Vol.III No.VI Pg.2
July 1966

Figure Of Death And Life

Robert F. Turner

Is baptism a "figure"? I have been told that it "represents" something, and that therefore it can not be essential to our salvation.

Well, it does represent something! Paul says, "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" (ROM.6:3-4)

It represents something for sure; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. "Like as" Christ was resurrected, we also are raised up from our baptism to walk in a new life. It seems clear enough that baptism depicts in a form or figure, the death, burial and resurrection (and that is enough to rule out "sprinkling" as baptism); and it further teaches us that our "newness of life" follows our resurrection from baptism. If God intended to teach us that sprinkling is baptism, and the subject is alive (spiritual life in Christ) before the baptism, He certainly chose a strange "figure" to do it.

In ROM.6:17 Paul writes: "Ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you" Note, "Ye were...but.." A change took place when they obeyed this "form" Vs.18 reads, "being then made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness" Being then... i.e., when you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine. The obedience to this "form" becomes the dividing line between the old life and the new; between one spiritually dead in his sins, and the same one freed from sins, and alive in Christ. Christ died for the sins of the world, He was buried, and He arose from the grave. He was "declared to be the Son of God with power" by this resurrection (ROM.1:4). How utterly fitting, therefore, that a "form" or "figure" of the death, burial, and resurrection be commanded of those who would become followers of Christ.

There is no efficacy in the water, no power to effect. The scriptures assign no cleansing power to the water (see 1PE.3:21) but consistently treat baptism as a "figure". Does this lessen its importance? The memorial supper is a "figure" also. Christ took bread, and said, "This is my body" Obviously it was representative of His body, for at the time He instituted this memorial He had not yet died. The same may be said for the fruit of the vine, His blood. But the figurative nature of the supper does not lessen the importance of His command, "This do.." (1CO.11:23-f)

Nor does the figurative nature of baptism lessen its importance. We are commanded to be baptized (MAR.16:16 ACT.2:38,10:48,22:16). They that gladly receive God's word will be baptized (ACT.2:41). We have no authority to tell any one their sins are forgiven until they have obeyed the Lord in baptism (Remember, "being then made free from sins.."). This is not a "church doctrine" -- it is a part of God's message to lost mankind.