Vol. 1 - No. 4 

April, 1982

"Do We Bury The Dead...Or The Living?"

by R. L. (Bob) Craig

Not too long ago, I heard a preacher go to great lengths , to explain Romans 6:4. That verse reads: "We are buried, therefore, by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead even so we also should walk in newness of life." A beautiful word picture was drawn by the preacher in describing how a person dies, is buried, and looks forward to the great resurrection morning. This, he says, is the analogy that is drawn on by the apostle in our reading. One would not, he said, bury the living; we bury the dead.

Well, it sounded real good. The only problem was-it just wasn't so. This concept is also drawn on in debate on the part that baptism plays ..in the salvation of sinners. Our opposition makes his argument concerning the point of salvation, trying to prove that one is saved at the point of faith, hence, becomes dead to sin at that time, therefore, we can now bury (baptize) him. Then, he too, eloquently and dramatically asks the question, "Now, do you bury the living - - or the dead?" and thinks he has scored.

All right, let's look at the verse, and remember, we are dealing with the context of Romans 6:4. I am aware that a person dies to the love and practice of sin before baptism in his repentance, but Paul is not discussing that in our verse. He is discussing having fellowship with the death of Christ.

Anyone who seriously studies the Bible knows that an analogy, a type, nor a parable is to be pressed in every detail. If we do that, we lose sight of the lesson under consideration. I am afraid that has happened in Romans 6. The death and resurrection of Jesus are under observance here but only to teach the lesson that all need to learn. Our fellowship with his death takes place in - not before -baptism. This is stated in verse three: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" This is the same thing Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ " In so many words, "I have died with Christ." Question: When did he die with Christ? On the road to Damascus? Ananias had told Paul, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins " (Acts 22:16) When he did that, he was buried with his Lord in baptism baptized into the death of Christ baptized into his own death to sin baptized into a justified condition inasmuch as his sins were removed in that act of faith.

In our context, at verse six, Paul states basically, the same thing we quoted from Galatians 2:20: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." In fact, all these verses we have looked at are given by the apostle to answer the three questions introduced in verses one and two: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we that are DEAD to sin continue any longer therein?"

When did we die? Before the burial in baptism, after the burial, or IN the burial? You answer the question from the verses we have looked at. Don't be intimidated by the accusing finger of rhetoric that asks in derision, "Do you bury a live man?" The Bible answers the question, not the sophistry of man.

Finally, verse seven caps the climax when Paul concludes, "For he that hath died is justified from sin." (ASV) When are we justified? When our sins are forgiven. When are our sins forgiven? " be baptized and wash away thy sins " When do we die? In baptism. If one dies BEFORE baptism he is justified before and apart from baptism. But if he dies IN baptism and our verses all say that he does, then there is no way to get around the necessity of baptism.

Let's keep on studying!