Membership in God’s Kingdom is always by covenant. Covenant is from God and does not begin with men. God has given signs to show that someone has been invited to live in His Kingdom. Under the Old Covenant, the covenant sign was circumcision. This sign was an outward symbol of what needed to happen in the hearts of men. Under the New Covenant, the covenant sign is baptism. The New Covenant sign indicates that through the cross the heart can now be circumcised. The evidence that the heart has been circumcised is a new life lived in obedience to the commandments of Jesus. To break God’s covenant is a very serious offence. It is better to not make covenant with God than to make covenant with Him and then later walk away from the requirements of His Covenant. However, faithfulness to the covenant is rewarded with abundant blessing. All of the blessings of the Old Covenant, along with all of the promises of the New Covenant are given to those who are baptised and persevere in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ to the end.
Genesis 17:9-14 God instituted the rite of circumcision as the sign of the Old Covenant.
Leviticus 12:3 Circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day after the child was born as a sign that covenant is God’s initiative, not man’s – we are saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Modern commentators see no great distinction between Hebrew and pagan circumcisions. The differences, of course, are very great. For the Christian, the paramount difference is that the Biblical rite was ordained by God as part of His revelation. With respect to the meaning of the rite, it is in paganism a ritual of initiation into manhood, and into the tribe or clan. Whereas other religions commonly recognize a defect in human nature, they also hold that the defect can be remedied by man: hence the connection of circumcision with the onset of manhood. The young man assumes his responsibilities in society, and also his religious responsibility to conform to the religious standard by an act of will. Paganism is Pelagian to the core. Circumcision on the eighth day removes the power of the rite from man to God: the young child is not capable of justifying, regenerating, or sanctifying himself: he is entirely passive in the rite. The fact of divine grace is thus set forth. Just as the covenant wholly represents God’s initiative and grace, so the sign of the covenant represents the same. The commandment therefore was clear: circumcision was to be on (or after) the eighth day, when the child’s blood would coagulate properly and permit the operation. [Quoting RJ Rushdoony, Systematic Theology, Chapter on Baptism]
Exodus 12:48-49 Hebrew and non-Hebrew were to be circumcised to show that God’s covenant is for all people, not just a particular race.
Genesis 18:18-19 The evidence that people were walking in covenant with God was a life lived in obedience to the commandments of God; not choosing for themselves what is right and wrong, but allowing God’s Law to show them how to live.
Luke 1:59; 2:21 Jesus and John were both circumcised.
Philippians 3:5 Paul was circumcised.
Acts 16:3 Timothy was circumcised.
Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10; Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11 Circumcision was always to be a symbol pointing to the need for a circumcision of the heart – that we might love the Lord our God with all of our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength.
Exodus 29:4; 30:19, 20; 40:12; Leviticus 15; 16:26, 28; 17:15; 22:4, 6; Numbers 19:8 In the Old Testament baptism was a sign of religious purification and cleansing; a cleansing of original sin, not specific sins.
Ezekiel 36:24-28 Ezekiel links baptism with cleansing, circumcision of the heart, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to the Law of God.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Jeremiah links these attributes of baptism with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27 We are baptized into Jesus Christ, not into the institutional church.
Ephesians 4:5 One baptism
Hebrews 6:2 Doctrine of Baptisms
* Baptism in water: by a disciple (Matthew 28:19) – separation
* Baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire: by Jesus (Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16) – power
* Baptism in the Body of Christ: by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) – service
Water baptism is an identification with Christ’s:
* Death (Romans 6:3, 4, 5, 11)
* Burial (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12)
* Resurrection (Colossians 2:12; 3:1; Romans 6:4, 5)
A separation from the world, the flesh, sin, and judgment which is to come; and a resurrection into a new life lived as separated to the Lord: it is the first resurrection through which those who have passed shall be preserved from the second death (Revelation 20:6, 14)
I Peter 3:18-21; Genesis 6:3, 5, 13ff; Matthew 24: 37-39 Noah’s flood was an illustration of the death, burial and resurrection reality of baptism: a passage from one kind of life to another.
I Corinthians 10:1-12 Crossing of the Red Sea an illustration of the multi aspects of baptism (sea and cloud) and the requirement of a changed lifestyle after baptism, lest their be the judgment of broken covenant.
Forms of baptism include:
- Sprinkling: usually as an infant at around the eighth day, as a recognition of the relationship between baptism and circumcision
- Aspersion: standing in water and having water poured upon the candidate
- Immersion: being lowered under water to emphasise the death, burial and resurrection aspects of baptism
The form of baptism is not as important as the meaning of baptism. Many have been baptised, but they live as they did before the baptism. Such are covenant-breakers, and whether they have been sprinkled, poured upon or immersed, their baptism evidences their impending judgment. On the other hand, those who walk in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ, whether they have been sprinkled, poured upon or immersed, their baptism gives witness to the circumcision that has taken place in their hearts, by the Lord Jesus Christ, and they shall inherit all the covenant blessings of both the Old and the New Covenants, in this life and in the life to come.
Formula for baptism: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20) which finds its fulfilment in the Triune name of the Lord Jesus Christ which is interpreted to be the Triune name of the Godhead (Acts 2:34-36; 4:12; John 5:43; 14:26; Colossians 1:15, 19; 2:9; II Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:27; Acts 19:1-6; 10:44-48; I Corinthians 10:1, 2, 6 Amplified New Testament)
Holy Spirit baptism
* is for the empowering of the baptised to live the Christian life.
Ezekiel 36:24-32 The Christian life is to be marked by obedience to the Law of God. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to be law-keepers.
John 14:15 Evidence of love for Jesus is a life lived in obedience to Jesus’ commandments
Romans 8:2-11 A lawless life is evidence of not being filled with the Holy Spirit
* is for the enabling of the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself through believers in ways that only God can work
I Corinthians 12:7-11 We are not to use the Holy Spirit as if He was a tool in our hands – He is not a thing given to us to use, He is the Holy Third Person of the Triune Godhead to whom we must bow the knee and submit – rather we are to submit to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit, that He might manifest Himself through us as He wills, according to the situation we find ourselves in, and according to the predetermined will of God.
* To enable the believer to pass through the fires of testing and refinement (John 14:16-17, 26; II Corinthians 1:3-11)
Baptism into the Body of Christ
I Corinthians 12:13-30 We are given a place in the Body of Christ for the purpose of serving the Triune God in the cause of glorifying the name of Jesus Christ and extending His kingdom throughout the World.
* Motivational gifts (Romans 12:3-8) Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhorting, Giving, Leading, Mercy
* Ministry gifts (I Corinthians 12:28-30; Ephesians 4:7-13) Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher (Miracles, Healing, Helping, Administration, Tongues, Interpretation)
* Manifestations of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:7-11) Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, Faith, Gifts of Healing, Working of Miracles, Prophecy, Discerning of Spirits, Kinds of Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues