Faith, Circumcision, Covenant, and Water Baptism
A. God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised blessings to those that kept the covenant by being circumcised.
Genesis 17:6, 7, 10, 14 (NLT)
"I will make you extremely fruitful...“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants...This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised...Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”
B. Circumcision was mandatory. God almost killed Moses for disobeying His command. Moses would have never been able to fulfill the purpose and call of God on his life if he hadn't kept the covenant. After obeying and being spared, Moses recorded God's desire for the nation of Israel regarding circumcision.
Exodus 4:24-26New Living Translation (NLT)
"On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son... After that, the Lord left him alone."
Leviticus 12:3 (NLT)
"On the eighth day the boy’s foreskin must be circumcised."
C. The Jews faithfully obeyed the commandment to be circumcised. Some couldn't understand that after Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant salvation was available by faith to both the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles. They had begun to trust in the act of circumcision to keep them in covenant and right standing with God. Circumcision was not intrinsically spiritual. The blessing and the cursing was a result of one's belief and obedience to God or one's unbelief and disobedience to God. To obey God's command, to believe His Word, was evidence of faith in God. The act of removing the foreskin on its own had no salvational value apart from God. This is evident by the fact that Abraham, the father of the faithful, was counted righteous by God before the commandment was given. After the commandment was given, circumcision was required of everyone under the Old Covenant including Abraham, but it was only beneficial because God demanded it of them.
Galatians 5:2 (NLT)
"Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.""
1 Corinthians 7:19 (NLT)
"For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments."
Romans 4:9-10 (NLT)
"Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!"
D. Just as the children of Israel only received the covenant blessings when they responded to God's Word given to Abraham, we must also act according to the Word to be blessed.
James 1:22, 25 (NLT)
"But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves...if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
James 2:14, 17 (NLT)
"What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?...So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."
E. In the New Testament, the covenant blessing is received by Abraham's children according to faith when we receive a spiritual circumcision by believing in Christ and obeying Christ's command to be baptized.
Colossians 2:9-13 (NLT)
"For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins."
Galatians 3:27, 29 (NLT)
"And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ...And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you."
F. Like circumcision under the Old Covenant, water baptism is only effective because of faith. The eternal value is not in the act itself, but in true faith in God resulting in obedience to the commandment of God. It is not simply the work of man but rather an act of faith in the promise of God. God commanded believers to be baptized, and He promised that He would forgive us, save us, and give us new life.
Mark 16:16 (NLT)
"Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned."
1 Peter 3:21 (NLT)
"And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Romans 6:4-5 (NLT)
"For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was."
G. The invitation to enter covenant with Christ and receive God's blessings through obedient faith is extended to everyone today.
Acts 2:37-38 (NLT)
They said...'Brothers, what should we do?' Peter replied, 'Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
H. Do not wait. Enter into covenant with Christ today. Repent, circumcise your heart, and wash away your sins by the power of His name. He will richly bless you.
Acts 22:16 (NKJV)
"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."