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I know a man who attends a small group at a large church in a huge city. He is curious about the Christian faith, but he hasn’t yet committed his life to Christ. When asked why he hesitates, the man answers, “I’m not ready to give up my life.” This man understands something many cultural Christians do not – giving your life to Christ is life-changing and impacts every aspect of who you were and are becoming. We see the transformative nature of faith in the Baptismal vows, which are commonly recited at baptism. They come from Romans 6. “We are buried with Him in baptism…raised to walk in newness of life.”
Death, Burial, and Resurrection
That reference to death, burial, and resurrection with Christ in Romans 6 points to almost every dimension of the Christian life. It points to the gospel and to our faith because it indicates our identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
In Romans 6:3, Paul says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6: 3-4, NASB). You get the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You get our identification, our faith, our trust, our identity, and our incorporation into Christ.
Then you have a hint of our future hope. “As Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so are we too…” (Romans 6:4). The implication is (though Paul doesn’t say this) we too, because we are raised with Him, because we will be raised with Him (and this is the point that Paul emphasizes), so we too might walk in newness of life.
What do the words mean?
The word “walk” is a reference to the Christian life here and now, and it suggests this life now is the beginning. It’s a kind of anticipation, a foreshadowing, and an initiation into the life of Heaven. We are walking in newness of life.
For Paul the word “newness” is a word that implies resurrection. The new creation, or new order, is out of the book of Isaiah (65:17-25) – and you find it in the gospels as well. This word “newness” is used to refer to the new age, the kingdom of God that comes with the Person of Jesus. So we are walking in newness.
Then for Paul, the word “life” is a word that invariably refers to everlasting life. As the Gospel of John says, it’s the life that comes from the living water, which is Christ, and the Bread that comes down out of Heaven. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It’s the life of the glorious age to come.
So when Paul refers to “newness of life,” at first blush he is speaking of the new life of the kingdom of God, the everlasting life, the resurrection life that we now have because we are participants in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is marked out by our baptism.
The Christian Life
But when Paul uses that phrase, “walk in newness of life,” it is a reference to the Christian life. That word is used in Jewish literature in the Old Testament and in Jewish commentaries to refer to how you live your life. The Jews even had a term in Hebrew; the word for walk is Halak, and they had a category of literature that they called Halakah. It’s the “walking literature.” It’s a way of looking at the scriptures that emphasizes walking, behavior, the way you live, ethics, and practice.
So Paul refers to our walk, as he says in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…” and in Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” In both texts the word “walk” refers to the living out of the Christian life.
My next few blogs will be about the book of James, which in many ways is a Christian Halakah. James tells his readers what it looks like to walk in the newness of life in Christ Jesus.
- What does it mean to live in Christ Jesus?
- How to Live in the New Heaven and the New Earth
- Your Baptism is an Important Promise
Blog edited by Joannah Buffington