In Cruciformity, Michael J. Gorman, examines the role of the cross in Paul’s writings. I found his remarks on Paul’s expression of faith to be helpful. There are two aspects of faith that should be understand as two halves of the whole. Faith involves an initial conversion-initiation response and a daily walk with God throughout life. He connects the initial response of faith with baptism.
As shorthand for conversion-initiation, “faith” is closely associated with baptism in Paul’s mind, as texts like 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Galatians 3:22-29 demonstrate (p. 122).
Since space does not permit a thorough investigation of this relationship between faith and baptism, we will simply note two things. First, for Paul private belief and public confession of it – including baptism – go hand in hand. Both are needed for salvation. That is, conversion-initiation is both personal and public; faith brings a person into a relationship with God in Christ, and also with other believers. Baptism makes public and communal that which is first of all private and individual, but cannot remain so.
Gorman’s reference to the public and private sphere of faith are important factors to discuss in an American context where faith can become so individualistic. There are many people that simply want to have Jesus in their heart without any public or corporate component to their faith. Such a picture of faith is foreign to the New Testament.
Second, baptism is a parabolic enactment of faith, a symbolic narrative. It expresses both the primary content of the faith — Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (compare Rom. 6:1-11 and 1 Cor. 15:3-4) — and the nature of faith as in sharing in, not merely an affirmation of, the narrative of Jesus. What Paul says of baptism, therefore, he would say also of faith. For instance, according to Galatians 3:27, people are “baptized into Christ,” but according to Galatians 2:16, people “believe into Christ.”
Baptism is participation and proclamation in the saving activity of the cross. The result of this initiation-conversion is a death experience, a dying with Christ. As Gorman notes, it results in a transfer of dominions and a liberation from all the evil powers.
The experience of faith, triggered by the apocalyptic event of the cross, reorients people, bringing them “into” Christ from outside (2 Cor. 5:17) and causing them to orient their lives away from self and toward the Christ in whom they live.
As faith accomplishes reorientation, liberation, and a new dominion, it also results in incorporation into Christ as lord and into his body. It is “an inauguration into a community and into a life of dying, or cruciformity.”
I think Gorman highlights the richness and fullness of baptism according to the Scripture. It is an important part of the overall picture, and it should not be diminished.