for what are we baptised?


There are some who maintain that Adam’s sin is in some way legally imputed to us, and that when we are baptised, we are freed from this “legal condemnation” – as well as having our sins forgiven. So they reason that, unless we have this legal sentence of eternal death removed through baptism, we are not accountable to judgement. However, the Scriptures testify that baptism is always for remission of personal offences (Acts 2:38, 22:26 etc), never for the removal of the imputed guilt of another. It is a means of becoming part of the family of which the Lord Jesus Christ is Head, for we are “baptised into Jesus Christ” (Rom 6:3), we “put on Christ” (Gal 3:26) and become “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28,29). And we are introduced into a new relationship with the Father, as we are able to approach His Throne of Grace through Christ as our representative (Heb 10:19,22, Rom 5:1,2).

But at the same time, there are others who allow this to blind them to the fact that we are born into a situation of “condemnation” by descent from Adam, and that this condemnation can be removed by becoming a member of the family of Christ by baptism. This is the clear teaching of Scripture: “as by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom 5:18). And again, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). From these testimonies, it is clear that whilst baptism is for the remission of our offences, it also introduces us into a situation whereby we might no longer bear the condemnation we inherit from Adam.

The condemnation given against Adam was a sentence of death passed because of sin. This sentence “became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity” (BASF clause V) as the Apostle declared: “by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom 5:18). The sentence of death was inflicted upon Adam, and we are partakers of that sentence, not in a legal sense, but physically by the inheritance of his condemned nature.

But in Christ, there is “now no condemnation” (Rom 8:1), that is no condemnation now, either from Adam, or because of our own transgressions.

Bro. Roberts spoke of this:

“What is cancelled at baptism (and it is only cancelled potentially – for there is an “if” all the way through) is the condemnation resting upon us as individual sinners, and the condemnation which we physically inherit”

(Preface to The Debate on Resurrectional Responsibility).

But the condemnation we bear from Adam, is the physical inheritance of a mortal, sinful nature, and this is not removed until Immortality is bestowed. As Bro. Roberts showed later in the same debate, “there are two stages in the process of being saved, one a moral, and one a physical; one having to do with the mind and the other the body. That is the distinction. We are justified from the moral now”. And in answer to the question, “Are we not justified from “sin in the flesh” at the same time as from wicked deeds, he replied, “that is your way of putting it. I put the facts; that God forgives our sins when we are baptized, and takes away sin in the flesh when we are changed”.

So then, we will not be justified physically (1 Tim 3:16) until immortality is bestowed. In what sense, then can it be said that there is “now no condemnation”, if the condemnation we physically inherit now remains with us? The answer, is that we are prospectively freed from condemnation now, although the physical reality will not actually take place until the Judgement Seat.

Bro Roberts clearly explained the situation thus: “Legally, a man is freed from the Adamic condemnation at the time he obeys the truth and receives remission of sins; but actually its physical effects remain till “this mortal” (i.e. this Adamic condemned nature) is swallowed up in the life that Christ will bestow upon his brethren at his coming. Those whom Christ does not approve are delivered up to death again (because of their own sins and not because of Adam). Although reconciled to Christ, we remain under the physical effect of Adam’s sentence till we are “changed in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump”.

The case is parallel with what takes place between two nations at war (alienated) who arrive at terms of peace. As soon as the treaty is signed, they are legally at peace, yet the effects of the war are not at once ended, for the forces of the one remain in the territories of the other until the ratification of the treaty and the arrival of the date fixed for evacuation. Peace between God and the disobedient is signed, so to speak, when the believing sinner submits to the righteousness of God in being baptised INTO THE DEATH OF HIS SON! But war measures are not entirely withdrawn until the reconciliation is ratified at the judgement seat of Christ” (The Christadelphian, 1878, p 225).

In his debate with JJ Andrew, in speaking of this quotation (Question 686 & Preface), Bro Roberts clarified what he meant by the term “Legally”. He did not refer to the notion of a legal guilt being removed, that JJ Andrew taught. Rather, he said “legal mortality would be that which is constituted, ordered, or determined upon by law. In this sense, we pass (potentially) from death to life at baptism – which is a very important sense certainly, for without it there could be no hope of the physical deliverance that waits at the coming of Christ”.

As we have shown, the way in which our transgressions are forgiven, is that they are taken away by Christ, as our representative. Being baptised, we are represented before God in Christ as our High Priest, and because in him, there is no sin, sin is not imputed to us. But in the Lord Jesus Christ, not only is it the case that there is no sin, the physical condemnation he inherited from Adam has also been removed. The BASF speaks of the Lord “who was to be raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David, and who, though wearing their condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and, by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him” (Clause VII).

Therefore, as we appear before God, even though in actual fact we are still sinners, and even though we are still the partakers of a condemned nature, because our representative is neither a sinner, nor any longer a partaker of that nature, both of these things are removed. The law of condemnation has been abrogated, and sins are no longer imputed. We can do no better than to conclude this section with the words of Bro Roberts in debate with JJ Andrew, when JJ Andrew was the questioner concerning the quotation from The Christadelphian, cited above:

  1. Do you adhere to this statement that he (i.e. the obedient believer -CAM) is legally freed from Adamic condemnation? Answer: I understand God gives the obedient believer a clean slate, as you might say.
    691. What is wiped out? Answer: Everything that stands against us in any way, whether from Adam or ourselves.
    692. Then there is a passing out of Adam into Christ at baptism: Answer: Certainly.
    693. When a man passes into Christ, what has he in Adam that he loses when he passes into Christ? Answer: His relation to the whole death dispensation which Adam introduced. There is a preliminary deliverance at baptism, but it is not actual till the resurrection.

So then it is clear that Baptism forms the basis of forgiveness of sins by association with the perfect sacrifice of the one who destroyed sin. But also, it forms the basis for the ultimate purification of our nature, and in this sense, we are also prospectively freed from the condemnation we inherit from Adam. In Apostolic terms, because we are “planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5), that is, our body shall be changed “that is may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil 3:21), “When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1Jno 3:2).

Christopher Maddocks