Baptism…There’s Your Sign!
The church of Jesus Christ is the Israel of God (Is 49:6; Rom 9:6; Gal 6:16). Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), the fulfillment of the promises God made to the patriarch, when He revealed the unconditional, eternal covenant of grace to the chosen man of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen 12, 15, 17).
The promise of God is, “I will be your God and you will be My people (Gen 17:7).” The promise was made, “to you and to your seed (Gen 9:9; 13:15; 17:17; Acts 2:39).” God has remained faithful in the continuous line of generations throughout the ages. Thus, an unbroken line of generations has believed God, and they, too, were reckoned as righteous by imputation of Christ’s perfect work (Rom 4:3, 9; Gal 3:6).
Righteousness never came by the Law, rather, right standing before God has always come by faith (Gal 3:9, 11; Rom 4:13). Wherever faith is found, one will be a witness to grace (Rom 4:16). Grace is God working for the benefit of His chosen people, including His granting them repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18) and faith (Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29).
Since the fall of Adam, all people have stood “already condemned” (Jn 3:18). The reason is that all have sinned (Rom 3:23; 5:12). It is the Law of God that exposes sin and causes all to have the title “sinner.” Those who sin are judged by the Law, which invites the just wrath of God. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18). Therefore, the essential question is, “Who can deliver you from the wrath to come?”
When God gave faith to Abraham, the patriarch believed that God was the only One who could sufficiently deal with the problem of sin and death. Abraham was a given a sign — of the bloody, cutting away of the veil of sin that separated men from God. The sign of circumcision foreshadowed the death of Christ, His crucifixion on the cross of Calvary and the renting of the Temple veil of separation.
The application of the sign was an act of obedient faith, to serve as a witness to the covenant promise. Abraham, the believer, and his believing offspring received the sign at the hands of another. Later, as helpless babes on the eighth day after birth, according to the Law, covenant children received the sign of circumcision. This was to signify the passing of the faith from one generation to the next.
God made a promise to do something for His chosen people (1 Pet 2:9). To assure His elect, He obligated Himself with a covenant. This covenant is eternal (Heb 13:20). It is also unconditional, meaning God alone is obligated. This means, it is a covenant of grace, whereby God executes all the terms of the covenant obligations. This makes the people of God simple beneficiaries, or as the Bible terms it “heirs.”
The beneficiaries of God’s covenant works are believers and their children, who know that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22). Only the blood of a substitute, an unblemished Lamb (Jn 1:29), could propitiate (redirect and absorb) the wrath of God against sinners (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10).
The application of the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:19) was an active work of our High Priest, in the holy presence of God, at His mercy seat in the heavenly Temple. The faithful ones, those who had received the sign of the covenant of promised forgiveness, would approach to hear the blessing of the high priest, as he (still living) assured them of God’s acceptance of the Lamb’s atoning blood (Rom 1:4). The Word of forgiveness was believed because the Holy Spirit had circumcised their hearts (Jer 4:4; Rom 2:29).
The outward sign was changed from bloody circumcision to bloodless water baptism because Jesus Christ’s bloody death was the fulfillment of the unconditional covenant of grace. Jesus said, “This is the covenant in My blood (1 Cor 11:25).” There is no more sacrifice for sins beyond the cross, where the Lamb was slain, and where blood and water were poured out as witnesses (Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:6).
What was foreshadowed in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, who lives forevermore, as our great High Priest (Heb 4:14–16). The bloodless sign of the covenant of grace sends the same message. God has made a covenant promise to reconcile His elect people (2 Cor 5:18–20), Israel, from every nation, tribe and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9). Those who are far off (Acts 2:39) are brought near to God, by His gracious drawing of them to His Son (Jn 6:44), to be sprinkled by His blood (Ex 24:8; Eph 2:13; Heb 9:19)
The message and reality of God’s salvation have not changed, although the types have been realized in the One sent by God from heaven (Jn 3:16). Like Abraham, today’s believer in the Word of God has been granted the knowledge of Jesus Christ (incarnate Word), by the Holy Spirit, our Teacher (Jn 14:27), who guides us into all truth (Jn 16:13). The Holy Spirit brings forth every new believer from the stock of the elect of God (Jas 1:18), causing them to be born again (1 Pet 1:3) and giving them a new heart for God (Ezek 36:26).
The removal of filthy sin from the heart is performed by the Spirit of Christ, who employs the Word to cut sin out (circumcision). This has always been God’s plan and Christ’s purpose (Eph 3:11), on behalf of and for the benefit of His beloved (Jn 10:11, 15), His church (Eph 5:23, 25), the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).
The application of the sign of the covenant remains for believers in Christ and for their children. The sign points to the reality and has God’s seal of approval on it. Those who receive the sign and seal bear witness to the reality of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the only Savior and salvation for sinners (Jude 1:25).
Those who bear the sign, testify of God’s faithfulness, even if they are found faithless (2 Tim 2:13). The inward reality of regeneration (circumcision of the heart by the Spirit) is not dependent upon the outward sign. Therefore, the sign is applied to believers and their children (household), as a witness and testimony of God’s faithfulness to His whole household of faith (line of generations), the redeemed of the Lord. It is entirely the prerogative of God to turn the sign into the reality.
Christian, do you believe God, His Word, His promise, His covenant, His Christ, His sacrifice, His blood and water, and His Spirit, who testifies to you of your forgiveness and right standing before God? Then, be baptized and baptize your children, so to give them the sign, bearing the testimony declaring utmost significance.
This is the testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood on the cross — a redemption to purchase His beloved people from slavery to sin (Acts 20:28; Rom 6:6). You and your children bear this sign, with God’s seal, as a public witness to God’s faithfulness to the line of generations, who call Abraham, the believer, their father, and who share in the faith (Gal 3:7), which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3). Christ crucified, living in you, is your reality as a believer, and baptism…well, there’s your sign for the whole world to see, hear, and know that we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 23, 2022