Baptism is the rite that signifies a person’s commitment to God as a Christian. What kind of commitment is it? Is it like joining a club? We might think so as we view the contemporary Christian scene. But Baptism is much more than that. Go deeper in Deadman Walking.
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Today we’re continuing our series on baptism. The title is Deadman Walking. It’s the second in a series. If you want to access the first one, there are a number of ways that you can do that. You can look for it on our YouTube channel – LifeResource Videos – or you can go to our Website – liferesource.org – or you can download an MP3 audio file or just listen to it online. There you can also read the transcript or download the transcript file – lots of ways.
Let’s begin. Deadman walking – are we talking about zombies here? Well, in a way, yes, and at the same time, no. We’re talking today about the commitment to Christ that a person makes at baptism. What does that have to do with zombies, of all things? We want to make the point that being a Christian costs a person his or her life, just like it cost Christ His life, even though the person is upright and walking around. Let’s review a bit.
If you access the first in this series on Baptism, you know we read some scriptures, explaining that baptism is an agreement – a covenant between a person and God. In this covenant, God promises to give us certain things and we promise to give Him certain things as well. Let’s read a scripture. I’ll read a bit of the context to that scripture, so that when we get to the scripture, I want to show you that you’ll see that what I’m talking about is not out of context. Let’s read it in the King James’ language. It’s 1 John 3, verse 2 through 7. It’s much more clear to read it in that translation. So 1 John, chapter 3, verse 2:
1 John 3:2 – Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. One of the things that God promises to give us in our baptismal covenant with Him is a new eternal body. When we receive it, we will be able to see God and Jesus for the first time. Verse 3:
V-3 – And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself even as He is pure. Our motivation to keep our end of the covenant is this promise. You would like to have a beautiful eternal body, wouldn’t you – never get old? Never get sick? Never get tired? Be anywhere you want with any effort? Instant communication with everyone? Think of how much better life would be and how much easier. And think about your attitude and the attitude of everyone else – so much nicer. But what does it mean – to purify oneself? Well, that’s our part of the bargain. We promise to try to live sin free, just like Jesus did – to walk as He walked. Of course, we can’t accomplish that on our own, but God promises to help us do that. That’s another thing He promises to do for us in our baptismal contract with Him. But again, what does it mean – to purify ourselves?
Well, there’s this thing called sin. Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins. To do that, He had to die, because the penalty for sin – according to what God says in the Bible – is death. Jesus did not commit any sins, so He didn’t have to die. But He stepped in for each of us and said, “I will die in that person’s place.”
But what is a sin? There’s lot of talk in Christianity about being forgiven for our sins, but what is a sin? Well, Jesus explained exactly what it is in the precise language of a legal agreement, so that there can be no confusion about it. It’s in 1 John 3:4.
V-4 – Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law, for sin – ready? – is the transgression of the law. Sin is the transgression of the law. If you read some more modern translations, they translate the words transgression of the law as lawlessness. The commentaries take off on that as a meaning of the laws of society, God, etc. They expand on it to mean any law. That approach turns the focus away from the perfect focus John is putting on it here. Make no mistake. Jesus did not come and die to take away your violation of the millions of imperfect laws that man has made. He died to take away the penalty we incur for breaking His law. Let’s continue in verse 5:
V-5 – And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin. As we said earlier, Jesus came here and perfectly observed the law of God – the first one to live a human life and not break any of God’s laws, the first one who did not transgress the law of God, and consequently then, the first person who did not sin, because sin is the transgression of the law – the first one who committed no sin whatsoever. And because of that, He did not have to die. He did not deserve to die. But that’s why His death pays for our sins. He didn’t deserve death, but He died in our place. And what is our response to His great lifesaving gift to us? Well, let’s read verse 6:
V-6 – Whosoever abides in Him sins not. Whoever sins has not seen Him, neither knows Him. There’s only one way we can live sin-free in the flesh now. If we seek to live sin-free in the flesh, if we promise to give up our way and go to God, He promises to forgive any sins we might have committed in weakness. And that’s how verse 7 can be true for us.
V-7 – Little children, let no man deceive you. He that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. Have you been deceived on this issue? John said to be careful about that. What does it mean to be righteous? Well, it means to follow Jesus’ example and strive to obey His law. Now, what law are we talking about? Are we talking about the laws of the tabernacle of Moses, the laws of the temple sacrifices, or the oral law that the Jews added to God’s law before Jesus’ time? No, none of those. There isn’t a tabernacle or a temple any longer. We’re plainly told that we don’t have to do those things now. But don’t think those laws are bad. They are all going to be reinstated in the future.
