The Stronghold or Gibraltar of the Baptist and Disciple’s
“Concerning the next verse (Rom 6:5), which has seemed to so many to strongly emphasize their position respecting the matter of water baptism: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” How many “Baptists” and “Disciples” have considered this verse a very Gibraltar for their faith! They state that their baptism into water was their “planting” in the likeness of Christ’s death, and then reason from this that surely they shall also be in His likeness in the resurrection. But, dear friends, that interpretation is all wrong. That verse has no reference whatever to water baptism, and any who have been deceiving themselves along that line should take it kindly that they be awakened from such delusive hopes.
Think for a moment what it would mean if we applied it to water baptism. It would imply that any one buried into water in the (symbolic) likeness of Christ’s death would surely be likewise in His resurrection. That would be a very cheap guarantee to a place in the kingdom and joint heirship with our Lord — simply water baptism. Surely, dear friends, you know very many who perform the symbol, the water picture of Christ’s death, who have never shown any particularly saintly qualities nor manifested as much of the development of the fruits and graces of the spirit, nor that the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts, nor that they were in any sense of the word of the elect, who are declared to be, in heart at least, “copies of God’s dear Son” (Rom 8:29.)
Alas, my dear friends, those who hope to get a place in the kingdom, to sit with the Lord in His throne, merely through an immersion in water; who believe that baptism is the door into the church, which is the body of Christ, and the guarantee of a part with Him in His millennial reign, will be sadly mistaken. We wish to assist in awakening all the wise virgins from the lethargy which misunderstandings of God’s Word have induced. As the apostle says: “It is high time to awaken out of sleep, for now is our salvation, nearer than when we first believed.” It is getting nearer every day; whether, as claimed by Brother White, there is a thousand years’ millennium in between us and that glorious event, or whether, as we believe and teach, our Lord’s manifestation in glory is nigh, even at the door.
Permit me to show you that this verse is in full harmony with the preceding verses, and does not in the remotest degree refer to water immersion, but does in its every particular refer to immersion into Christ’s death — to our fellowship with Christ in His sufferings of this present time, to the extent that we may also be glorified with Him.
A Mischievous Mistranslation
This expression, “planted together,” is a mistranslation which has caused a considerable amount of the prevalent confusion. It should read thus: “For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death we shall be also (united with Him) in his resurrection.” Nor is this my own unsupported translation. You will find it thus rendered in the Revised Version, the translators of which held nothing in common with our interpretation of the passage.
This increased force, or meaning, in respect to the thought of baptism, may be startling to some, and I trust that it will be sufficiently startling to lead you to a fresh examination of the whole subject, and to make sure that you have the right baptism which the Lord will be pleased to reward with a share in His kingdom and glory and in the likeness of His son.
I remind you that our Lord with His own lips gave this interpretation to baptism. Two of His most zealous disciples, James and John, were brought by their mother to Jesus, with the request, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand and the other on Thy left, in Thy kingdom. And Jesus answered and said, ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able (willing) to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matt 20:20-22.) Let us note particularly that our Lord could not have referred here to water baptism, for these two disciples had been with John before our Lord’s ministry began, and, again, as Jesus’s representatives, they baptized multitudes (John 4:1-2). Oh, no, dear friends; unquestionably the word referred to their share in the baptism of death, just as we have already shown you He spoke of His own baptism into death as being not yet accomplished.
The symbol (water baptism) was in the past; the actuality (his true baptism) was nearly ended, but was not to be finished until Calvary, So too with regards to your baptism and mine into Christ’s death, by which we became identified with Him and counted as members of His body. It began at the time you made a full consecration of your life with no reservation. It will continue day by day (a “living sacrifice”), for, as the apostle says, we are to “die daily” (1 Cor 15:31.) It will finish when you have made a completion of your course with joy and the sacrifices wholly consumed upon the Lord’s altar. In a word, the road to heavenly royalty is through faithfulness to the Lord, to the truth; to the brethren, to the degree of one’s suffering and death.
“If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him; if we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him.” Let us not forget the conditions. It is because the Lord is seeking this little elect company, as the bride of Christ and joint heir of His son, that He has invited us, and the necessities of the case make the way a narrow one — so narrow that those who love the world, or father or mother or houses or lands or wife or children more than they love the Lord, will not be counted worthy of Him, and those who are ashamed of Him and His word of such would He be ashamed.
