OPC Licentiate Robert Mossotti explains how the Bible teaches that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of the covenant of grace. This lesson was delivered on August 31, 2014 at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church. Subscribe to Robert’s SermonAudio page for more teaching and preaching.
Now let’s talk about whether baptism has replaced circumcision. That’s something that’s batted around between Baptists and Presbyterians, so let’s talk about that for a moment. Before I start dealing with a couple of texts, I would like to pose a couple of rhetorical questions to the group.
What was the sign of entry into the one covenant of grace, into the visible church, in the Old Testament? It was circumcision. What is the sign of admission into the one covenant grace in the New Testament visible church? Baptism. So we believe that if the one rite of admission into the visible church is now in effect, and that the old rite of admission into the visible church is no longer in effect, then the one has replaced the other.
We should also ask, what do these two signs, circumcision and baptism, signify? In short, both circumcision and baptism signify the same thing. Both signify spiritual regeneration, the putting off of the body of sin, of being cleansed, and of belonging to the Lord’s household. A couple of places you can go is Romans 2:29 and Philippians 3:3. They also both signify something that isn’t as obvious, but is, nevertheless a legitimate thing signified, and that is passing under God’s wrath, his judgment ordeal. I would direct you to Meredith Kline’s By Oath Consigned which may be obtained on the internet. This book explains how circumcision is passing under the judgment sword of God, and baptism is passing under the judgment waters of God, as 1 Peter mentions that baptism is analogous to the judgment waters of the flood. Kline draws this out, so I would direct you to that.
The fact that baptism fills the void left by circumcision’s removal, serving the same function of admittance into the visible church, and the fact that both signify the same spiritual realities, we believe that baptism has replaced circumcision. 25:38
The Scriptures also suggest this very thing in Colossians 2. The relationship between the participle and the finite verb is more obvious in the Greek grammar, but we can still talk about it and get the meaning here in English.
In him (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 ESV).
The phrase in verse 11 “you were circumcised” is the finite verb. In verse 12, the phrase “having been buried,” is a participle in the Greek, and it relates to the finite verb. So you were circumcised by being buried with him in baptism. That’s what the grammatical shorthand of this is. If I were to say, “I went to the store riding on my bike,” you would understand that the participle “riding” is a participle of means. How did I get to the store? I got to the store by riding my bike. It’s the same in this Colossians passage: “you were circumcised…by being buried…in baptism.” So we believe that the Scriptures tell us in so many words that baptism replaces circumcision.
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