There was an interesting discussion between Jesus and a lawyer. Back then, a lawyer, by the way, was an expert in the Old Testament. They were talking about which was the greatest commandment of the Ten. And they agreed that all ten of the Ten Commandments could be summed up in two. And Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with the whole heart. So those first four of the Ten Commandments – love God, no images, don’t take His name in vain, and keep His day – were God’s way of revealing how He wants us to love Him. Next, they agree that the last six of the commandments – don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, etc. – were God’s way of revealing how we’re to express our love for God when directed toward others. Love God by loving His children, in other words. You can read this exchange, by the way, in Matthew 22, if you’re interested in that.
So, the Ten Commandments show us how to live like Jesus lived. It’s not legalistic to live by the law, because the aim of that law is to love God and love others. They’re just an expression of how to do that. Love God with all your heart. Love your brother as yourself. Not legalistic – no – instead, highly spiritual. That law defines a spiritual relationship with God and it defines sin. Sin is the transgression of the law.
When we made our baptismal agreement – if we read the Bible enough to know what a baptismal agreement means, we promised to follow Jesus, who obeyed all ten of the Ten Commandments. That’s part of the deal.
Okay, let’s get back to zombies now – deadman walking. Romans 6:1 through 14 – practically the whole chapter.
Roman 6:1 – What shall we say then? – Paul says – Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? What’s he talking about? Well, some people believe that the more we sin – that is, break God’s law – the more God is glorified because He gets to extend more grace and apply Christ’s sacrifice – making it more valuable. So, have all the illicit sex you want, steal all you want, lie all you want, make all the graven images of God that you want…. What’s wrong with that argument? Well, on every level it’s wrong. I hardly know where to begin, it’s so wrong. In fact, I’m not even going to go there, because that is what Paul is going to do next.
V-2 – God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Deadman walking – dead to the pulls and impulses of sin. We don’t get to do what we want any longer. We do what God wants.
V-3 – Know you not that so many of us that were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? What does that mean? Well, let’s keep reading – verse 4:
V-4 – 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. Jesus was murdered. He didn’t deserve the death penalty, because He’d broken no Roman law and no law of God. He went down in the grave. And just like that, we go down under the water – a watery grave – symbolic of our willingness to die to the impulses we have that are contrary to God.
V-5 – For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. What does this mean? Well, let’s keep reading, once again.
V-6 – Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth, we should not serve sin. Again, what is sin – in the legal terms of God’s covenant with us? Sin is the transgression of the law.
V-7 – For he that is dead is freed from sin. Does that mean free from obeying the law? No, just the opposite! There are places in Romans where Paul says that he’s free from the law. If you scrape all the propaganda out of your mind, that you’ve absorbed on Sunday morning TV, and just read the Bible, you will see clearly that Paul is saying that he is free from the penalty of the law, which is death. And that’s because of what Christ did for us and not by any of our efforts.
Next, we come to something else that is really awesome. Continuing on in verse 8:
V-8 – Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death has no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once, but in that He lives, He lives unto God. Paul is using the death, burial and resurrection process as a template here – a metaphor – to explain what happens to a Christian when they are baptized. We give up our old ways, represented by Christ’s giving up His life for us. And we go down in a watery grave to be washed clean of our violations of God’s law, just as He went into the grave after He was crucified. And then we come up out of the water, just like Christ came out of the grave to live a new life with God. We also are new beings living a new life – dead to the impulses of sin and enlivened to the impulses of the Holy Spirit. Let’s read it in verse 11:
V-11 – Likewise, reckon you also yourselves to be dead in deed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. There you have it again – deadman walking. But what does that mean in everyday life? We can’t stop with just what the Bible says. We have to think about what it means in everyday life for each of us. Verse 12:
V-12 – Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you – for you are not under the law, but under grace. For sin, you see – the violations of that great illuminating spiritual law of God – shall not have dominion over you. That’s God’s promise.
So that’s the meaning of deadman walking. But what part are we to play in accomplishing the Christian walk – given human nature, the devil, the pulls of the organism? Well, let’s talk about that now.
There are many things we are told about in the Bible to keep us safe from the devil. There is even instruction about armor that God gives us. You can read that in Ephesians 6:10 through 14.
Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Stand, therefore, having your loins gird about with truth. In the ESV, it says to “put on the belt of truth.” There’s more to this, but let’s stop there for a moment.
Put on the belt of truth. The truth of God is our first line of defense. It’s the most important thing in understanding what’s going to happen to us in attaining salvation.
