Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 22- Baptism and Circumcision

Baptism by Lucas Cranach
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

3/22- The Lord’s Day- Baptism

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised with Christ having been buried with him in baptism. (Colossians 2:11,12)
Calvin: But since before baptism was instituted God’s people had circumcision instead, let us examine how these two signs differ from each other, and in what respects they are alike. From this will appear the anagogic relationship of the one to the other. When the Lord commands Abraham to observe circumcision, he previously states that he will be God to him and his descendants [ Genesis 17:7, 10], adding that he possesses the abundance and sufficiency of all things [ Genesis 17:1, 6, 8]… As God, when he adopts the posterity of Abraham as his people, commands them to be circumcised, so Moses declares that they ought to be circumcised in heart, explaining the true meaning of this carnal circumcision. We have, therefore, a spiritual promise given to the patriarchs in circumcision such as is given us in baptism, since it represented for them forgiveness of sins and mortification of flesh… The promise (in which we have shown the power of the signs to consist) is the same in both, namely, that of God’s fatherly favor, of forgiveness of sins, and of eternal life. Then the thing represented is the same, namely, regeneration. In both there is one foundation upon which the fulfillment of these things rests. Therefore, there is no difference in the inner mystery, by which the whole force and character of the sacraments are to be weighed… For circumcision was for the Jews their first entry into the church, because it was a token to them by which they were assured of adoption as the people and household of God, and they in turn professed to enlist in God’s service. In like manner, we also are consecrated to God through baptism, to be reckoned as his people, and in turn we swear fealty to him. By this it appears incontrovertible that baptism has taken the place of circumcision to fulfill the same office among us. (IV.16,3,4)

Calvin’s great teaching on baptism was that it should be viewed similar to the rite of circumcision in the Old Testament. He saw the difference between the two as being in externals only. Baptism is simpler, easier to recover from, and may be administered to both sexes. But here are some similarities hinted at in Calvin:
1) Both symbolized dying to sin- Circumcision was a “rolling away” of our reproach to God; baptism is a dying with Christ (Calvin called this “mortification”).
2) Both were external symbols of an internal good-
(circumcise your hearts; baptism of the Spirit)
3) Both were initiation rites- a means of entrance into the family of God.
4) Both represented inclusion or adoption into the family.
5) Both are indelible- that is, they cannot be undone- you can’t be unbaptized or uncircumcised.
Once the water is on you, it cannot be erased.
6) Both symbolize the (covenant) promises of faith- Without faith, both rituals are meaningless.
7) Both involve covenant obligations- Calvin speaks of “swearing fealty.”
In both we are claiming our allegiance is to God.

Prayer: Lord, we have been baptized. Thank you for your promises that go along with this. Thank you that you are our God, and we are your people. Help our lives today to reflect this.

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