Chapter Two


In my Sunday morning sermons the past two months, I have been laying the foundation for some basic, essential lessons I want to share with you. In the past few weeks we have examined our individual accountability before God carefully, in detail. In that examination we have seen:

  1. Each of us are accountable for the life we live, our actions, and our decisions.
  2. We cannot blame our forefathers for the personal choices we make and the values we choose to live.
  3. However, even when we accept and responsibly live by our accountability, we are still totally dependent on the grace of God.
  4. Accepting our accountability is the key to our spiritual freedom.
  5. The fact that God loves us demands that God must teach us to accept our accountability--God cannot love us and allow us to behave in ways which will destroy us.

Among these lessons was the lesson, CHRISTIANS: A PEOPLE OF THEIR WORD. We noted that God places an enormous importance on our being a people who honor their promises and keep their word. There is a reason for God stressing that.

  1. A covenant is a binding promise made by two parties to each other which cannot be honorably broken.
  2. God has always dealt with people on the basis of a covenant.
  3. You can make covenants only with people who keep their promises and honor their word.
  4. There is no way that God can have a covenant relationship with us if we are not persons who keep our promises and word.

I have shared all this information with you to lay the foundation for the next two or three lessons.

  1. First, I want to begin with a frank acknowledgment.
    1. In our teaching on baptism, we have failed ourselves in a very critical manner.
      1. As far as the technical facts about baptism are concerned, we have been quite correct in our teaching.
        1. We have stressed that baptism is a burial in water--and that is unquestionably true in the New Testament. (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12)
        2. We have stressed that baptism is for the forgiveness of all past sins--and that is unquestionably true in the New Testament. (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16)
        3. We have stressed that baptism is administered on the basis of the authority of Christ--and that is unquestionably true in the New Testament. (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38)
        4. We have stressed that baptism is the moment of birth into the family of God, the moment of transition into the kingdom into Christ and into the church--and that is unquestionably true in the New Testament. (Galatians 3:27,28; Romans 6:3; I Corinthians 12:13).
      2. We have all the facts about baptism straight.
        1. The facts we stress are unquestionably those taught in the New Testament.
        2. Those facts were unquestionably the practice of the church, the Christian
    2. However, as far as the fundamental concept of baptism, as far as understanding the heart and soul of what baptism is about, we have far too little understanding and far too much ignorance.
      1. We have examined baptism so carefully under our spiritual microscope that we have not taken our eyes off the microscope and looked at baptism as a whole.
      2. Do you wonder about the truth of that statement?
        1. If I ask you, "What is baptism?"
        2. If you could not give me a fact answer, like, "Baptism is a burial in water

          for the remission of sins," what answer would you give me?

