Baptism Which Buries the Dead (Romans 6:4-5)

 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

(Romans 6:4-5)

When I came up here, I was holding a paper cup in my hand, wasn’t I? I brought it on purpose. I’ve just filled it with water and drank from it. What am I going to do with it later? Will I keep drinking water from it all day long? Let’s say I did drink from it. What would I do afterwards? I would throw it in the trash bin. When throwing it away, will I think, “Oh, what a shame to throw it out! The cup served me all day…”? No, I won’t. I never felt that way about a cup. In most cases, you throw out the cup after drinking from it, even if it could still be used. Or sometimes, people might squash it down because it takes up too much space. Cruel, isn’t it? Is it really that cruel? I don’t think many of you would consider it cruel. This cup had a purpose when it was made. It was made for drinking. Now, it has a hole and can no longer be used. Sometimes the cups were poorly made, and they would leak. In such cases, they end up going straight to the dump without getting the chance to be used.

So, when items that are made for certain purposes are not fit for their purposes, they cannot satisfy the owner and become useless things. When it becomes useless, the only place it will go is the bin, and where does rubbish end up? The trash truck will collect that trash. And normally, in our country, some items can be recycled, but otherwise they will be dumped.

In the past, there was an island where they threw all the trash. Food waste and other rubbish were dumped on that island so that it became an enormous heap, which has now been covered with soil. The island is called Nanji-do. They still use the gas that is produced from the waste. Usually, the rubbish is piled and then buried.

Another way of disposing of rubbish is burning it, because burying rubbish requires a lot of space. They burn up the trash, but before that, they sort the trash into those that are combustible and those that are not. Generally normal waste material is combustible. Let’s do a quick quiz. Are plastic bottle lids recyclable or not? They are not. Since bottle lids can’t be recycled, they are sorted with the combustible waste and the plastic bottle is recycled. Hence, there are two ways of waste disposal. One is burying and the other is burning.

Then, what is waste? When something is no longer useful or when it is no longer serves its intended purpose, it becomes rubbish. A lot of things we see were actually made for a particular purpose, aren’t they? In fact, nothing that we see is made without a purpose. Desks, chairs, piano, etc. all have a purpose to be used for something before they are even made. The watch we are wearing, neckties, and so on. Everything is made that way. And the more sophisticated the product, the more specific its purpose. For example, the computer was made for a special use.

What about humans? Did humans come about naturally? Do you even believe such a theory? Can you believe the theory that humans came into existence coincidentally? A computer’s function can never surpass that of the human brain. Even if all the computers in the world were combined, they wouldn’t be able to surpass the human brain. So how is it that the human brain came to be naturally but the computer couldn’t? Can a supercomputer be made on its own? If you put all of its parts in the box and shake it around, what is the probability that those parts would fall into the right place and become a computer? There are tens of thousands of parts needed in a computer. So, what is the chance that those tens of thousands of different components will undergo a chemical reaction and somehow assemble themselves to become a computer? People anticipate something like that to happen and have been shaking the box for a hundred years, but it is not working. Will a thousand years be sufficient? Would ten thousand years be enough? It is almost impossible, isn’t it?

So, can you believe the idea that the human brain started off as single cell, developed into a chimpanzee, and then became a human brain? No, it was made with a purpose. There is One who is far more superior than humans, who made humans with a purpose. When we didn’t know God, we believed that we came to be on our own, but it was God who made us humans as well as all the environments where humans are living. Out of all that was made by God, the most superior being that has God’s attention is mankind.

If that’s the case, God didn’t create without reason; He had a particular purpose. What is that purpose? You need to know that purpose in order to live a life fitting that purpose, so that your life will align with the Creator’s heart. That’s when you will have happiness.

If we don’t know the purpose of God creating us, or if someone does know but doesn’t like that purpose and lives according to his own will, then we wouldn’t be any different from the paper cup we just saw. If we know that God is the One who made us but are not in line with His will and do not live up to His standards, our existence would be just like that cup. Now, how many ways did we say this paper cup can be disposed of? Two ways. Either it is buried or burned.

When a baby is born, how beautiful is the baby? The baby is so precious that people say it is the apple of my eye and they always want to hold the baby. While mothers may sometimes feel exhausted and overwhelmed, for grandparents, the baby is adorable. Grandparents are more relaxed than the parents, allowing them to show even more affection.

But let’s consider if the baby passed away. The baby is no longer alive. In that case, can you still hold the baby in your arms and stay with him/her continuously because s/he is your beloved child? Within a day or two after death, there will already be a bad smell. Despite being one’s beloved child, when they are dead, that beloved child can no longer stay as their dearly loved child. The child needs to be buried or cremated. It’s one or the other. What process is this similar to? It’s akin to the disposal method of the waste materials. Either buried or burned.