In my younger days, I used to compete in weight lifting. And that’s a sport that’s all about strength in the body core. I wore a thick broad leather belt around my middle to give me solid support in my core, so that I could withstand the stress of weight way beyond the weight of my body at arms’ length overhead. The truth of God is our core strength.
I know Christians who’ve fallen for the post-modern idea that there is no truth. How can you ever really understand what’s true out of the Bible, because so many people interpret it to mean whatever they want. Well, that’s their problem. If you just read the book, you don’t have that problem.
So believing that there’s no way to find out what the truth is, how can a person ever endure in Christianity? They think that just because Christians are so varied in what they believe that there isn’t any way to sort it out. But there is! There is one thing you can do to start sorting it all out. It’s an attitude you can adopt. Let’s read about it in Matthew 5:3.
Matthew 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit – what does that mean? Who are they? Well, if you look up that phrase in the Louw & Nida Domain-Oriented Lexicon, we are told that to be poor in spirit means to believe that when it comes to understanding the things of God, we are paupers. We know nothing, except what God lets us know. Every inclination of ours about God are as wrong as His are right.
When poor in spirit, we see ourselves as deaf, blind and needing to be led around by the hand of God if we are to understand anything about Him. We can’t see Him, we can’t feel Him, we can’t touch Him. So how would we know anything about Him, except He makes Himself known to us? What is He like? What’s He doing? What does He want for us? What does He want us to do? That all comes from Him – from His instruction out of His word and what He teaches us directly.
This idea is found many places in the Bible, making it difficult for us to continually read over and ignore them, but ignore them we do. In Psalms 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10, it says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You know nothing about God unless you believe that He has control over your life and that you need to get in line with it. God even said it twice, because He knows how foolish we are and He wants us to get this foundational point.
Do you see the validity here for the topic? Baptism is about giving up our ways for God’s. The first step is to understand that we don’t know God’s way, so we need to be seriously careful about learning what He wants of us. What does that look like in everyday life?
Well, the first thing we need to chuck is the idea that there is no truth. God has never been confused. He has never not known what to do. He has never experienced ambivalence. He knows that there is good and evil – right and wrong – and He knows the difference between them. And He created His church and defined its teachings. So He’s not confused there either. And He wrote a book to explain what we should believe about Him – His ways, His hopes, His dreams, His plans, including His plans for us. All we have to do is get rid of our own ideas and read the book! We can realize that without God’s revelation to us we’re just stumbling around in the dark.
Still, we think, “The Bible’s so hard. It’s so big. It’s so boring. I don’t have time. There are other things I would rather do with my time than that.” Okay, then, suit yourself. Stay in the dark. It’s your choice. But remember, your covenant with God is just that – your covenant. It doesn’t include your parents or your pastor or your church. It’s all going to be based on what you have allowed God to teach you – your attitudes and your behavior. I’m not saying you can’t learn from other people, but we need to be sure that what they are teaching us is according to the book. And we can’t know that if we don’t read it for ourselves. The Bible is an agreement between each one of us and God. The terms are in the book. And our eternal life hangs in the balance. So read the book! Read it, knowing it’s for you. And read it, believing you know nothing without reading it. It’s hard, yes. So is eternal life worth a hard effort? Well, maybe that’s why it’s hard to read. Maybe God wants to see what we’re made of and if we’re really serious or if we’re just interested in being in a country club on the weekends.
Let’s look at a really clear example – a test. Do you think you’re really willing to be slave to Jesus Christ and do whatever He tells you to do? Well, let’s see. Do you know that, in the book of Genesis, there are examples of people violating all ten of the Ten Commandments – in the book of Genesis – the first book – way before Moses? The next book of the Bible is Exodus and that’s where Moses and the children of Israel came out of Egypt. The Ten Commandments had not yet been given in stone to Moses at that point. But in the book of Genesis – thousands of years before Moses – there are examples of people violating all ten of the Ten Commandments. And, in those cases, all those examples are labeled as sin. What’s relevant about that? Well, that means that before Moses ever got the tablets from God with the Ten Commandments on them, everyone already knew the Ten Commandments were in effect and that breaking any of them was a sin punishable by death.
