Saturday, November 14, 2009

Circumcision for them; baptism for us

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 16 - Infant Baptism fits with the nature of baptism
1-6 - It corresponds to circumcision; what it typifies
1."Frantic spirits" attack infant baptism. Their argument that God didn't command it seems plausible. If they are right, we should abandon infant baptism; if they are wrong, we must be careful not to grow insolent to God Himself, since they already spurn what He commands.
2. We should focus not on the outward sign, but start with the promises of God that baptism points to. These are our cleansing from sin's guilt, putting to death of sin present, and putting on new life.
3. OT saints had circumcision, where we now have baptism. Both signify God's promises (especially to Abraham) to be our God, to put to death our sin (Deut 10:16; Gen 17:1). It is to be spiritual in meaning, like baptism (Deut 30:6; Jer 4:4; Ezwk 16:30), and Christ is the foundation of both as He is Abraham's promised seed (Gen 12:1). Both are covenant boundary markers (Eph 2:11-12)
4. The promises signified in baptism and circumcision are the same; the difference is in the externals.
5. Did God give circumcision to Israelite children to "mock them with trickery"? No. "If they are participants in the thing signified [Gen 17:12-13], why shall they be debarred from the sign?"
6. Jesus didn't lessen God's grace at His coming, but extended it. Israelite children were called God's holy seed in the OT (Ezra 9:2; Isa 6:13), and in the NT (1 Cor 7:14). "The covenant is common [between OT and NT], and the reason for confirming it is common [children of believers are holy]." Comparing the administration of circumcision and baptism, God's grace wouldn't be restricted, or revealed with a "weaker testimony," after Christ.

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