Death to Life
Last week we looked at how Paul understood that salvation is all wrapped up with the doctrine of resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the dead, and we are in him, we have risen from the dead. Salvation is a passing from death to life (2:1 and 2:5).
The Significance of Baptism
God taught the Israelites that if they wanted to be in fellowship with him, they had to be separated from the world of death. So God gave them a whole host of
rules and regulations that distinguished between Jews and Gentiles and made them live separately. And there was special care taken in any matter that dealt
directly with death or the dead. You washed everything that came in contact with the dead (Num. 19).
Baptism for the Dead
The Jews concluded that if you needed to be baptized when you have been touching something that is dead, then anyone who converted to being a Jew would need to be baptized, because Gentiles were all dead people.
This is why, in 1 Cor. 15, when Paul is confronting the people at Corinth who are denying the resurrection, he says to them, why do you then baptize for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29)? Paul isn’t talking about a separate special kind of baptism (as the Mormons teach). He is talking about the baptism that we all have received. All baptism is baptism for the dead. And Paul is saying, why would we go through this ceremony about separating ourselves from death if death if there is no resurrection?
Brought Near (2:11-13)
You who were once far off, who were once dead and excluded from this life, have now been brought near. Remember where God has taken you from. Maybe you don’t remember a moment of conversion. But surely you see what unbelief looks like. God has redeemed you from that. This is what you should talk to yourself about.
By Grace (2:8-10)
So conversion is about going from death to life. But if that is the case, then that says something about the very nature of conversion, doesn’t it? This means that it is totally, fully, solely, completely, accomplished by God alone and not with our contribution. “By grace you have been saved” (2:5). You see that connection? Because you were dead when God came for you, you contributed nothing.
This is why this is something that Paul is thanking God for. That’s what you do when something has been given to you. It is either gratitude or boasting (Luke