I did not grow up a church-boy. After becoming a Christian I wandered through backyard Bible studies, late night prayer meetings in odd places, and lived my Christian life among strange, semi-cultic fellowships of networked home churches. You can imagine I had a non-traditional baptism. I was baptized by a college kid, who dunked me into a suburban swimming pool just after midnight. One of the people who got baptized that night shouted, “Hold me under a long time–I’ve got a lot to die for!”
I must have been 25 years old before I ever saw a proper church baptism. When I did, I was fascinated with the phrase repeated over and over again, “Arise to walk in newness of life.” The words rang with freshness and truth. They also sounded vaguely familiar, so I used my New American Standard Bible and tracked down the words to Romans, chapter 6: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
It’s an amazing assertion: that the born-again experience produced an entirely new creation, a new order of being. My amazement, though, gave way to an observation: these words were too good to be true. Most of us gently changed the meaning to something easier to grasp. “I’ve been clean-up by God,” or, “My sins have been washed away,” or, ”My past has been forgiven.” All these things are true, but they are something very different from a new creation. Eventually I began to wonder, what good is it to have your past forgiven, if you are essentially the same person? When someone is only forgiven–merely forgiven–the recidivism rate for sin is sure to be 100%. We will do it again.
But imagine a new creature, something–someone–born from another realm, with different desires, different needs. Someone who feeds on different food, breathes different air, and drinks from an entirely different fountain. Imagine that the change is wrought inside-out, so that the outer appearance is unchanged, but the spiritual body chemistry is other-worldly. What if we could be redeemed versions of the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers?
It’s worth meditation for church planters: what if newness of life actually meant a life of another kind? But that would be too weird, right?
This article on baptism originally appeared here, and is used by permission.