it is too weak to do, but in yielding my member to the power which can enable it to accomplish what is otherwise impossible. I have to see to it that no non-conductor breaks the invisible stream of power; and that is just what I have to see to in my spiritual experience. Am I in full connection with Divine Omnipotence? "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." Now do you not see the difference between going about the work of life flurried with anxiety and weighted with care, now straining every nerve in an agony of effort, and now, weary and discouraged, sinking into lethargy, and the quiet, happy confidence of him who is walking in newness of life, assured that, whatever may arise, the new life within him is equal to any and every emergency.
III. NEWNESS OF CHARACTER. I meet with a great many who do not seem to expect this. How many of us are there who have so very much of the old self about us that even our fellow Christians cannot help being distressed and pained at it? "Are we walking in newness of life?" Are the old features passing away? — have they passed away? You who were naturally uncontrolled, are your natural passions well in hand? — not in your hand — in Christ's hand? You who were ready to say a bitter word without thinking how much pain it might give, who rather plumed yourself on being blunt even to rudeness, is the beauty of the Lord our God beginning to rest upon you? You, whose gifts of conversation were apt to degenerate into idle gossip, have you learned to keep the little member in its place? Are you doing all to the glory of God? What manner of man are we? We are children of the resurrection. When we get down to the exchange, to the workshop, do we forget that? The glorious beauty of the Lord our God is for us; His freshness, purity, the very bloom of newness of life, is ours. Shake yourself loose of every encumbrance, turn your back on every defilement, give yourself over like clay to the hand of the Potter, that He may stamp upon you the fulness of His own resurrection glory, that we, beholding as in a mirror the glories of the Lord, may be changed from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of God.
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?