I am currently reading The Circle Series by Ted Dekker. I highly recommend this most excellent series of Christian fiction. Dekker paints a beautiful word picture of what takes place though baptism. (I promise to not divulge too much of the story line.)
The story is told of two tribes of people: Desert Dwellers (or the Horde) who follow the ways of the world, and the Forest People who follow the ways of Elyon (God). The Horde have smelly, flaky, diseased skin and are afraid of water. The Forest People have good skin and bathe every day in Elyon’s water so that they do not become like the Horde. If the Forest People go a day without bathing, then their skin begins to crack and become pasty white. If they go too long without bathing, they will lose their mind and become like the Horde.
When the Horde kills the Christ-figure (ahh, I’m not going to tell you who that is) by drowning him in the lake, the water turns red and no longer cleanses the Forest People. The Forest People then begin to think like the Horde and their skin becomes diseased like the Horde. The two tribes blend their customs and start to co-exist.
The main character of the story, Thomas, realizes that in order to be free from the disease, he must die in the same manner as the Christ-figure. He dives into the blood-stained lake and breathes deep the red water. He dies in that water but he then is given life and comes out of the water a new creature, one who will never again feel the effects of the disease.
What amazing symbolism! When one breathes water into the lungs it causes drowning. However, the word breath comes from the Greek word “pneuma” which means spirit. When Thomas breathed the water, he died to the life that he had always known. However, in the same instant, he breathed the spirit of God into his lungs which brought him new life – a life that was free from the disease which is sin.
When we realize that we must follow Christ even into His death and we enter the waters of baptism, we literally die to the sins of this world. We are raised out of those waters new creatures – each who is free from the disease of this world. We have breathed in the spirit of God and it now resides in us forever! What a wonderful gift we have been given through the death of Christ!
“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4 NIV)