Baptism is a ritual death. The apostle says that everyone who has been baptized into Christ Jesus has been baptized into His death. We were buried with Him through baptism. When Jesus died, everyone who has been baptized died with him. This is glorious because of course all we have done in baptism is put a little bit of water on the head of someone. If we look back at the story of the Bible from the Garden of Eden and the Sin of Adam and Eve, we will remember that our first parents were excommunicated from the presence of God, sent out of the Garden of Eden and cherubim were stationed at the entrance of the Garden with a flaming sword guarding the way. The only way someone could get back into the presence of God would be by going through that sword. Thus, one way we can tell the story of the rest of Scripture, is that Scripture is the story of trying to figure out some way to die without dying. Actually, God is constantly coming up with ways to show this very mercy and grace to his people. He allows access to his presence through the blood of substitutes; he allows sinners to draw near through covenant representatives. He shows mercy on the children born into covenant households. But Paul says that the ultimate reason why we have died with Christ is so that we can be raised in the likeness of his resurrection, so that we may walk in the newness of life.
Paul goes on to say things somewhat oddly. He says that we are no longer slaves of sin and that he who has died has been freed from sin. Just as death no longer has dominion over Christ so we are to reckon ourselves who have died with him in baptism to be dead to sin. We who were formerly the slaves of sin are no longer slaves but free because we have died with Christ. But then Paul immediately exhorts the Romans not to let sin reign in their bodies. He says not to obey sin (as though it were your master); do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness. Rather present yourselves to God as alive from the dead and instruments of righteousness. This sounds odd at first. We are tempted to ask, ‘so which is it, Paul?’ Are we dead to sin or not? But this is the covenantal reality that is hinted at throughout Scripture and realized in the person and work of Christ. The grace of God to us and to our children is that we have found a way back into the presence of God; we have found a way to die without dying. Our covenant head went ahead of us back into the garden and he was killed by the flaming sword of the Cherubim. But God raised him up from the dead, and all who are in him are counted as having died and been raised as well. But this grace, this gift and favor of God must be received with faith and thanksgiving. And this leads to Paul’s exhortation. You cannot receive the gift of death and resurrection and then live as though you haven’t died and rose again. The very nature of this gift is that it must change you and you must change. And these two things are not at odds. Baptism is the promise of forgiveness and cleansing and righteousness. But this promise must be received in faith. This means that you, the parents, and all parents here who have baptized children under their care are responsible to raise their children in this death and resurrection life. This baptism means death and resurrection. And therefore you must teach your son to live like a freeman. He is no slave to sin and unrighteousness, and therefore he must fight sin and wickedness all his days. This is a great gift; this is nothing but the kindness and grace of God. Therefore receive this gift now with faith and thanksgiving, and live like it is true every day of your lives and raise your son in this nurture and admonition: the nurture and admonition of the death and resurrection of the Lord. Do not let sin have dominion over you: for we are under grace.