Now let us come back to our main subject. Why do we have to be baptized? On the one hand, it is because our sins are washed away. On the other hand, it is because we have died. We should be baptized because our sins are washed. Baptism testifies to the fact that our sins are washed. We should be baptized also because our old man is dead. Baptism testifies to the fact that our old man is indeed dead. What is the first thing that we should do to a man who is dead? Will anyone try to leave a dead man on display for more than a few days? After a few days, the body begins to stink, and worms attack the skin. Last year a sister died. We loved her very much, but there was no way that we could keep her for more than a few days. Once a man dies, there is no use for him anymore and the first thing to do is to bury him. The act of burial is a testimony that the one who is being buried is dead. Suppose there is someone whom we love dearly, as dearly as we love ourselves. She is dying of an illness, but there is still a pulse and still a little breath within her. While she lies there motionless and speechless, would we put her into the coffin? We would surely not do this because we do not believe that she is dead. When do we bury our dear father, mother, wife, or friends? We bury them when we know for sure that they are dead and they can live no longer. As long as there is a little hope of life, we would never bury our dear father, mother, wife, or friends. When they have died and the situation becomes hopeless, we bury them. We cannot bury a person before he is dead; nevertheless, the first thing we do to a dead person is to bury him.
The Bible tells us that since we are crucified, we are buried with the Lord. The meaning of baptism in the Bible is not just a washing but a burial. This is why we must be baptized. This means that we believe we are dead persons. This is why we ask others to bury us in the water. We do this because we believe that we are dead and that we will not change. If a man does not believe that he is dead, he cannot be baptized because to do so would be to bury someone who is alive. It is wrong to bury a living person. Those who are baptized must believe that they have been crucified with Christ. How do we show that we have believed? How do we testify to the accomplished work of Christ? We testify through baptism. When we are buried in water through baptism, it shows that we believe that the Lord’s blood has cleansed us from our sins and that His cross has crucified our old man with Him. We are baptized because we believe in these facts; baptism proves that we are already cleansed and already dead.
Therefore, there are two conditions for baptism. The Bible tells us to rise and wash away our sins. This means that we believe God has redeemed us from sin and has washed us, so we testify to this by means of baptism. The Bible also tells us to rise up and be buried in the water by baptism through believing that we are dead. Not only are our sins washed away, but our person is buried. Sins are washed away, and the person is also washed away. This is the meaning of baptism. This is the testimony of baptism.
A CONCLUDING WORD
Friends, can you give such a testimony? I do not have to exhort you to be baptized. Those among us who have not believed in the Lord Jesus do not have their sins forgiven, and I hope that you would believe right away. If you have believed and do not know that you can overcome your sins fully because you are still losing your temper, sinning, and committing evil, you should realize that the Lord has crucified you with Him on the cross. Now nothing should cause you to sin. You can overcome all sins. Please exercise your faith to stand on the ground of Romans 6, believing that you are dead. What can sin do to you? A believer must stand on the ground of Romans 6:6 and 11 before he can overcome sin. Otherwise, he can piously pray and read the Bible, but it will not avail anything. He must first reckon that he is dead before these other things can be added to him in a useful way.
If anyone sitting here has believed that the Lord’s blood has cleansed him from his sins and that He has crucified our old man with Him on the cross, he should rise up and be baptized and hand himself over to the burial.
Here I would say a word in passing. The proper baptism is to be immersed. No other baptism can be considered a baptism. Please consider one thing. If I remember correctly, the first instance of burial in the Old Testament is in Genesis 23:8: "And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me." What is the meaning of burial? It is removing the dead out of one’s sight; it is causing the eyes not to see the dead one. If you are not immersed in water, it cannot be considered a burial. Being buried is not seeing the old man any longer.
Today I am not telling you what is a baptism and what is not a baptism. I am telling you the two meanings of baptism. The first meaning is the washing away of sins, and the second is the reckoning of our old man as crucified and buried. May we all be able to testify that the Lord has delivered us from sin and that not only are our sins forgiven, but that we ourselves are dead. May we not only be able to testify this with our mouth but in our daily walk as well. May we all believe in the accomplished work of the Lord so that we can receive the peace and joy of forgiveness and be liberated, freed, and overcoming persons. Amen!
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee)