Thursday, August 15, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 6

6. Baptism has replaced circumcision, and therefore is rightfully and properly applied to the same subjects.

This is a subject I have written on its length. I will therefore not launch into a long defense of that statement. Instead let me briefly demonstrate the identity of the two sacramental seals by looking at what Paul says in Colossians 2:11. (What I have written can be found here.

In Colossians 2:11, Paul tells us, “in Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ." Before we proceed, it is crucial to remember Paul's constant invective against those who insist that circumcision is necessary for Christians. It should be obvious then that whatever Paul is referring to here, he does not mean physical circumcision. Let's let Paul explain himself. How does he say we were circumcised by Christ? He says, “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith.” The first word of verse 12 (συνταφεντες), is a participle describing the circumstances in which believers are circumcised. In other words, Paul is saying that we are circumcised with a spiritual circumcision (made without hands) with the circumcision of Christ and this is done by being baptized. It is common (based on Romans 6) to use burial as an illustration of baptism. Notice here though, that Paul uses burial as an illustration of circumcision. He says, “You were circumcised by having been buried…” Chrysostom clearly grasped this when he wrote, ”No longer, he saith, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit. It circumciseth not a part, but the whole man. It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins. When and where? In Baptism.” (Homily 6 on Col.)

Therefore Paul concludes that in the New Covenant, our baptism is our circumcision. It identifies us with Christ’s death. This is why Paul so adamantly opposed the Judaizers who wished to impose circumcision upon Christians. Baptism is the sign of our having been circumcised in Christ. For this reason physical circumcision in the new covenant is unnecessary. Baptism identifies us with Christ's death and faith is the means by which we united to Christ.

Looking back on the first New Testament administration of the sacrament of baptism, we see Peter actually equate circumcision with baptism. How, you ask. Precisely because when Peter says, “the promise is to you and to your children, and all who are far off," he is using the exact same formula that God Himself used when He instituted the sacrament of circumcision in Genesis 17:7. And the Jews understood this clearly.

Let’s be clear about what we mean. We are not saying that in the Christian church circumcision was discontinued, or laid aside, and that baptism has now been brought in. We mean that baptism occupies the same place as the appointed ordinance in the church, and that as a sacrament it means the same thing. The meaning and design of circumcision was primarily spiritual. It was not solely, or even mainly, given in respect to the possession of Canaan and the temporal promises related to residents in that land. Circumcision was a sign and seal of a spiritual covenant which had more important blessings and promises that were conveyed through the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. The same is true for baptism.

Circumcision was a token of visible membership in the family of God and of covenant obligation to him. The same is true for baptism circumcision publicly ratified entrance into that visible family. Baptism does the same. Circumcision was an emblem strike that circumcision was a symbol of spiritual cleansing. So does baptism. Baptism refers to the remission of sins by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by his Holy Spirit. It teaches us that we are by nature guilty and depraved and need pardoning in sanctifying grace of God. Shirley we are on good ground when we assert that baptism has come in the place of circumcision. All evangelicals, whatever their convictions on this subject may be, are agreed that circumcision as a seal of the covenant has been discontinued. Granting that to be true, does not it stand to reason that a no other sign and seal must take its place? If baptism means the same pairing, seals the same covenant, and is a pledge of the same spiritual blessings, how can the identity of baptism with circumcision be disputed?

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