Water Baptism: New Testament Circumcision Study Notes
Rev Gary L Evensen
@2005 NJUPC INC
This bible study looks into the relationship of New Testament water baptism to Old Testament covenant of circumcision.
As we go back into the Old Testament, we find that the Lord made an everlasting covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:7-14
This everlasting covenant was circumcision, on the eighth day the male child was to be circumcised in order to become part of the Jewish religion and heir to God’s promises that were made to Abraham.
Rabbinical scholars consider circumcision the greatest of all the commandments
The command to be circumcised was first given to Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, but interestingly enough, the covenant was made before the Israelites were chosen, it even was given before Isaac was even born. So, circumcision wasn't given just to the Jewish people only but to all of Abraham's descendants, and the Lord promised Abraham in Genesis 22:17 that those descendents would be as the sands of the sea and the stars of the heaven.
To not perform the act was tantamount to breaking the covenant with God
The scripture in Genesis 17:14 lets us know that a persons covenant with God was not in effect unless they had been circumcised.
And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Circumcision is theologically important because God required Abraham to do something in order to demonstrate his good faith as part of the covenant arrangement. Faith is never an unresponsive issue, God always requires an action from us in response to the words which he has spoken which we then claim to have faith in.
Consider James 2:20-24
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
The scripture declares faith without any activity involved, that which we call works, is dead faith and that we are foolish to think that faith is alive without the works that follow faith.
Now, it was at the time of circumcision that a boy in the Old Testament officially received his name. We can look into the scripture and find examples of this in the book of Luke
In Luke 1:57-63 we read concerning the circumcision of John the Baptist
Birth of John the Baptist
57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Circumcision of John the Baptist
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.
And we also read in Luke 2:21 concerning the circumcision of Jesus
Circumcision of Jesus
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
Circumcision was so important that you could be excluded from the priesthood if you were not circumcised and recorded to have taken the family name. The book of Ezra records that certain men in the Old Testament were barred from the priesthood because they were not registered under their father’s name and could not prove their genealogy. This registration would have taken place when the child was circumcised.
In Ezra 2:61-62 we read:
61 and of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Koz, and the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name. 62 These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled.
Without circumcision the Jewish male was not part of God’s people; he was subject to the penalty of death and could not participate in God’s salvation plan.
If you were not circumcised, you were also considered a stranger and a foreigner to the promises of Abraham and as a foreigner an uncircumcised man could not participate in the Passover supper
We read about this in Exodus 12:43-44:
43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. 44 But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it.
So we find that the covenant of circumcision was so important that:
1)You could not be considered an heir to the promises of Abraham without having been circumcised
Now, as we look into the New Testament ordinance of Water Baptism, we will find it is the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant of circumcision that was a type and a shadow of things to come.
I call this a type and shadow of things to come because this is what the Apostle Paul called the Law in Hebrews 10:1
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
While circumcision was before the Law, it still falls into the category of a type and shadow.
Now let’s look at Col 2:11-13
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Here the Apostle Paul spoke of a circumcision made with out hands comparing the New Testament ordinance of Water Baptism to the Old Testament covenant of circumcision.
And we see as the Apostle Paul compares water baptism to the everlasting covenant of circumcision he shows us that the water baptism of the New Testament or the New Covenant is as significant an act as circumcision was under the Old Testament, or the Old Covenant, because it turns the physical act of the cutting of the flesh to the spiritual act of the cutting off the sins of the flesh.
Circumcision, was the means by which a Jewish male entered into a covenant with God and identified himself with God’s people in the Old Testament, and as such was a type or foreshadowing of our initiation into the new covenant, which occurs by “the circumcision of Christ.” In Christ we are circumcised, not physically, not by cutting of the flesh, but spiritually, not by a man but by God. New Testament circumcision does not cut away physical skin, but it puts off (literally, strips off) “the body of the sins of the flesh.”
Water baptism is a spiritual circumcision that separates from sins, cuts away the control of the sinful nature, and results in forgiveness of sins.
Now, the Bible describes salvation both as a new birth and as an adoption.
But viewed either way, we must take on the legal name of our new family.
As the Jewish child received his family name at circumcision, the New Covenant Christian receives the family name at the time of water baptism.
Ephesians 3:14-15 says:
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
This scripture speaks of the whole family in heaven and earth taking on the family name, the name of the father, and when a person is baptized in Jesus name they take on the family name because the name of Jesus contains the name of the father.
Look at the blackboard and as you follow the Greek and Hebrew definitions you see that the name Jesus:
is from the greek ee-ay-sooce'
Now this Hebrew origin word 3091 in Dr Strongs comes from the Hebrew yeh-ho-shoo'-ah which contains the name of the father!
It says From H3068 and H3467; Jehovah-saved; Jehoshua (that is, Joshua), the Jewish leader:—Jehoshua, Jehoshuah, Joshua. Compare H1954, H3442.
So you see water baptism which plays a part of the new birth experience and also plays part of our identification with family in heaven and earth through the invocation of the name of Jesus at the time of water baptism.
In 1st Peter 2:9-10 the scriptures declare we are a royal priesthood
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1st Peter 2:9-10
And its through Water Baptism that we claim our priesthood and our spiritual inheritance when we take on the family name at the time of Baptism, we then become “registered” in our Father’s name because the name of the Son contains the name of the Father.
And as we already looked into from the book of Ezra, a boy in the Old Testament officially received his name at circumcision and certain men in the Old Testament were actually barred from the priesthood because they were not registered under their father’s name and could not prove their genealogy.
So when a person refuses to take on the fathers name through water baptism they are also barred from the royal priesthood of the believer and being a recipient of the promises of Abraham!
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
So you see when the circumcision of the heart takes place through water baptism we are actually covenanting with God and we become spiritual Jews and heirs to the promises of Abraham!
As at circumcision the recipient is placed into a covenant with God, at the time of water baptism the candidate for is also covenanting with God and should be ready to receive the Spirit, if they have not already received it, when they come up out of the Waters of Baptism, because when you are baptized the promise of the covenant is “and you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit”
Because you have covenanted with God in spiritual circumcision you then have a claim to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, certainly as you fulfill your part of the covenant God will fulfill his part, and by faith when the holy spirit is come upon you you can begin to speak with other tongues as the spirit gives the utterance because you have convenated with God and he surely shall fulfill his portion of the covenant.
If you have never covenanted with God in the waters of Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins I want to encourage you to find a man of God who will joyfully baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.