SOMETHING TO TELL
CIRCUMCISION, BAPTISM, CRUCIFIXION AND BURIAL
THE COMBINATION OF EPHESIANS 2, COLOSSIANS 2, ROMANS 6
Let us start with the fascinatingly simple and simply fascinating thought in Ephesians 2. YOU, Paul is telling the Gentiles, were in a position the acme of hopelessness, at least to all appearance. You had no covenant with God, were not His people, without God in the world, you were, the concept is, like old fruit that no one wants, and that for good reason.
Did you have a bond, a covenant, a contract with God: were you even circumcised, that signal of acceptance and adoption ? No, you were adrift and not adept. All was lost.
It is into this severed situation, where you were like a dog without a collar: that Christ came, as far as you were concerned. How utterly and in one step, when you became believers in Him, your position changed. From lacking EVEN the signs of belonging to God, you were suddenly brought and bought, as many of you as believed, through a direct route which passed and surpassed all that the relatively superficial could have shown; for it was through nothing less than the blood of Christ that you were suddenly able to come closer than any symbol in itself could achieve, and know that to which the symbols pointed, each more or less directly, namely the blood of Christ. It was like the airlift of primitively cultured Abyssinians suddenly by magnificent aircraft, brought into Israel!
As to believers, the death sacrificially of the Saviour in person for you, each one, granted you an immediate spiritual status far above forms and symbols.
Here the theme and thrust could in one or two words be summed up: surpassing symbols.
In Romans 6, it would be perhaps four words: interpretive use of symbols,
In Colossians 2, it is: the point of
covenantal perspective, or
biblical definition of terms.
Let us take the first verses of Romans 6 next. First, it is obvious that this has nothing to do with sacramental methods. You simply can't go on crucifying new members of the flock, planting them in the ground. Where could the congregation be ?The theme needs to be consulted. It is this: Stop sinning. See the sense of this step in severing its sovereignty, the constraints to it, the analogies pointing out the folly of it! In other words, when you are seeking to know what anyone is talking about, it is a good idea to see what they HAVE been talking about.
So just as Christ was crucified in reality and physically, you need to take up the theme in your interior, in your spirit, and in the consequent practice, that is, in what you do with your life. You need in spirit to be crucified with Christ, as Paul has the point for example in Galatians 2:20. Just as crucifixion of the body is an ultimate and unmisinterpretable reality, so must your denial of sin, remorseless and continual rejection of it, and the character of your life reflect this. Again, just as Christ was literally and physically buried, so is your "old man", your carnal substitute for a life when you were under the dictates of an unspiritual life. Don't attempt disinterment!
And again, just as Christ was physically and literally baptised, the signal in His case since He had no sin, of a life of sacrificial service mounting to making of Himself His own self-offering to cover the just cost of pardon for many, so you need to be baptised in spirit into the enterprise of God for you, the ready service in and into your appointed place and with your appointed work to be done. As in Matthew 20:22-23, there is a here relevant form of baptism, a word of a vast array of meanings, as an entire study has pointed out, and its meaning in this.
Baptism, as entry into commitment, an unleashing of experience (as in our 'baptism of fire' for example), is available in Greek to mean in effect: introduction to, commitment to, new orientation to (like being dyed a different colour, one of the root points for the word in Greek). It can indicate a commitment to endure, an experience of the true meaning of something of an arduous and demanding character - as in Matthew 20, of the fulfilment of commission leading to the awe-ful agonies to come. Christ acknowledged that James and John could and indeed would "drink My cup, and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with," showing that the term as used was far from being unique to Christ, but extended to believers.
Accordingly, the text in Romans proceeds to trace the matter out in this case, indicating (as in the case of Matthew 20), that in this example, there is an introduction to the entire gamut of Christ's spiritual sacrifice, as to what is in mind. This entry into final phase one proceeding (as Suffering Servant) means nothing less than its entire crisis, death from crucifixion, burial and rising again, defeating not only the crowing of sin as victor, but of death as the penalty for those who enter into this baptism and all its portent. Christ achieves the entire cover for them; they receive it and exhibit the consequence of this, His battle in all its parts.
Since the analogies in Romans 6 absolutely prevent reference to the sacrament of baptism, their other office is the use backwards and forwards, of analogy either DERIVED FROM what Christ physically did, or backwards, derived from analogy tp ensure in its very aptitude, an appreciation of what is involved. This therefore, as the context requires it, and the wording necessitates, is a chapter of understanding, self-discipline, spiritual derivation from the physical to the spiritual theme, resulting in a huge embarkation into exhortation and holiness.
Together, this even allows us to find a mini-treatise on baptism and its relationship to circumcision, as in Colossians. Here we are told that IF we have been baptised, then we have been circumcised. It is not so much innovation of which the word of God is here speaking; far from it. If, the apostle is declaring, you HAVE BEEN baptised, then the whole basic thrust of circumcision, by that very fact, has been covered. You do not without circumcision, as a Gentile, lack anything: for what the one action depicted (circumcision), the new one comprehended (baptism).
Hence God has not changed. The symbols have done so. The new one admits females in particular, admits Gentiles without loss or deficiency, is very direct as in Ephesians and meets all the divine thrust direct in terms of a stamping signal voluntarily imparted to what the Lord takes as His own.
As in Ezekiel 36:22-26, the relevant operation is sprinkling with water, when Israel at last returns to their land and to their God; but this is scarcely surprising in view of the normative use of sprinkling for purification, as attested so clearly in Hebrews 9:10-12,17-22, 10:22, 11:15-18 and the fact that it is now just ONE sacrifice! Hebrews 9:10 literally reads 'baptisms' which the sprinkling emphasis throughout this passage exemplifies, as a general or generic term for examples cited. This appears in the matter of biblical definition of terms.
To be sure, as in Deuteronomy 29, people in part may be hypocrites: now as then it does no good. It is not an ex opere operandum matter. God deals with the heart, not pretence or pretension. as He made so clear in Samuel's selection of youngest son David. He does not like drawing near with the mouth, but not the heart (as in Isaiah 29, cited by Christ). Again, as in the Old Covenant, God likes the children to be envisaged as part of the spiritual nation, they being duly stamped, as in the times past, like things stamped on bricks, with the construction name relating to them. With them, it is baptism. You see examples of this in such sites as Numbers 16:27, Deuteronomy 29:10-11, both formal occasions, the latter even of the renewal of the covenant. Again, in a time of national emergency, all stood before the Lord, even the little ones (II Chronicles 20:13), as when Jehoshaphat presented their case for deliverance to the Lord.
God does not learn to do better, to take heed to or not, this or that component of a situation because of a change of principles on His heart. Thus all scripture is profitable for correction and instruction, and while former State governmental laws in Israel may in many cases not be relevant for the coming kingdom of heaven, like returning to Primary School when you go on to tertiary, yet underlying principles do not change because God does not change (as in Psalm 102:23-28).