The apostle then asks a peculiar question, setting the stage for a passage which has been a source of theological contention for many long years.  He asks the Romans whether they know (the clear implication being that they should) that those who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.  Much of the debate around this and the succeeding verses center around whether Paul is speaking of water baptism, by which one professes his faith in a crucified and resurrected Saviour, or Holy Spirit baptism.  I am greatly inclined to lean towards the latter, since the rite of water baptism, considered by itself, is of no spiritual advantage to a man, except he has been baptized by the Holy Ghost into the body of Christ: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Since I am firmly persuaded that regeneration is in no wise a consequence of baptism, I conclude that the baptism of a man who has not been made a partaker of the Holy Ghost is utterly useless.  A man may be dipped in the water without ever having partaken of the spiritual reality of having been immersed into the death of Christ.  However, all this does not mean that the passage has nothing to say concerning the Christian rite of water baptism.  On the contrary, much of what we hold baptism to represent is deduced from this very passage.  That blessed ordinance was given to portray the very same spiritual realities which the apostle Paul is explaining in this place, as he seeks to prove that the true believer cannot under any circumstances continue in sin that grace may abound.


Therefore, by “as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ,” I believe the apostle refers to that mighty miracle of regeneration, by which a man is brought out of his state of spiritual death and condemnation, and joined in vital union with the living Saviour, so that he dwells in Him, even as the branch in the vine.  All such people are also baptized into the death of Christ.  We can take this in a couple of different ways at least; it could refer to our judicial death with Christ, whereby His death became ours, His penal suffering the suffering which we deserved.  When Christ was paying the penalty for our sins upon the cross, God viewed it as our penalty being paid, so much so that it can be said that we died with Him.  We can also understand it as a spiritual death unto the power and dominion of sin.  Christ suffered under the heavy burden of sin, which crushed Him even into death, but He was raised up to newness of life by the glory of the Father, and sin and death no longer have any claim over Him.  We too are brought out of the realm of sin’s dominion, because of our union with Christ, and are now dead to its ruling power.  Both of these things seem to me to be held in view by the apostle as he deals with this somewhat complex and theologically intricate subject.