        3. If you are tempted to say, "There isn't another answer" on the basis of Scripture, I would have to disagree.
        4. When I tell you that baptism is the necessary sign of the covenant the Christian has made with Christ, would you understand what I mean?
    3. Many of the serious spiritual problems we have in churches of Christ are directly related to the fact that we have done a good job at teaching Christians the technical facts about baptism, and we have done a very poor job of teaching Christians the true concept of baptism.
      1. Why is it true that too many Christians, after being baptized:
        1. Hardly alter their life style at all?
        2. Are very erratic about worshipping God, and may not even attend Bible classes?
        3. Seem to make no connection between being a Christian and being a part of the church?
        4. Are obviously very uninterested in being involved in the affairs and activities of their spiritual family?
        5. Have few Christian relationships, and make it obvious that they do not want many such relationships?
        6. Will continue to practice and defend the ungodly things that they enjoy the most?
      2. Every one of those Christians know the technical facts about baptism, and they accept those facts without question.
      3. Every one of them feels very secure in the fact that they are a Christian because they "did that"--they were baptized in strict accordance with the technical facts.
        1. The New Testament teaches those facts.
        2. They did what the New Testament said to do.
        3. Since they technically did what they were supposed to do, they are okay.
        4. If you seriously suggested to any one of those persons that they were not a faithful Christian, they would be extremely upset.
    4. So why does that situation exist? That situation exists because these people understand the facts about baptism, but they have never understood the concept of baptism.
      1. There is a direct parallel between Israel's failure to understand the concept of circumcision and our failure to understand the concept of baptism.
      2. Circumcision was the God-given sign of the covenant which existed between God and Israel.
        1. It was absolutely required of every Israelite family who was going to be in covenant relationship with God.
        2. What was to be done was clearly commanded.
        3. All Israelite families who were in covenant relationship with God complied with the command.
        4. Because the physical act of circumcision had been performed, the Israelites felt quite certain that they were the people of God.
        5. But many of them did not understand the true significance or the conceptual meaning of circumcision they accepted.
      3. Baptism is the God-given sign of the covenant which exists between God and the Christian.
        1. Baptism is absolutely required of a person who is a child of God.
        2. What is to be done is clearly commanded.
        3. All Christians who are in covenant relationship with God have complied with the command.
        4. Because the physical act of baptism has been performed, Christians are quite certain that they are the people of God.
        5. But many of us do not understand the true significance or the conceptual meaning of baptism.
    5. The parallel between circumcision for Israel in the Old Testament and baptism for Christians in the New Testament is exact and intentional in Scripture.
  2. First, I want you to give careful attention to the purpose and the meaning of circumcision in the Old Testament nation of Israel.
    1. Circumcision as a sign of God's covenant with Abraham and all Abraham's descendants was established by direct command of God in Genesis 17.
      1. God appeared to Abraham when he was 99 years old. (Verse 1)
        1. God said, "I will make my covenant between you and me, and give a countless number of descendants." (Verse 2)
        2. "Because of this covenant, you are going to be the father of a multitude of nations." (Verse 3)
        3. "Kings are going to descend from you." (Verse 6)
        4. "The covenant I am establishing with you this day is a continuing covenant--the promise that I will be your God and the God of your descendants." (Verse 7)
        5. "I will give you and your descendants the land of Canaan, the land you are now in." (Verse 8)
        6. "You and your descendants must keep this covenant."
        7. "Circumcision shall be the sign of the covenant promise I am giving to you and you are giving to me." (Verse 11)
          1. "Every male living among you shall be circumcised--your sons and your slaves." (Verse 12)
          2. "The eighth day after birth, every male is to be circumcised." (Verse 12)
          3. "Circumcision is the perpetual sign of our covenant in all generations of your descendants." (Verse 13)
          4. "Those who refuse to be circumcised shall be cast out of your community; they shall not be permitted to live among you because they have not entered the covenant."
      2. That day Abraham, his son Ishmael, and all the men who belonged to him or worked for him were circumcised, and thereby Abraham accepted and entered into the covenant relationship with God. (Verses 22-27)
    2. That was the beginning of the practice of circumcision in Israel which always stood as the confirming sign of the covenant which existed between God and Israel.
      1. In Genesis 21:4 Abraham circumcised Isaac the 8th day after his birth.
      2. Hundreds of years later Abraham's descendants numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
        1. They were living as slaves in Egypt.
        2. God by His great Power and mighty acts gained their release from Egypt and slavery.
        3. The night that they were to be released from their slavery, they were commanded to keep the first Passover feast, and Exodus 12 gives us some of the commands regarding the keeping of the Passover.
        4. In verse 43, God declared to Moses, "No foreigner shall be permitted to eat the Passover."
          1. Every circumcised slave may eat of the Passover (Verse 44)
          2. If a foreigner wishes to eat the Passover, he and all the males in his household must first be circumcised. Then they may eat the Passover. (Verse 48)
          3. But no uncircumcised person shall partake of the Passover. (Verse 48)
      3. In Joshua 5:2-9, forty years after Israel left Egypt, the second generation had just crossed the Jordan River and was ready to take the land of Canaan which God promised to them from the time of Abraham.
