Parallels between Circumcision and Baptism, Part Three

Well, I've climbed out of my den of blog hibernation to resume my discussion of infant baptism and of the relationship between circumcision and baptism in particular.

Baptists are fond of saying that baptism and circumcision are different because circumcision was national (pertaining to Israel) while baptism is multi-national (pertaining to all nations). The difficulties with this position are multiple.

First, Paul calls circumcision "a sign of the righteousness of faith" in Romans 4. There's no identification in Paul's mind at this point between nationality and circumcision, but between faith and circumcision and specifically between the "righteousness" of faith and circumcision.

Second, the nation of Israel had not been inaugurated at the time of Genesis 17. National identity was established at the Exodus (18-19). Therefore, circumcision could not have been a sign of nationality for those infants who were circumcised prior to Israel's formation as a nation. I concede that the sign of circumcision included a national dimension, but initially at least it was trans-national.

Third, circumcision was never intended to be exclusively a national sign. God told Abraham, "I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you," etc. When Abraham circumcised both Isaac and Ishmael the promise began to be fulfilled. These two infants developed into two nations.

Circumcision and baptism are parallel in that both are multi-national in scope and herein we also see the continuity between these two rites. The Abrahamic covenant, whose sign and seal was circumcision, had in view all the nations of the world. When the commission came to spread the blessing of the seed of Abraham to these nations the sign and seal specified is no longer circumcision, but baptism (see Matt.28:18-20). One cannot read the so-called great commission without realizing that it is the program for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

'Nuff for now.

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