In Part III I hoped to show that circumcision in the Old Testament was a sign and seal of the Abrahamic covenant. Receiving circumcision also marked off those belonging to Israel and set them apart to a holy life.
The New Testament speaks much the same way about baptism and indicates that it replaces circumcision under the new covenant, which is for all peoples, Gentile and Jew alike. What did new converts do as soon as they heard the gospel of the God of Abraham and followed in his footsteps of faith? They were baptized (e.g., Acts 2:38-39; 8:12-13). What was the outward event that represented consecration to the Lord and a clean heart? Baptism. When the Ethiopian worshiper of the Lord (who read the Old Testament and considered himself among
Why baptism with water? Why not circumcision any more? (1) Blood-shedding was now done with, finished. Jesus’ shed blood has sufficed, and no more does blood need to be shed to point us to God’s redemption. Jesus’ death was referred to as a “circumcision” (Col. 2:11; note the link between circumcision and baptism here). (2) Water is highly illustrative of new covenant realities. Water is an agent of cleansing, showing the work of Christ to purify us from our sins. Special bathing made both priests and others ritually clean to approach God. Water was used in consecration to priesthood, and we are all now a “kingdom of priests” (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6) who all have access to God to offer works of service. Water is linked to the “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit, who creates life and renewal (Ezek. 36:24-27; Joel 2:28 [Acts 2:]; Isa. 44:3-5;