Circumcision and Baptism

By Phillip G. Kayser · 2018-6-11

Baptism Has The Same Meaning As Circumcision

When one understands that circumcision of the flesh was a symbol of spiritual circumcision (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:29) and that baptism of the flesh was a symbol of spiritual baptism (Matt. 3:11,16; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 2:38; 10:47-48; etc), then it becomes significant that Paul equates spiritual circumcision with spiritual baptism (Col. 2:11-12). If the things signified (spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism) are equal, then the symbols (physical circumcision and baptism) point to exactly the same meaning and have the same function. The following chart shows that exactly the same things are signed and sealed:

  1. Both are a sign
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:11; Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: Implication of Romans 4:11-12. Also since, signs point to a spiritual reality, see all the things signified below
  2. Both are a seal
    • Circumcision: Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: See all the things promised (sealed) in the meanings below. Also see the implication of what is sealed in Rom. 4:11-12; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13,30; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 7:2-8; 9:4)
  3. Both initiate into membership in the covenant community
    • Cirumcision: Gen. 17:14; 21:4; Lev. 12:3
    • Baptism: Eph. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:13
  4. Both symbolize regeneration
    • Circumcision: Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4
    • Baptism: (John 3:5; Col. 2:13; Tit. 3:5)
  5. Both point to justification by faith
    • Circumcision: Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12; Rom. 2:25-29; Phil 3:3
    • Baptism: Acts 8:37; 2:38
  6. Both point to cleansing from defilement
    • Circumcision: Jer. 4:4; Lev. 26:14
    • Baptism: 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 7:14
  7. Both are for those who are holy or “set apart” by a parent's relationship to God
    • Circumcision: Ezra 9:2; Is. 6:13; Mal. 2:15
    • Baptism: 1 Cor. 7:14
  8. Both point to the need to die to the world (“Egypt”) and enter into new life
    • Circumcision: Josh 5:9 with verses 2-9
    • Baptism: Romans 6:3-4
  9. Both point to union with God
    • Circumcision: Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Gal. 3:16,29; Gen. 17:7,8; Col. 2:11
    • Baptism: Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:1-8
  10. Both point to the need for an inner spiritual experience, namely spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism
    • Circumcision: Rom. 2:28-29; Jer. 4:4
    • Baptism: 1 Pet. 3:21
  11. Both were placed on whole households
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:10,23-27
    • Baptism: Acts 16:15,33; 1 Cor. 1:16
  12. Both were a sign and seal of the covenant of grace
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:9-14; Deut. 30:6; Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12
  13. Both point to remission of sins
    • Circumcision: Deut. 30:6; Col. 2:13
    • Baptism: Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Col. 2:13
  14. Both oblige the recipient to walk in newness of life
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:9; Deut. 10:12-16
    • Baptism: Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:14
  15. Neither one saves or benefits a person automatically (ex opera operato)
    • Circumcision: Jer. 9:25; Rom. 2:25-29
    • Baptism: Acts 8:13-24; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:29
  16. People can be saved without either one
    • Circumcision: Ex. 3:1; Rom. 4:10; Josh 5:1-12; John was saved (Luke 1:44,47) before circumcision (v. 59); so too Jer. 1:4; Ps. 22:9,10; 2 Sam. 12:15-23; 1 Kings 14:13
    • Baptism: Luke 23:43; Acts 10:2-47; see implication of verses under circumcision.
  17. Both are given to children
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:10,12,14; Luke 1:59
    • Baptism: Acts 2:39; 16:15,33; 1 Cor. 7:14; Gal. 4:1-2 in context of baptism of heirs in 3:26-29
  18. It is not lawful to give to a child if both parents are unbelievers
    • Circumcision: Josh 5:1-12 shows that children of unbelieving generation were not allowed to be circumcised
    • Baptism: 1 Cor. 7:14-16; Acts 2:39
  19. Both signs were given to non-elect children of believers
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:19-25 with Gal. 4:21-31; Gen. 25:34; Rom. 9:13
    • Baptism: Acts 8:13-24; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:29
  20. Both signs were usually only administered once
    • Circumcision: obvious
    • Baptism: Eph. 4:5; also the implication of 1 Cor. 7:18; Tit. 3:5; Acts 8:22-23
  21. It is a sin to neglect this sign
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:14; Ex. 4:24-26
    • Baptism: Luke 7:30 with Matt. 21:23-27; 28:19; John 3:5; Acts 10:47-48

With such overwhelming evidence that there is the same meaning for both signs, it is not surprising that the first church council to deal with any controversy to arise over baptism was a controversy over what day infants should be baptized. The controversy arose because Fidus wrote a circular in AD 250 to all the churches in his Presbytery saying that Baptism should be delayed until the eighth day after a child was born on the analogy of circumcision. This made baptisms happen every day of the week, and the decision was appealed. Those opposed to Fidus said that Sunday was symbolically the "eighth day" and since baptism should ideally be performed at worship, baptism could be done earlier than the eighth day after birth if it was done on a Sunday. The Council of Carthage convened in AD 251 to settle the question and agreed with the latter position since in the New Covenant, Sunday took over the "eighth day" language of circumcision. Significantly there is no evidence that infant baptism was questioned at this council. It appeared to be a universal practice. And indeed, the church fathers required apostolicity for any church practice. As Origen said, "the church has a tradition from the apostles to give baptism even to infants." (Commentary on Romans) This makes sense - if baptism takes the place of circumcision.


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