Though we are loved by God, once we reject His love and cannot live the life that God desires or accept the life He provides, we would be the same as a dead person. We would be like that deceased child. Hence, even if it was one’s beloved child, one must let go of the child. It is heartbreaking. But one must choose to either bury them or cremate them. Would anybody call this a terrible act? It is a matter of course.

Our God is the same. People who have forsaken this essential purpose are already dead before God. They have lost their life. That means they are unclean. Whatever is dead is unclean. No matter how much you love your child, if the child is lifeless s/he becomes unclean. This means you cannot be with your child. Hence, they are disposed of like rubbish. In the same way, if we don’t know God or receive His love, we are the same as rubbish to God. Our existence has no value. And He will discard us decisively.

And where would such people go? One of the two methods of waste disposal was incineration. Have you heard of this? Where does God burn the rubbish? It is hell. A lot of people wonder, ‘Is there really hell?’ and are skeptical about its existence, but think twice before you speak about it. Is hell real or not? If it didn’t exist, why are we afraid of death? If hell wasn’t real, why did Jesus emphasize it so much? If hell wasn’t real, why are demons terrified when we cast them out and beg us not to send them out? Why do they say it’s hot?

Hell is real. So, Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, you should pluck it out so that you won’t end up in hell. If cutting off your arm could prevent you from going to hell, then do that. Don’t end up in hell with all limbs intact. He said that hell is where people are salted with fire. When we make kimchi, we salt the cabbage first and it becomes wilted. Then the fresh cabbage becomes droopy. In order for the cabbage to be salted thoroughly, each leaf is lifted and salt is added between each leaf. And the next day we find the cabbage completed wilted. In the same way, people will be salted with fire. They will be salted in the fire. That is hell.

We must not end up there. So before that happens, before we are burned up in the fire, we have to do something about it. What did we say was another method apart from burning? We said burying, didn’t we? So bury yourself. Before God punishes you by burning, bury yourself. Do it yourself. This is not what God does, but we can do it ourselves. Unless we bury ourselves, we will have to be burned later. It’s horrible. And the burning spans eternity. Thus, before that happens, realize the fact that you’re dead and bury yourself. This is baptism. When you are baptized, you are submerged underwater in Jesus’ name. This is the same as burying oneself.

In the Book of Genesis, there is a verse that says waters were divided from dry land. Originally before God created heaven and earth, the state of the universe was water and mud all mixed together. It was called darkness. But God separated the waters from the land. In other words, earth (dust) was originally mixed with water. Therefore, dust came from water also. When a person dies, they are buried in the ground, aren’t they? What would happen if you were buried in the ground? You would die. But you can’t let yourself really die, can you?

But what we are trying to confess before God is not that ‘our flesh is dead’. We are not saying, “I am rubbish! My body is rubbish!” Instead, we are confessing that our spirits are already dead. Only when we are supplied of God’s life and love can we live. But we lost them long ago, and even though I might be living right now, able to work, eat and move around, my spirit is dead before God. I am useless to God just like a paper cup with a hole in it. Our existence is worthless. But what is more, we even contest against God saying, “There is no God!”

Thus, God revealed to us that our spirits are already dead. If we remain in that state and our life on earth ends, we will not have another chance in this world, and God will judge us. Before that time arrives, we ought to confess, “My spirit is dead. My spirit ought to have God’s life but doesn’t. So, I didn’t know how to serve God nor give thanks to God. Instead, I’ve lived until now denying the existence of God. I am a dead man!”

What do we do with the dead? Before the dead gets burned up later on, he needs to be buried. But he is not to be buried in the ground; instead, he should be buried in water, from which even the earth came. However just going in and out of the pool or bath is of no effect. Jesus promised, saying, “You must be baptized in Jesus’ name!” Therefore, we go into the water in Jesus’ name.

When we go into the water, the old self is buried. And when we come out of the water, God does not look upon us as worthless beings. He doesn’t see us as rubbish without life. Instead, because we have united with Jesus Christ by being baptized in Jesus’ name, we are treated as those who have been transplanted onto Jesus. The time it takes for us to go in and out of the water is very short. If you went underwater and came up 30 minutes later, what would happen? It would be fatal. You come out of the water in about 1-3 seconds. Though it is a very short moment to us, in God’s eyes, the old man who deserved to go to hell is now dead. He is buried. He is buried. And the person who emerges from the water is no longer heading for hell; he has become transplanted onto Jesus.

There is only One whom God loves the most and specially loves. It is His Son Jesus Christ. When we are baptized in the name of this Jesus, we are transplanted onto Jesus Christ. Hence, we use the word “united”. We are united to Jesus Christ. But the expression that really hits home is that we are transplanted onto Jesus Christ, as if we needed a transplant for our finger.