Hence, as our Lord’s faithfulness was tested by His being misunderstood, misrepresented, so it will be with His disciples, for the disciple is not above His Lord. And, again, as the apostle declares, “The world knows us not (understands us not, appreciates us not), even as it knew Him not”.
I remind you again, however, dear friends that both by our Lord’s example and the teachings of the apostles, it is both our privilege and duty to symbolize our consecration to death by a water baptism, in which the administrator represents the Lord. As the candidate gives himself into the hands of the administrator to be buried, and then to be raised, so in our consecration we realize our own insufficiency to either sacrifice our-selves or to bury ourselves in any sense of the word, and we give ourselves and our cause into the hands of our Redeemer, who promises us that He will see to our having the experiences necessary, so long as our hearts are in full consecration to Him, and if we are thus faithful unto death He will raise us up at the last day, the millennial day. (John 6:40)
It was thus with the two disciples to whom the Lord spoke. He said: “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Evidently meaning: “Are you willing to take of the cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said: “Yea, Lord, we are willing.” And Jesus said: “Ye shall in-deed drink of my cup, and be baptized with my baptism, but whether you shall sit on the right hand and left hand is not for me to give. That shall be given to the one who is faithful, by my Father.” But let us see the point the Lord was guaranteeing: He promised these disciples their seat in the Kingdom if they should prove faithful. They wanted to be near their Lord in the Kingdom. He told them the conditions on which they could be in the Kingdom. They could only be in the Kingdom by being baptized with His baptism — the baptism He was baptized with. Not a baptism for a remission of sins (water baptism as practiced by John), for, as we have already seen, Jesus had no sins to wash away. No one, I think, would claim that He had sins to wash away. Therefore we know he was not referring to water baptism.
I think it will give encouragement, dear friends, too, when we feel the great importance of this matter; when we see that the Lord says that anyone who will be His disciple must be prepared to take up His cross and follow Him, or he cannot be His disciple.
This would be impossible were it not that the Lord hells as His grace is sufficient for us. He tells us when we present ourselves for baptism we are thus putting ourselves in His hands. We are laying the matter in His hands. He undertakes to do for us as represented by the administrator in the symbolical water baptism; being buried with Him. He will raise us up by His power in the resurrection. What a glorious thing that we can indeed put our little all into the hands of glorious Master and realize it is sufficient where we are insufficient. But He requires that we shall have the right spirit in the matter; that we shall be full of desire to be baptized in His death, and that those who will not so desire cannot have a share with Him in His kingdom.
With this view of the Scriptural teaching on the subject of baptism, that membership in the body of Christ is gained through a full consecration unto death, you will perceive, dear friends, that there have been, and may be now, many Christian people in or out of the various denominations who have had this, the real baptism into Christ’s death, and, therefore, been acceptable to Him as members of the church in glory — the Melchizedek priesthood.
There might be many Methodists or Lutherans who had never been immersed in water because of ignorance, through some misunderstanding, perhaps, as we have heard this evening enough to turn people away from the Bible altogether and all thought of God and all thought of immersion. That is the difficulty with our friends, the Presbyterians and the Methodist de-nomination. They cannot stand preaching of this kind — that if they are not immersed in water they cannot get a place in the resurrection. We can see how they may have the real baptism of consecration. Such we advise that their ignorance of the symbol has not worked a vitiation of their true baptism, but that so soon as their eyes open to see the proper symbol of death which the Lord has appointed in an immersion in water, the duty and responsibility of obedience will be upon them; and thereafter they shall not expect to make further progress in growth, in grace and knowledge and character-likeness of the Lord, or preparation for the Kingdom, except as they shall yield obedience also to the outward form of water baptism. For, if their consecration unto death be genuine, nothing stands in the way of performing the symbol of this after they have realized the symbol to be the will of the Lord and the teaching of His word.
On the other hand, I suggest to all who find them-selves deficient in the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, Christ-likeness of character, that they make diligent inquiry within as to whether there is a possibility that theirs was merely the baptism of John and not the baptism into Christ’s death. And if they shall so find, my advice would be that they lose no time, but present their bodies living sacrifices to God, holy and acceptable through Christ, and their reasonable service; and that subsequently they symbolize this great transaction and consider that any baptism previously was merely a misunderstood form, of no value whatever.”
(Extracts taken from Pastor Russell’s remarks concerning Baptism during the Russell / White debate as found in the 1908 Cincinnati Ohio Bible Students Convention Report)