Being from a low church background, I've understood water baptism as an act of faith and obedience, as well as testimonial and identification symbolically with Christ and his death and resurrection. Though I don't believe in baptismal regeneration as in the idea that one is regenerated or born again by the Spirit through water baptism, I do think the language of Scripture is not reckoned with very well by simply seeing baptism as an ordinance that becomes for many today, dispensable. Certainly many good brothers and sisters do not see water baptism as something practiced by believers today (like Quakers). And I think it ought to go without saying that one does not have to be water baptized to be saved. Though, as my New Testament professor in seminary said, the New Testament doesn't know of any unbaptized believers (at least not post-Pentecost).
I've been surprised too, at the liturgical language for baptism found in the Reformation such as in Lutheran and Calvinist liturgy, making it the means by which one comes into regeneration by the Spirit. It is more sacramental in their view, and I think there is something true in this as I consider passages on it. Faith ends up being critical for the person/infant who is baptized. And this is true in the Roman Catholic (and I'm sure Eastern Orthodox) practice as well.
But this presents just a backdrop for the point of this post. I believe we're called to live out the reality of our baptism. Romans 6 I take, along with most of the church past and present, to refer to water baptism. The rich symbollism there speaks of a reality we enter into in Christ by faith. When baptized we're baptized into Christ which means being baptized into his death and resurrection. Our old self ("in Adam", not in this passage) is taken under the water (whether by immersion, pouring or sprinkling) and a new self ("in Christ") emerges. It is not enough for us just to get help. We need an entirely new "us". And this is true in Christ and through baptism (some take baptism in this passage to refer to Spirit baptism).
This passage, however, makes it plain that we must live out this dynamic. In Christ we can. But I think it is clear that this is not automatic. On the basis of this baptism into Christ's death and resurrection we're to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. And because of that, we're to refuse sin's reign in our lives, no longer offering ourselves in slavery to sin and unrighteousness which results in death. But we're to offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. And offer every part of ourselves as slaves to righteousness and obedience. This results in holiness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore, while I need to keep working through the dynamics given us in Scripture, and this will sometimes include a real struggle in a sin area, I need to do this from the standpoint of the new identity I have in Christ and in his death and resurrection. We are a resurrection people here and now. And this is to directly impact how we live. It is a new you in Christ that is alive. We need to reckon on that and live on the basis of that, by faith.
Sanctification/holiness begins at conversion. And it continues on as a process, we being conformed more and more into the image of Christ. But we need to do so on this basis we find in Romans 6, and seek to live out the truth of our baptism.
What would you like to add to this? Or do you have any problems with this, as expressed here?