Vol.XII No.XII Pg.5
February 1976

Let The Dead Stay Dead

Robert F. Turner

By now you have surely heard the joke about the man who boasted he was a crack shot — never missed a duck. A friend accompanied him on a hunt, and stood back to let the expert take the first shot. Bang! Bang! and the duck flew away untouched! But the braggart said, Take a good look at that! You may never again see a dead duck fly across a lake.

Not really too impressive — for we see dead former lives going about their ungodly ways as though they had never died. The apostle Paul knew this was possible for he warned, Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body... neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead (Rom. 6:12-13). Brethren, we must learn to let the dead stay dead!

Paul referred to the symbolism of baptism. Jesus Christ died for sinful mankind (Rom. 5:8-9), and in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God (Rom. 6:10). Next verse: Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And why should we so reckon ourselves? He is writing to people who were 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).

But it is apparent that although baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); and symbolizes the death of the old man (Rom. 6:6); the free-agency of man is not impaired. The past is forgiven, and the dominion of the system of law is broken, in that the means of continued forgiveness is provided. But if we are determined to deny the Lord that bought us (2 Pet. 2:1), we can do so.

Daniel Sommer once accused preachers of emphasizing buried with Him in baptism a hundred-fold, if not a thousand-fold, more than the newness of life to which the buried ones are raised, or are intended to be raised. The charge is a serious one. As Christs death would be meaningless without the life that followed; so the death symbol is a covenant of intent, to live a new life in Christ, servants of righteousness.

We cannot expect people to take our death (baptism) seriously, when it is apparent that our old man continues to live and do business at the same old stand. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom. 6:2, 7:4) Our neighbors may be worldly, but they are not stupid. How can we expect them to think our old man is dead when they hear him speaking vile language, see him angry, engaged in sinful activities, or perhaps are cheated by him in a business deal.

Much has been written about the necessity of understanding that baptism is for the remission of sins. How about a little more teaching the candidate that it is also in order to a new life — signaling the end of former conduct, and promising complete dedication of our members to our new Master, Jesus Christ.