The Mark of citizenship: Baptism



January 20, 2010

This article is the second of a two-part series for ARPA Canada by James Zekveld. Click here for part one “The Church as City State“.

Christians are part of a city, the City of God.  This is a city full of citizens.  What marks out these citizens as separate from the City of Man?  Deeds are one mark.  The City of God lets its light shine in the world by being a city that is justified and is being sanctified.  The members of that city use the tools and the talents that God has given them for their mission of subversion.  But there is something more objective here.  Every Christian has the mark of Baptism and that mark gives him/her a power and a mission to change the world that is hard to imagine.

Circumcision is the key to a good understanding of Baptism.  Romans 4 says that Abraham was justified before his circumcision and his children were circumcised on the basis of Abraham’s justification.  Circumcision made you a member of Israel and an inheritor of all the promises given in the covenant.  Baptism is similar, except now the Gentiles are included into the covenant and the connection is between Christ and His Church.  We are saved and marked as a part of the Body of Christ.  Romans 6:3ff; “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  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, eves so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Baptism not only gives you personal or individual benefits.  Baptism joins you to a community, a body.  Your Baptism benefits everyone else in the church.  Just as we share our cares and our joys, we share one Baptism.  The unity in Christ that Baptism gives to us is greater than we can imagine.  Jesus says in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…”  Baptism is personal.  We are one with the Father.  We are one with one another. The community of Christ is comparable to the Trinity.

In the Roman World people were allowed to believe whatever they wanted as long as they paid lip service to the state, that is Caesar.  Christians could not do that.  They would not worship both Caesar and Christ.  Throughout history there have been many similar examples.  Countries and Empires such as Rome, Britain, Russia, and the USA have been the greatest contenders with the body that is the church.

Who will you serve; God or Caesar?  Communism and Fascism are only two of the many ideologies that have put Caesar first.  Think of the Christians that have suffered under China, Germany and Russia.  They had to put the state before Christ.  They could attach Christ to the state, but to give every part of their life to Christ as king was death.  Baptism demands a whole body, a whole life devoted to Christ.  As long as there are people who put their Baptism before their citizenship there will be martyrs.

This means that the state is to be served whole-heartedly as long as it subjects itself to Christ.  According to Romans 13 officers of the state are appointed by God.  Therefore we should always obey God before men.   Christ is the greater head than Canada or Stephen Harper or the constitution.  When the state takes on god-like powers, controlling what it should not, Christians should not listen to their rhetoric.  The state is indirectly claiming to be Caesar.  We should obey and be good citizens, (the rulers are after all appointed by God), but we need not trust them or agree with their policies and we can work to subvert them to the rule of Christ.  “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

Baptism is the mark of our citizenship in Christ.  A citizenship that is greater and more complete than Canadian citizenship.  In a rightly ordered world, the rulers of Canada would also have their citizenship in heaven and Christians would be able to obey them joyfully and willingly. We don’t have that and therefore our mission is not finished. We must “Make disciples of all the nations.” We must baptize them and we must teach them.  With the strength given us by being in Christ, we can turn this world upside down by turning it right side up.  We are the tools that God is using to redeem culture, to make a new creation in us and on this earth.
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