Parallels Between Circumcision and Baptism, Part One

Because so many evangelical Christians regard comparisons between circumcision and baptism to be "apples and oranges," I'm interested here in identifying parallels between circumcision and baptism.

1. Circumcision and baptism, first of all, are both rites of death.

When Paul talks in Colossians 2:11-13 about the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ he is referring to the death of Jesus. In some sense God was telling Abraham in the rite of circumcision that life would come through the spilling of blood and the cutting off of flesh, pointing ultimately to the cross. In its application, therefore, circumcision pointed to the death of Christ and union between Christ's death and recipient of circumcision.

Baptism serves the same purpose. Jesus' death is called a baptism in Mark 10:38 and Paul speak of baptism as a "burial" with Christ (Col.2:12). One who is baptized into Christ has been placed into union with Christ's death-baptism (Romans 6:3ff.). [Incidentally, the Heidelberg Catechism in this connection poses the theologically relevant question (#69): "How is it signified and sealed to you in holy baptism that you have part in the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross?"

2. Similarly, and this is something I've observed only recently, circumcision and baptism are both rites of resurrection.

The infant boys of the covenant were to be circumcised on the eighth day, not the seventh and not the nineth. Because God doesn't waste his breath there must be some significance about the eighth day. The eighth day in Scripture is the day of newness because it marks the first day of a new week. If there are seven days in a week, the eighth day is the first day of a new week. Through the rite of circumcision God was promising newness to covenant children who had been corrupted by original sin which they inherited from Adam. This points forward ultimately to the eighth day (the first day of a new week) on which Christ arose from the dead in newness of life.

Baptism is also a a rite of resurrection. Paul stresses in Colossians 2 and in Romans 6 that we are not only buried with Christ in baptism, we are also resurrected with him. Implicit in both baptism and circumcision there is the promise of life. Circumcision depicts that promise through the violent means of shedding blood; baptism depicts that promise through the bloodless means of water sprinkling.

More to follow . . .

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