The phrase, “baptized into Christ” is used twice by the Apostle Paul. Here are the instances:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? (Romans 6:3)
for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
For Paul, baptism has gone way beyond water. He didn’t say “as many of you as were baptized into water” but baptized into Christ. This is bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.
In Acts 19:1-7 Paul asks some people if they have received the Holy Spirit. They say they didn’t know the Holy Spirit was given. So Paul asks what baptism they received. “John’s.” Paul told them about being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did. Paul laid his hands on them afterwards and they received the Spirit.
If there’s no Spirit then there was no baptism in Jesus Christ. John baptized with water; Jesus will come and baptize with the Spirit. Water is often a picture for the Spirit. Baptism has something to do with the Spirit.
Being baptized into Christ sounds like something more than getting wet. Romans 6 is talking about being baptized into Christ, fully immersed and identified with Him.
Romans 6:3-4 talk about being baptized in Christ’s death. Whoa, what’s that? Total identification with Christ. Christ didn’t just die FOR you; by faith you died WITH Christ.
Christ didn’t just rise from the dead FOR you; you were raised up WITH Him.
When you think of baptism—being dunked in water and raised back out—this is a perfect picture of death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism itself doesn’t save. Faith in Christ to the point of complete immersion and identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is what faith is all about.
You can see this very well in the second passage, Galatians 3:26-28:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You become a child of God by faith. Faith is always the issue. Baptism into Christ is to be clothed with Christ, which I would take to be similar to Galatians 2:20 that it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. Or as Paul sys later in Galatians, “I am crucified unto the world and the world is crucified unto me.” You lose your earthly, physical identification as it is all swallowed up in Christ.
There is much talk about identity and identifying as whatever in our day. No believer in Christ should fuss about gender, race, class, or any other physical identifier. All of that has been removed in Christ. I’m not male, poor, and white. I’m born again in Christ, a citizen of heaven!
Paul is already dead. He’s already living a new spiritual life in Christ. The old has passed away. The reason for this is that Paul already sees himself as dead and resurrected, because by faith, this is who he is in Christ!
Baptism didn’t work this regeneration. It’s the faith that identifies with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes you a child of God. Baptism is the picture of this complete identification.
If you got dunked in water by some church guy, that means nothing unless you by faith understood that you were crucified, buried, and raised up with Christ.
Faith is the issue. Identification, being clothed with Christ, baptized into Christ, is the deal. Get that right and baptism is meaningful. Miss that faith part and baptism is just taking a bath.