What Does “From Death to Life” Mean?

November 26, 2019

You’re going to hear “from death to life” a lot at Mercy Hill. It’s our tagline for baptism because that’s what baptism represents. It represents someone who, through baptism, is counted by God as having died with Christ on the cross, been buried with him in the tomb with him, and raised with him to new life, walking out of that spiritual tomb of eternal death. We get this from Paul’s note in Romans 6:3-4:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

This sounds like there is something much more to baptism than just a symbol. Don’t we at Mercy Hill also say that there is nothing magical about being baptized? Yet, it sounds like Paul is saying that it is through baptism that we are united to Christ’s death and resurrection. Isn’t it faith that saves us and baptism that symbolizes our faith? This certainly sounds like the case in Romans 10:9-10: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Does Paul, then, contradict himself? Nope! Look at Colossians 2:12 “ . . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Do you see what he says? You are buried with him and raised with him in baptism through faith. It is your faith that saves you, but a saving faith is one that gets the legs moving towards the baptismal waters.


Belief Drives Behavior

What do I mean? Well, if you firmly believed that someone had just deposited a million dollars into your bank account, you’d probably eat at the local steakhouse for dinner rather than grabbing the Taco Bell cravings deal from the drive thru. If someone then called you from the steakhouse and told you that you had left your wallet there and you can pick it up whenever you wanted, what would you do if you believed them? You’d drive back to the restaurant to get your wallet. You see, when we believe, it influences how we act.

We can almost say this: if we know what someone believes (without doubting) we should be able to predict their behavior. Now, obviously, humans are complicated creatures to figure out, but this makes the point that I’m trying to get at. For the earliest Christians like Paul, there was no difference between true belief and baptism. Why? Because those who had saving faith believed that Jesus was Lord of the world and calls all of his disciples to baptism (Matthew 28:18-19; cf. Acts 2:38). They believed that they were to obey their Lord.

Since most of the earliest believers were baptized as soon as they came to faith, there was a close connection between baptism and a saving faith. The question of whether someone had salvation at their coming to faith or once they were baptized was not something that was asked; they often happened on the same day.


In Conclusion

Why is “from death to life” the slogan for baptism when people are saved by faith alone? Because a true saving faith moves the believer into the baptismal waters in obedience to the Lord they believe in.

If you believe in the crucified and resurrected Lord, he’s calling to you to be baptized. Will your faith lead you to obedience? Sign up to talk to someone about baptism at mercyhillchurch.com/baptism.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator)

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