Christian teachers for centuries have seen in the old testament story of Israel crossing Jordan a shadow of the true baptism—baptism into Christ, which Paul sets forth in Romans Chapter Six. It is a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian walk, yet all too often it is unfamiliar territory to believers. It is left to the theologians to ponder while we do our best to get on with a practical life.
But we will get nowhere in life without what Christ accomplished in the Cross of Calvary becoming not just doctrine, but the reality we walk in. And this is what Romans Six is all about.
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6.4).
Baptism into Christ makes real in us what is real in Him. What is real in Him? First, that He died unto sin.
For in that He died, He died unto sin once (once for all) but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God (Rom. 6.10).
Christ died unto sin. But Paul continues:
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through (Gk. en, meaning in) Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6.11).
Astonishing words! You and I, dead unto sin just as Christ is dead unto sin? Paul says we are to reckon it so. To reckon means to account. I think it was Watchman Nee who gave the illustration of a man who has a certain amount of money in his bank account. He makes a transaction on the basis of this; he buys something, reckoning (accounting) on what he has in the bank. He could not reckon this if he did not know it to be true. This is why Paul talks about “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him…” (Rom. 6.6). We can only reckon on the basis of what we know is true. It is true, it is a fact, that Christ died unto sin, and that our old man died with Him. Knowing this we who are baptized into Christ can reckon ourselves to be just as dead unto sin as Christ is dead unto sin. It is as true in us as it is in Him. If it is true in Him, it is true also of those who are in Him.
And so going back to the story in Joshua, when Israel crossed through Jordan on dry ground, the Lord commanded that twelve stones from the midst of Jordan were to be set up as a memorial on the Canaan side of the river. The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, the whole congregation, each and every one of them. And twelve stones were set up in the midst of Jordan as well.
And they are there unto this day (Josh. 4.9).
“Dad,” says a young Israelite, as they walk along the bank of the Jordan, “what are these stones here for?”
“These stones,” Dad says, “are to remind us that the Lord brought us all through the Jordan on dry ground. Right over there is where it happened,” says Dad, pointing. “And do you know what else, son? There are also twelve stones under the water over there, which the Lord commanded were to be set up in the midst of Jordan. They are there to this day.”
So it is with us, beloved, when we were baptized into Christ. We were baptized into His death—which is death indeed unto sin. And we are there unto this day.
Let this truth—this fact—enlighten us with new-covenant light. In Christ we are not dead unto sin one day and alive unto sin the next. In Christ we are not still alive unto sin. On the very day that we were baptized into Christ we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him in the Jordan waters of baptism. And we are there unto this day. We are dead unto sin. We are no longer alive unto sin. We are no longer sinners. Sin has dominion over us no longer. We are as dead unto sin as Christ.
In Christ we are dead unto sin. We are buried with Him in baptism…
…And—if this is not wonder enough—also risen with Him (Eph. 2.6, Col. 3.1).
And therefore we are also seated together with Him in the heavenlies—the Canaan side of the Jordan. We are in our inheritance now as He is in His inheritance! We need no longer look behind us fearing some specter of sin might come up out of Jordan to haunt us. This very day we are to “seek those things which are above,” that is, the things of our heavenly inheritance in the Spirit. This is God’s new-covenant commandment unto which we have been liberated. With Joshua—Jesus—as our guide, this very day we can explore our eternal inheritance in the heavenlies a bit more. We are to fix our minds on this, we are to have a one-track mind, and not be perpetually focusing on our sins that are buried (with ourselves as well) back there in the Jordan waters. We are to “walk in newness of life” through the land of our inheritance a bit further—the length and the breadth of it, the depth and the height of it, overcoming every enemy that would stand against us along the way.
This is His order—His new creation order—for us today… if we will hear His Voice!