Lastly, what does such baptising with water indicate? “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (SC, Baptism, Fourth).
At the end of every year comes the time when we reflect on our actions and behaviours over the past year and decide to make changes to our lives right on January 1st. We realise we haven’t exactly followed through on our New Year’s Resolutions this past year, so we make new ones—or perhaps an improved old one—in hopes of this time succeeding in our efforts of self-improvement.
I’ve never understood why we do this. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with improving yourself through a healthy diet, exercise, reading your Bible in a year or two, whatever it might be. But why do we always wait until January 1 to do it? What is stopping us from using any of the other 364 days left in the year to begin improving ourselves? (The only thing that really stops us is ourselves.) There isn’t really anything special about January 1, so why wait a whole year to make life changing choices? It’s just another day in the year; it doesn’t possess any magical or cosmic powers to actually improve your life.
I don’t understand this mindset because of what Paul says in Romans 6:4, “We were buried with Him by Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” By virtue of our Baptism, each of us now walk in newness of life. This has a double meaning, of course—often what we call, in Lutheran theology, a paradoxical now/not-yet reality. In the now, you have been delivered from your former life of sin—you have been bought back (redeemed) from death and the devil. Whatever sins once enslaved you, you’ve received not only the forgiveness of sins but also the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who strengthens and enables you to renounce those former taskmasters. This means you don’t have to wait until January 1 to walk in newness of life; you get to do this every single day! Every morning, you wake up cleansed from sin.
As Luther writes in the Large Catechism, Baptism “is nothing else than the slaying of the Old Adam [original sin] and the resurrection of the new creature, both of which must continue in us our whole life long. Thus, a Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, begun once and continuing ever after. For we keep at it without ceasing, always purging whatever pertains to the Old Adam, so that whatever belongs to the new creature may come forth” (LC IV, 65). Baptism, like catechesis, is from the womb to the tomb. Because you are baptised, you get to walk in newness of life every day! If you find you want to improve on something in the middle of April, you don’t have to wait until January 1. You can start that very day! Or if you find you’ve fallen behind on your Bible reading plan or that devotional book you’re reading, you don’t have to start over from the beginning on January 1; just pick up right where you left off, or read more to catch up to where you’re supposed to be. Paul talks more about this newness of life in the now in the rest of Romans 6, as well as chapters 7 and 8. Read your Bible!
Lastly, in the not-yet, this newness of life, of course, looks to the resurrection of the body, just as Paul continues, “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:5). In Baptism, you underwent holy adoption into the family of God (Romans 8:14-15; 9:26; Ephesians 1:3-5; Galatians 4:4-5). You were transferred into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13-14). Therefore, because you believe and are baptised (Mark 16:16), you can expect to find yourself with that incalculable multitude at the new creation (Revelation 7:9-17) when Christ returns in glory to inaugurate His kingdom.