The Unity of God’s Purpose
Every Sunday my family listens to the musical version of the Children’s Catechism. One of my favorite tunes is to the question, “Who wrote the Bible?” The answer is a picture perfect example of childlike faith – “Chosen men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is the primary author of Scripture! Behind the “chosen men” who wrote the 66 books of the Old and New Testament stands God in the person of Holy Spirit. God is the one mind who uses broken and sinful men to reveal himself in the very words of Scripture.
In my experience, this foundational truth is often the source of much confusion over infant baptism. God is the author of both the New and the Old Testament. Therefore, everything God did in the Old Testament is fundamental to our faith today. The sacrifices of Leviticus give meaning to John’s declaration of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (John 1.29); the Passover of Exodus and Deuteronomy give meaning to the Lord’s Supper; and the circumcision of God’s people in Genesis 17 gives meaning to Christian baptism. In other words, God is not doing anything new in the New Testament; rather, he is doing things differently. God’s grace and purpose is the same, but His administration of that grace is different between the Old and New Testaments.
God is not doing anything new in the New Testament; rather, he is doing things differently.
The circumcision of Christians
The twin threats to the early church were Gnostics and Judaizers. Gnostics promoted a hidden God who had to be experienced by means of esoteric and cryptic knowledge while Judaizers insisted on circumcision as a requirement for salvation (Acts 15). Because many new Christians questioned their salvation as uncircumcised gentile converts, Paul reminded the Colossian church that they did not need circumcision.
In Christ also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2.11-12).
Paul assures the church that circumcision is of no value for the Christian because Christians have already been circumcised, not with human hands, but through baptism. In other words, what circumcision signified in the Old Testament – i.e. the coming messiah being cut off from God and being condemned in the flesh – gives way to a new sign – the fulfillment of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thus, circumcision is explicitly linked to baptism. The former pointed forward to Jesus while the latter points back to Jesus. Again, God is not doing anything new in the New Testament; rather, he is doing things differently.
Paul assures the church that circumcision is of no value for the Christian because Christians have already been circumcised, not with human hands, but through baptism.
Now, someone might object, “but there is no explicit mention of anyone being baptized as an infant in Scripture!” That is true. There is no explicit example of infant baptism in Scripture (though there are several implicit examples). But, neither is there an explicit mention of the word “Trinity,” but every orthodox Christian affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. Nowhere in Scripture is there an explicit mention of females celebrating the Lord’s Supper, but every church to my knowledge admits females to the communion meal.
Last summer in our weekly Senior High Bible Study a student of ours, Ruby Miller, made an amazing point. While we were discussing how the Bible, which was written thousands of years ago, could apply to our lives today, she said, “Well, God doesn’t change so His Word to us is the same as it was then.”
The same is true when talking about baptism. We do not need an explicit mention of the Trinity, female communion, or infant baptism to know that it is Biblical. What we do need to know is the character of God who never changes and is the same from everlasting to everlasting (Malachi 3.6; Genesis 17.7).
If you are a professing Christian who has been baptized, than just as Abraham was circumcised, so too you have been circumcised by the waters of baptism! Indeed, you too are a child of Abraham.
God’s character, purpose, and plan is the same in the Old Testament period as it is today in the New Testament period! God is not doing anythingnew today; rather, he is doing things differently. If you are a professing Christian who has been baptized, than just as Abraham was circumcised, so too you have been circumcised by the waters of baptism! Indeed, you too are a child of Abraham (Romans 9.6, 7; Galatians 3.5-8).
In a follow-up article, I will briefly unpack the intentional parallels between New Testament baptisms and the covenant circumcision of Abraham and his household.
— Daniel Nealon