I think many people believe they don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments because they were a part of the law of Moses, which was done away with. But they were all in effect from the Garden of Eden thousands of years before Moses and thousands of years before there were even Israelites. The law of the offerings, and of the temple service, and national laws of Israel have been set aside because there is no nation any longer and no temple, but not the Ten Commandments. How do we know that? Did you know that all ten of the Ten Commandments are labeled as sins in the New Testament as well – not just before Moses, but after as well? The man that said that sin is the transgression of the law wrote that fifty to sixty years after Christ died. It’s true! So that means that, from the creation of human kind through the church era – which is not over yet – it’s always been a sin to break any one of the Ten Commandments, and it continues to be so to this very day. Every time we break one, we deserve the death penalty. I realize many Christians today don’t believe that, but this isn’t about what others believe. It’s about what it says in the book.
All right. That’s not really the test. This is the test. Let’s take a look in Genesis – Genesis 2:1 through 3.
Genesis 2:1 – Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made. And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it – sanctified means set it apart – because that in it He had rested from all His work which God had created and made.
So the seventh day of the week is set apart by God for us to rest from our work, like He did. Why do I mention it? Because most Christians don’t do this. They believe that since they have the Holy Spirit, they can keep the Sabbath in their hearts always, meaning – contrary to what God says in His word – they don’t treat any day as sanctified. Nowhere in the Bible can you read that.
This is a big issue, because, if we’re going to follow God, we need to know what He wants us to do. One of the very first things He tells us is to keep that seventh day of the week, and right out of the chute, many of us aren’t willing to do what God says.
One of the reasons often given for not observing the fourth commandment is that it was a part of the law of Moses, which was set aside when Christ came. But we’ve already seen that Ten Commandments came before Moses, were in effect during Moses’ dispensation, and still are in effect during the Christian era. The New Testament church clearly kept the seventh day of the week. That’s something else to think about. Jesus even said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. It wasn’t changed for hundreds of years after Christ and after all twelve of the original disciples died. And amazing as it might sound, the Sabbath is going to be observed worldwide by everybody when Christ returns to this earth. If you don’t believe me, just read the book of Zechariah. It’s in there!
So to think that we don’t need to keep the fourth commandment because we have the Holy Spirit is an idea of men not found in the Bible. I admit it’s a convenient idea. It makes it possible to do whatever we want on the seventh day and think we’re still doing what God wants, but it’s not in the book!
So what are you prepared to do? From Genesis to Revelation, people who don’t obey the laws of God – literally and spiritually – come under the death penalty. The only way to be saved from the penalty of the law is to repent, make a course correction, start obeying God and beg to be forgiven, because Christ kept the law perfectly, including the seventh day. He didn’t deserve to die, died anyway for us, and is willing to take our place with His death and resurrection to new life. All we have to do to get to that resurrection is to make a diligent effort to do what He said.
So, again, what are you prepared to do? It doesn’t matter what other people do or don’t do. The old fallacy that “so many people couldn’t be wrong” comes to mind. If that’s true, why did Jesus say that His way was the narrow way with few finding it rather than the broad popular way? All we have to do is read the book and do what it says. What other people do doesn’t matter. Jesus said that all we have to do is pick up our yoke and follow Him. We learn what the yoke is in the Bible.
I know that when we talk like this many Christians allay their fears with labels. To them, I might be a legalist, or a heretic, or rigid in my Christianity. Those would just be a few. You know, I’m really not that smart. I didn’t come up with this on my own. I just read what it says. I’m sorry if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I was very uncomfortable, too, when I first saw this. But God is not concerned with our discomfort. He wants us to be on the narrow difficult path, not the broad popular one. He’s looking for people who are poor and of a contrite spirit and who tremble not at what the pastor says, but at His word. Is there any way to be that and be comfortable? If Jesus told a rich young many that the only way he could follow Him would be to give away all his money first, how do think it will go with you and Jesus?
It’s hard to let Jesus into our life – to walk as He walked, to keep the same day that He kept, to refrain from sexual sin when the whole world has gone crazy for it, to love our enemies, to shoot straight with the word of God, to be humble and poor in spirit in a world that rewards arrogance and self-will. It’s hard. But I want to show you one more scripture. It’s Matthew 11:28 through 30.
Matthew 11:28 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
So how is all that hard stuff that we talked about today easy? Well, it’s easier than the alternative. It’s easier than having to slide around God’s word all the time – to remain willfully ignorant, to continually practice selective comprehension. Christianity is not a social club. It’s a different way of life! And, if we want to be a Christian, we have to change the way we’re living now and begin living God’s way. And those changes are massive!
If we were baptized, we made a deal with God to die with Christ. The question is, “Will we keep that deal or not?”
Well, that’s all for now. Don’t forget to check back at liferesource.org or this YouTube channel – LifeResource Videos. Until next time, read the book!