Edited by: Gary L. Hutchens
At the close of this letter to the Romans Paul again emphasized the point that saving faith is obedient faith. “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 16:25-27).
Being counted righteous by God is inseparably linked to obedient faith. “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18). It is clear from this passage that freedom from sin and the change from sin to righteousness came when they obeyed from the heart—not before.
Heartfelt obedience in baptism is an act of faith, not a work of merit. No one earns heaven by being baptized; instead one receives grace in being baptized. Many people reject the necessity of baptism for salvation, calling it a work. But baptism, far from being a work of merit, is an act of faith through which the grace of God is applied to the souls of men.
That faith, baptism and righteousness are linked together in the writings of Paul is undeniable. In fact, Paul makes it clear that baptism is not a deed-based righteous act but the means by which God saves us. Notice Gal. 3:24-27, where the faith that justifies assumes that a person has been baptized: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
God is the active participant in baptism, and the one baptized is the passive receiver of God’s grace: “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” (Col. 2:12-13). God is the worker in baptism!
God gave new life to Jesus when He raised Him up; and God gives us new life when the old man of sin is buried with Christ through baptism and the new man is raised in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-6). There is no new life until one is buried and raised with Christ in baptism.