Head Bowed in Baptism
The 'one baptism' expounded by
Paul (Eph 4:5) refers to one mode of baptism and means a person can only be
baptized once in the correct baptismal mode.
Baptism is important, as are the other six 'ones' (one hope..... one Lord), otherwise, it would not have been
listed together with them. It is so
important that a slight variation in its mode may result in ineffectiveness,
hence God demands exact obedience to His will.
Those who could envisage head bowed in baptism would marvel at its link
with the effectiveness of baptism as a whole.
The most notable passage on this link is Roman 6:3-6, and it can be
presented in a series of questions - what, why and how.
"Do you not know that all of
you who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death"
(v3). What is the significance of being
baptized into His death? It is to enter into and die in Christ’ death which
means baptizing into Christ. The death here is not a separate death from that
of Jesus or lying side by side with Him.
Rather it is to unite one to His body, which is to put on Christ (Gal
3:26-29; 1 Cor 10:2).
One cannot claim that he is in Christ if in the first place he is not
baptized into Christ - into His death.
"We were buried therefore
with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life"
(v4). Why is it necessary to die in
Christ's death? In participating in His
death one is caused to be buried with Him to destroy the old self In His death,
one is made to die to sin, because the death that Jesus partook was to sin (vv6
& 10), and only His death could destroy sin, as He is the only righteous
one (Rom 3:26). Having died to one's
trespasses, one is freed from the enslavement of sin, when God makes him alive
(resurrected) together with Jesus (Col
2:13). In Christ's resurrection, the new
order of life replaces that of the old.
Thus, one should walk in the newness of life, and this quality of life
is imparted by the risen power of Christ.
"For if we have been united
with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall certainly be united with Him in
the likeness of His resurrection" (v5).
The next question is: how does the newness of life come about through
Christ's death and His resurrection?
This occurs when one has become united in the likeness of His death (v5)
- a vital preliminary step that causes him to enter into Christ's death,
without which dying in His death would be impossible, let alone in the likeness
of His resurrection, for the remission of sin and to be in Him.
What then is the likeness of
Christ's death? When Christ was buried,
no one could see the likeness of His death.
The only visible likeness was on the cross: Jesus bowed His head before
He yielded His spirit to the Father (Jn 19:30). It is only natural for a crucified person to
die with his head bowed. However, John
described that Jesus had His head bowed down before His death. That was unusual. As Jesus is God, no termination or whatsoever
could take His life, if He had not chosen to die for all (Jn
10:17-18). Jesus bowed His head
voluntarily and this, therefore, is the likeness of His death.
But the likeness of His death
should never be taken to mean the form of His crucifixion. Read v6 carefully: "We know that our old
self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and We might no longer be enslaved to sin" (v6). From v3-5, there is no hint of crucifixion
until v6. Baptism as a whole means
crucifixion (v6). Another example is
that crucifixion in itself is not a present experience but a past event, “Those
who are united by faith to Christ are reckoned as having been crucified with
Him when He was crucified” (Gal 2:20).
Paul was saying that to have faith in the words of God, in this case, is
to accept baptism into His death (Gal 3:27-29), which means being crucified
with Christ. It is through being, united in the likeness of Christ's death that
the effectiveness of baptism comes about, but not through taking the form of
Besides, in the posture of a
penitent, according to Jesus’ parable, he would not even lift up his eyes to
heaven, but instead would beat his breast saying, ‘God be merciful to me a
sinner’ (Lk18:13). Even in the OT, the
prophets did not lift up their heads because of their sins, when they came
before the Lord (Ezra 9:6; Ps 40:12). Is it, therefore, not only appropriate
for a believing sinner to bow his head when confessing his sins in baptism?
In addition, Jesus went out of the
water by Himself after baptism without the help of John the Baptist. If he had been immersed facing upward, he
would not have gone out of the water ‘immediately by Himself’ (Mt3:16). Being
baptized with head bowed is an example which Christ has set for us, and it must