Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Circumcision Is Now Baptism

The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new - WCF 27:5

What circumcision was to God's people prior to the coming of Christ, baptism is to God's people after the coming of Christ. At least three lines of evidence exist showing such equivalence or correspondence.

a. It Can Be Legitimately Deduced or Inferred From the Parallels Between How They Were Observed:

  • Circumcision was administered only once, a fact that should be painfully obvious. Likewise baptism only takes place once - at the start of the Christian life. Contrast this with the Passover, which was done often (Lev. 23:5; Ex. 12:14), and the Lord's Supper which replaced it (1 Cor. 11:25-26).

  • Circumcision was administered to old covenant believers and their households (Gen. 17:7-14, 27) just as new covenant believers and their households are to be baptized (Acts 10:7, 16:15, 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16-17). Contrast this with the Levitical Passover which permitted access to mature (those capable of discerning whether they were "clean" or not) professors only, as does the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:28-29).

  • Circumcision could be administered extemporaneously by a priest, without the whole assembly being present (Lk. 1:57-59, 2:21-39), a fact that follows easily enough from the observation that it was done eight days after a child's birth (Sabbath or not). The same is true of baptism which is performed by a minister, usually at the nearest convenient place to where conversion took place (Acts 8:12-13, 35-38, 9:17-19, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 22-34, 18:8, 19:1-7, 22:12-16). Contrast this with Passover which only took place when God's people were gathered together at the appointed time and place (Deut 16:1-8), as also is the case with the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11)

b. It Can Be Legitimately Inferred From the Equivalence of Meaning That Both Had/Have.

  • Circumcision was a sign of inclusion or entrance into the Covenant Community (Gen. 17:10-11), thus serving as a boundary marker between those who belonged to God and those who did not (Gen. 34:1ff; Jdgs. 14:3; 1 Sam. 14:6, 17:26, 36, 31:4; 2 Sam. 1:20; Ezek. 28:10; Eph. 2:11-12). The same is true of baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-29).
  • Circumcision was an outward sign that indicated an inward reality (Rom. 2:28-29), a reality called for of those who had been circumcised (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 44:7); it indicated the need for a new heart, a clean heart (Ex. 6:12; Lev. 26:41; Isa. 52:1; Acts 26:41). The same is true of baptism (Jn. 3:3ff; Tit. 3:5).
  • Circumcision was a sign of repentance or of the need for repentance (Jer. 9:25), even as baptism has always been associated with repentance, from the baptism of John (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3; Acts 13:24, 19:4) to Christian baptism (Acts 2:38).
  • Circumcision was a sign and seal of the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of faith; it did not automatically save anyone but testified to God's saving grace received through faith (Rom. 4:9-12). The same is true of baptism (Acts 22:16; Pet. 3:21-22).
  • Circumcision was administered on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Lk. 1:59; Acts 7:8), which is the first day of a new week. In this way it indicated a new beginning and thus typified the new creation. Similarly, insofar as baptism identifies one with Christ in His death and resurrection, it indicates a new beginning, a putting off of the old in order to walk in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Thus baptism is antitypical of circumcision.

c. There is Explicit Scriptural Testimony to the Effect That Baptism is New Covenant Circumcision.

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead" (Col. 2:9-12).

The true circumcision, circumcision of the heart, what Paul here explains as a "removal of the body of the flesh", is equated with baptism. Just like the rite of circumcision signified the need to die to the flesh and rise to newness of life, so likewise baptism for the Christian signifies union with Christ in His death and resurrection, i.e., a dying to the old man and a rising to the new. Romans 6:1-6 makes this incontrovertible.