Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 25, 1958
NUMBER 21, PAGE 5,11b

Did Baptism Come In The Room Of Circumcision? -- No

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Kentucky

In the May 8, 1958 issue of the Gospel Guardian, my article, entitled "Foolish Preaching on Infant Baptism, No. II" appeared. In that article I reviewed the argument made by pedo-baptists that baptism came in the room of circumcision. Brother James Hunt, of St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, has taken exception to the argument I presented. You are encouraged to read his article in this issue before continuing.

Brother Hunt's difficulty lies in an over-emphasis of typology. He finds types and anti-types that are not so intended in the Scriptures. I suggest that he read the section on Typology in Hermeneutics, by Prof. D. R. Dungan, pps. 359-369. In the sense of our study, a type is "a figure or representation of something to come; a token; a sign; a symbol; correlative to antitype." It was, and is, my contention that circumcision left no room for baptism to fill.

No serious student of the Word will deny that there are types and anti-types in the Scriptures. Some things are declared to be types (Cf. Heb. 8:5). In the Old Testament we find several types of persons, things, institutions, conduct, events, offices, and places. The study of typology is interesting, but we must be careful not to find types where they are not intended.

One rule of discerning a type is that "It must not simply happen to represent something in the future, and therefore do as an illustration — it must have been intended to represent that thought or fact when it was given. It must be as old in design as the anti-type it presents" (Dungan, p. 360). Another is that "for one purpose generally ,the type has been selected, and finding that purpose, the application will be easy" (Dungan, p. 360).

Brother Hunt thinks that he has found the purpose for calling circumcision a type of baptism. Let us inquire as to that purpose.

It is to typify the persons to be baptized? If so, why baptize both male and female (Acts 8:12)? Circumcision was only for males (Gen. 17:10). Why argue that baptism came in the room of circumcision if you baptize women as well as men? Furthermore, God commanded circumcision only for the Jews, yet baptism is for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). If baptism came in the room of circumcision, why baptize any but Jews? Then, why were those on Pentecost, who had been circumcised, commanded to be baptized (Acts 2:38)? Why command baptism for the circumcised? One error of the Judaizers was that they wanted to compel baptized believers among the Gentiles to be circumcised.

Is it to typify the age at which one is baptized? If so, males eight days old, sons of Christians, should be baptized. This is exactly the error of denominationalism on this point, yet they claim to "baptize" girl babies on the ground that baptism came in the room of circumcision. The only cause for circumcising adults under the Old Covenant, after the practice was instituted by God, was when a Gentile became a proselyte to the Jewish religion. Circumcision was the badge of his acceptance of the religion of the Jews. Paul said that the person who received circumcision was a "debtor to do the whole law" (Gal. 5:3).

Is it to typify the purpose of baptism? If so, the sectarians are right in saying that baptism is just a sign, or symbol, of salvation. Circumcision did not make Jews; they were Jews before circumcision. They were members of the chosen nation by birth, and not by circumcision. Circumcision showed one to be a Jew. Baptism is not to show that one is already a Christian. One must be baptized before he can become a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27). God told Abraham that circumcision "shall be a token of a covenant betwixt me and you" (Gen. 17:11). It was not "the" covenant, but a token of the covenant. Brother Hunt needs to read Gen. 17:11 after he reads Gen. 17:10.

Brother Hunt cites John 7:22 and Psa. 105:8-10 to show that circumcision was the covenant Moses brought down from the Mount. The passage in Psalms does not so identify it. Psa. 105:11 says that the covenant under consideration concerns the land of Canaan, "Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance." John 7:22 says, "Moses hath given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers)..." While it is true that circumcision was included in the Law God gave thru Moses (Lev. 12:3), our Lord specifies that it was not of Moses, but "of the fathers." What fathers? He refers to God's giving the covenant of circumcision to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 17:10 ff). Stephen said in Acts 7:8, "And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day . . ." God required circumcision four hundred years before he gave the Law thru Moses.

The covenant of circumcision had a two-fold purpose. One was to mark the seed of Abraham; the other was that God might test the faithfulness of Abraham and his seed. It became a test of faithfulness to every Hebrew when a male child was born into his house. If that child was not circumcised, he was cut off from the people; he had broken the covenant. How could he break the covenant if he had not been a member of it? Those who are not baptized do not break the covenant with God today. They cannot break something of which they are not a part. They cannot be a part of the covenant until they are baptized.

God's covenant today is not to be contained in the nutshell of baptism. God's covenant requires baptism, but that is not the sum of the covenant. Rom. 11:27 says that it would be the sending of the Deliverer (Cf. verse 26), "For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." The prophecy of Jer. 31:31-34 says the same thing, as God promised, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Baptism is required before one can enjoy the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38, etc). It is required before one can become a child of God, and an heir to the inheritance (Gal. 3:26-29).

Brother Hunt asks what was Paul talking about in Acts 13:41. The context shows that he was referring to the resurrection of Christ (Cf. verses 16-38). The Jews denied the resurrection; they stumbled at it. They couldn't accept the idea of a suffering saviour. Those who rejected the deliverer sent by God perished (Cf. John 8:24).

In trying to find an analogy between circumcision and baptism in our Lord's saying, "Suffer little children to come unto me, etc." (Mk. 10:4), Brother Hunt says, "A new life begins at baptism, exactly as it did in circumcision." The Bible does teach that when a person is baptized, he is raised to walk "in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4), but it does not teach that newness of life began at circumcision. The Hebrew male child sustained the relationship of a child of God before circumcision, and was circumcised because he was a Hebrew, and not in order to become one.

The circumcision mentioned in Col. 2:10-14 is not baptism, but the "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh." Circumcision, under the Old Covenant, was the cutting off of the foreskin. The circumcision, made without hands, refers to the putting off of the sins of the flesh, which putting away of sins occurs when one obeys God's command to be baptized. Remember the rule, that a type is mentioned for one point, and that point in this passage is not to show that baptism came in the room of circumcision, but to show that this figurative circumcision is the putting off of the sins of the flesh. This circumcision is the taking away of sins, which is not done by the hands of men, but by the power of God. It is a circumcision effected by Christ (Cf. verse 11).

Baptism did not come in the room of circumcision. It does not correspond with the persons involved, the age of the persons involved, nor the purpose involved. The point of parallel which Brother Hunt professes to see actually does not exist. We are not doing an injustice to the Holy Scriptures in denying that baptism came in the room of circumcision.