        1. Because of disobedience, all the adult males who left Egypt had died in the wilderness (Except Joshua and Caleb.)
        2. All who had been born during the wilderness wandering had not been circumcised.
        3. Thus before the conquest of Canaan began, all the men of Israel were circumcised on the same day.
        4. And God said in Joshua 5:9, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you."
      4. Their circumcision was not just a ritual, not just a symbolic act, not just a ceremonial act.
        1. It was much more than that.
        2. It re-established the covenant between God and these people.
        3. It renewed Israel's commitment and responsibility to keep their promise to God.
        4. In their compliance with circumcision, God was in fact at that moment cutting away all the ungodliness which had been a part of their existence in the slavery of Egypt.
      5. Please carefully note the fact that it was not enough to be born of an Israelite mother and an Israelite father--if you had an Israelite mother and an Israelite father, but you refused to enter the covenant agreement with God by being circumcised, you were not a part of God's people.
    3. Please carefully note the concept of circumcision.
      1. For Israel, the act of circumcision was an external sign of an internal reality.
      2. Listen to these instructions given to Israel in Deuteronomy 10:12-16.
        1. What does God require of you?
        2. He requires that you reverence Jehovah your God.
        3. He requires that you walk in His ways.
        4. He requires that you love Him.
        5. He requires that you serve Him with all your heart and soul.
        6. He requires that you keep His commandments.
        7. All things belong to God.
        8. It was God who loved your forefathers and chose them and you to be His people.
        9. Circumcise your heart, and do not be stiff-necked---a stubborn, independent, arrogant people.
      3. Deuteronomy 30:6 also emphasizes the circumcision of the heart.
      4. The concept of circumcision did not just involve a physical act performed on the physical body.
      5. The physical act was only a sign of what was to be happening in the mind and the heart.
      6. It was an external sign of an internal reality they had entered an agreement with God, they had made a promise to God in which they cut away from all ungodliness and lives of evil to belong exclusively to God, to be God's people.
  3. I now call to your attention a basic truth which we will carefully note and fully expand next Sunday morning: Baptism serves precisely the same purpose in the life of the Christian that circumcision served in the life of the Israelite.
    1. First, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new Israel, the new chosen people of God were those people who believed in and accepted the resurrected Jesus as Lord and Christ by being baptized into Christ.
      1. This is the point the apostle Paul is making in the last part of Romans 2 when he declares in verses 28,29:
        1. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, and his praise in not from men, but from God. NASV
        2. After all, who is a real Jew, truly circumcised? Not the man who is a Jew on the outside, whose circumcision is a physical thing. Rather, the real Jew is the man who is a Jew on the inside, that is, whose heart has been circumcised, which is the work of God's Spirit, not the written law. This man receives his praise from God, not from men. TEV
      2. Jesus had a heated argument with a large Jewish crowd when he declared that being the descendants of Abraham did not make them true people of God in John 8:31-59.
      3. Being in Christ makes us the true Israel.
    2. Second, listen to Paul's statement in Colossians 2:8-12.
      1. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him have you been made complete, and he is the head over all rule and authority, and in Him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. NASV
      2. Listen to the same passage in the NIV: See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with the circumcision done by Christ. In baptism you were buried with Him and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.
    3. Consider these truths:
      1. Baptism is the circumcision of the Christian age.
      2. Through baptism we accept God's covenant and become a part of His people.
      3. In baptism Jesus Christ cuts away our sinful past, our sinful lives, and gives us a new life with a brand new present.
      4. Just as Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection separated Jesus from his physical life and gave him a new life which was not ruled by death or this physical world, our death, burial, and resurrection in baptism separates us from our ungodly past existence and makes us alive spiritually so that we are not ruled by the sin of our past ungodly lives.
      5. Baptism is the external sign of the internal reality that we now belong to and are ruled by Jesus Christ.
      6. Baptism is the sign of the fact that we have made a covenant with God, and we are faithfully living in that covenant.

Next Sunday morning we take a very careful look at these truths.

To all of you who have been baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins, I want you to see this fact. All the teachings in the New Testament emphasizing the full meaning of baptism was written to Christians. After being baptized, Christians were expected to grow in their comprehension and understanding of the full meaning of baptism. So are you.

To those of you who have not been baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins, if the reason you have not yet been baptized is because you consider baptism to be just a meaningless symbol, an unimportant ritual, I want you to study and consider very carefully today's lesson and next Sunday morning's lesson. If you want a written copy of both lessons, we will very gladly provide them to you.

When you, because of faith in the resurrected Jesus, are baptized, you are accepting God's promises, and you are making promises to God. That is what a covenant is all about. If you are ready to be a Christian, if you are ready to exchange promises with God and honor your commitment, we invite you to baptized into the family of God now.

transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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