This passage answers not a thing about baptism. This teaching about the Christian life was all true under under Abraham, when the Lord instituted infant circumcision. Isaac was regenerated and was united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone. Ishmael was not (at least not clearly). Jacob was united to Christ and Esau was not. The message of circumcision was there would come one who would put an end to sin, one who would be cut off as though unclean (Heb 13:11–13).
A reader writes with a question about biblical interpretation and baptism:
I was going through Colossians 2 when I read the footnote from the Reformation Study Bible… which sent me to page 41 for a more in-depth explanation. Infant baptism seems to make sense to me on a general level, but I was wondering what your take is on Romans 8, specifically, verses 9-11…we are getting a lot of verses thrown at us about believer’s baptism. Romans 8:9–11 seems to be the only thing that I can’t make sense of.
There is a great lot of verses in Scripture (approx. 31,000) and our Baptist friends believe everyone of them demands believer’s baptism. Thus, the debate can go one endlessly because they read Scripture from within a certain paradigm, i.e., a set of assumptions and convictions about what must be true.
Reading Romans 8 in Context
Romans 8:9–11 says:
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom 8:9–11; NASB).
If we read this passage in its broader (Romans 6–9) and narrower contexts (chapters 7 and 8), we see that Paul is explaining the doctrine of the Christian life.
The book of Romans is in three parts: Guilt (1:18–3:20); Grace (3:21–11:36); and Gratitude (12:1–16:27). Since Romans 3:21 he has been preaching the gospel of the accomplishment of redemption for us and its gracious application to us by the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6 he turned to the Christian life. Since, where sin abounded grace super abounded should we sin that there might be more grace? “Not at all!” he answers. Rather, it is precisely because we who believe have been justified and saved by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), and because we are united to Christ’s death to sin and to him in his resurrection power that we may no longer live in sin.
Having declared Christ’s victory in principle over sin, in chapter 7 he deals quite realistically with the Christian struggle and experience with sin. For more on this see this AGR series.
In chapter 8 Paul returns to the topic he was addressing in chapter 6, that, believers are identified with Christ’s death. To be clear, baptism does not itself confer the benefits of Christ’s death but it is a sign and seal of what is true of believers. It is also worth noting here that, unlike chapter 6, Paul does not actually refer to baptism here.