Monday, March 28, 2016

The Law and Baptism

Once a law is put in place, how binding is it? How long does its authority last? A law is binding from the time it is passed until its obligation is satisfied, or until it is repealed. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." (Matt. 5:17-18). What he means by this is that the law will not be repealed or voided, or become no longer binding, in the smallest degree. The law will only be finished when all its commands are carried out and completed. Once the reason that a law was laid down has been fulfilled, it is no longer necessary to follow that law.
God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you." (Gen. 17:9-11)
Here is a law decreed and set forth by God Himself. It is both a positive command and a the LORD God said! How long did this law apply? Did it only apply to Israel?
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. (Gal. 3:7)

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:29)
The covenant God made with Abraham was the covenant of grace: Abraham and his descendants would be saved by faith. The above passages clearly show who the descendants of Abraham are. A law is binding until it is either fulfilled or repealed. Show, from Scripture, that the command—the law requiring circumcision—is no longer binding. God requires the seal of the covenant to be made to the children in Abraham's line, which is now anyone who is in Christ, the heirs of the promise.
What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Gal. 3:17-18)
Where, in Scripture, is there a the LORD God said that fulfills or repeals this command? Any laws from the Old Testament that have not been fulfilled or repealed are still binding. Most of the ceremonial laws foreshadowed Christ and His work and were indeed fulfilled by Him. Therefore, it is true that they have ended. The law that requires us to observe the Sabbath did not relate to Christ or His work, and was not fulfilled by Him. Therefore it is still binding. However, we see in Scripture that the specific day was substituted in order for us to commemorate the resurrection of Christ. The law requiring Abraham and his seed after him to apply the seal of the covenant to their infant children was also not related to Christ or His work, and was not fulfilled by Christ. Circumcision was ended through the very same process that caused Passover to end—what we call substitution.

The law that we are looking at has two important aspects to consider: First, and most importantly, it required parents to consecrate their children to God by applying the seal of the covenant to them; Second, at the time it was given, the law specified that this seal should be circumcision. The essential part of the law was the consecration itself—the applying of the seal. The rite, which was originally circumcision, could end if it were replaced with another rite, either of the same kind or for the same purpose. But the law itself, requiring children to be consecrated to God, stands to this day unfulfilled and unrepealed.

Baptism has replaced circumcision as the seal of the covenant. The two rites have the same purpose and the same significance. Both are initiatory rites into the church and both symbolize the purity of the heart. The law requiring children to be consecrated to God has not been repealed. The rite has merely been changed—from circumcision to baptism. The New Testament rite is simpler, but its purpose and significance are the same. The one takes the place of the other. Once, circumcision was the seal of the covenant; now, by the authority of God, it is baptism.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. (Rom. 11:17-21)
The tree is and has always been Christ. He is the true Israel. Jewish children grew up in this tree. Do the children of Gentiles who were grafted into this tree somehow grow up separately from this tree only to be grafted in later? Of course not! They now grow up in this tree, too. The same warnings that applied to the Jewish children also apply to them. All the apostasy passages in the New Testament are warnings to those who grow up in this tree to not neglect so great a salvation by becoming covenant breakers and wearing the sign and seal of the covenant hypocritically, which would only serve to increase their condemnation. Which means they would have been better off having never heard of Christ than to be a covenant breaker.

The sacrament of baptism is a beautiful thing commemorating the gift and work of the Holy Spirit. As Bryan Chapell has said, "We must confess that some bring their children for this sacrament because of the sweetness of the ceremony, or because of the traditions of family and church, or even with the misguided expectation that somehow 'holy water' will magically protect their child from hell. Yet neither sentiment nor tradition nor superstition is sufficient reason for believers to bring their children to be baptized. And, thankfully, such reasons are not the basis of our church's practice. We baptize infants because we believe that the Bible teaches us to do so." Those who oppose infant baptism, performed correctly and biblically, are taking from the Word of God based on mere assumption. Let us be biblical Christians and administer this holy sacrament biblically.