So, for example, while working, my finger gets cut off. I need to pick up my severed finger and call the hospital, right? However, if too much time has passed, the finger can’t be reattached. But when I finally get to the hospital, there happens to be a spare finger available. It was freshly cut, and the owner of the finger is dead. I’m asked if I want that finger. “Will you take it?” “Yes, I will!” However, upon finding out that the finger originally belonged to my enemy, what should I do? Should I still attach my enemy’s finger? If it were me, I would.

The finger is now attached. So, whose finger is it from now on? Is it mine or my enemy’s? It receives my blood supply, the nutrients from the food I eat, and when I pat my child’s head, I use that finger. I wouldn’t say, “Don’t use that finger to touch me!” For example, if I go on a holiday to Hawaii, would I say, “This is my first time in Hawaii, but I don’t want to take my enemy’s finger with me!” and then chop it off to feel better? No, nobody would do that. If I go to the US, that finger goes with me. If I go swimming, it goes with me. If I eat something, the nutrients also nourish that finger. So, it is treated as part of me. Similarly, if I am united with Jesus Christ, who am I treated as? I am treated as Jesus.

Why would God continue to love me thereafter? It’s not because I am lovely. God loves Jesus, treasures Jesus, and when He gives anything to Him, I receive it too because I am attached to Jesus as His body. If someone hits my arm, I won’t say “Why did you hit my arm?”  Rather, I would say, “Why did you hit me?” When we are under the attack from the devil, or when trouble comes from this world, Jesus steps forward saying, “Why did you strike me!” That’s how we receive God’s love. That love wasn’t originally for me but only for Jesus Christ. But since I have been transplanted onto Jesus Christ, I get to receive that love. Thus, baptism means burying our old self and then being treated like Jesus. Aren’t we thankful?

So, it’s not about attending church for a long time to receive God’s love. If you haven’t yet been transplanted onto Jesus, you cannot receive the love that God is giving to Jesus. God may guide you to be able to receive the love given in Jesus, but there are hindrances. Those hinderances are tough. And if you haven’t been transplanted onto Jesus, you will end by that hindrance. You can’t go to heaven. Why? Who was heaven made for? It was made for Jesus, the Son of God.

Why do we get to go to heaven? Because we are part of Jesus. To put it more plainly, which might sound awkward, it’s because we are now Jesus that we can go to heaven. That sounds awkward, doesn’t it? That we are going to heaven because we are Jesus. What I mean is that we are a part of Jesus. We can’t be separated. If someone hits my finger, I would respond, “Why did you hit me!” In the same way, if someone hits me, God would respond, “How dare someone hit Jesus!” That’s why we get to go to heaven, which was prepared for Jesus, because we are His parts.

Just because I think I lead a fine faith life doesn’t necessarily mean that God loves me. Even if I feel like I’m not doing well in my faith life – maybe I’m not praying properly in the morning, consistently arriving late for worship, or only able to give a small offering – still, if I have become united with Jesus, I am loved by God. Of course there is still room to please God more.

Receiving love and being pleased are different. Do you love your children? Are you happy because of your children? You might find it hard to answer. You do love your children, but there are more moments of concern and distress than being pleased. For instance, if your child gets accepted into a good university or lands a good job, you would likely feel happy because they are doing well. However, some parents may not find happiness in that. They may only feel joy when their children contribute something significant to the country. Do you think Ahn Jung Geun’s mother was pleased? “Wow my son devoted his life for his country!” Do you think she felt happy? I think she would’ve been distressed. However, if the mother had a patriotic heart, she would’ve been pleased even in her son’s sacrifice for the greater good. God is One who cares for the whole kingdom of God. That is why He finds joy even when His Son dies on the cross. That’s why He is pleased. If the Son had come down from the cross, God would not have been pleased, but He would still have loved Him.

Similarly, once you are baptized, you receive God’s love. From then on, you lead a faith life to please God. Once you are baptized and united with Jesus, you don’t have to worry if God loves you or not. There is no doubt about it. But now the ball is in my court. I have to be passionate in my faith life and in serving God. Receiving God’s love doesn’t require a lot of time, such as attending Sungrak Church for at least 2 years or being in church for 2 years to be united with Jesus. It’s not about being saved by your passion either. You can be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ today, confessing that you are dead before God and have been useless all these years, and now decide to obey God before He burns you in hell. Then you are baptized in Jesus’ name. You can bury yourself. Then you will be united with Jesus and be saved today. This is faith. Without faith, you cannot believe.

However, Jesus has already made the promise. Therefore, I bless you in Jesus’ name that you will be baptized in His name, burying your old self and being transplanted onto Jesus. I’ll pray.

Father God, thank You for revealing the amazing mystery of baptism by which we could have salvation – we, who deserved to be thrown out. God bless and guide everyone here to confess that they were dead and sinners in the past, so that they can be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and be united with Jesus. Thank You God. In Jesus’ name

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center