2013-07-07 Baptism and the All-Sufficiency of Christ | Colossians 2:8-15
Intro to Sermon Text:
- Paul writes to the believers in Colossae who are tempted by false teachers to resume the OT practice of circumcision.
- He reminds them of the all-sufficiency of Christ who in his life, death and resurrection, has revealed to us his Godhead,
- conquered the powers of evil in the world,
- and has transformed the OT sign of the covenant from the bloody rite of circumcision foreshadowing his death,
- to the NT sign of baptism with water, the fulfillment of God’s promise in Christ to wash away of our sins, to bury us with him and raise us to eternal life by faith in him.
Col.2:8-15 8 ¶ See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Intro to Sermon:
- Later in our service, we will claim the promise and witness the fulfillment of God’s covenant blessings to two of our children, one of them still an infant, the other now grown to adulthood.
- In Kaelyn’s (infant) baptism, we will claim God’s promise to include her in his covenant family and to offer to her the blessings of the covenant which God established with Abraham and all his spiritual descendants.
- And in Josh’s (adult) profession of faith, we will witness the fulfillment of God’s promise as he receives by faith the blessings promised to him in his baptism when he was a young child.
- Our message today seeks to establish the biblical background of infant baptism and is based on a booklet entitled, Why Do We Baptize Infants? from the Basics of the Reformed Faith Series of Presbyterian and Reformed Publishers, written by Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO.
- The outline is found in your bulletin, and concludes with verses 11-12 from our passage.
1/4. Salvation is through the covenant of faith in the Old and New Testament
- Have you ever heard or sung the children’s song, “Father Abraham?”
- Kids seem to love singing it and doing the motions to it. And when they do, they rehearse an important New Testament truth:
- “Father Abraham had many sons, and I am one of them and so are you.”
- The song illustrates our first point: salvation is through the covenant of faith in the Old and New Testament.
- A key concept of the NT is that all of God’s people (Jew or Gentile, past or present) are blessed in accordance with the covenant that God made with Abraham.
- As we saw in our OT reading earlier in Genesis 15:1-6 and Genesis 17:1-8, The Lord promised in this everlasting covenant that Abraham and his descendants would know God’s blessings on the basis of faith in God’s provision.
- No one was to receive God’s blessings on the basis of personal merit or a mere ceremony.
- Out of his mercy alone, before they could qualify for it in any way, the Lord covenanted to be the God of Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:7).
- The people would know and claim the blessings of this covenant by expressing faith in God’s provision as Abraham had (Genesis 15:6).
- Thus, God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants by grace through faith as we see in NT passages like Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- -But what does God’s covenant with a Jewish patriarch like Abraham have to do with people in God’s church today?
- Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:8 that God said to Abraham in Gen 12:3, “All of the nations of the earth will be blessed through you”
- And in Gal 3:9, “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
- We are Abraham’s spiritual descendants and are still covered by the covenant that God first made with him.
- Paul writes in Galatians 3:7, “…those who believe are children of Abraham.”
- -There is no other way to be a child of God than to be included in Abraham’s covenant.
- As Paul writes in Galatians 3:14, “He [Christ] redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.”
- Those who have faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior receive the covenant promises of Abraham and are his spiritual children regardless of their time or place of birth.
2/4. The faithful receive a covenant sign in the Old Testament
- Second, after God made the covenant with Abraham to bless him and his descendants by grace through faith, God provided a covenant sign to both mark those who were recipients of his promise and to signify his pledge to provide for those who had faith in him.
- It’s important to remember that the sign was given after the covenant was made and was neither a pre-condition of the covenant nor a means of conferring it.
- Faith was and is the sole condition of knowing the blessings of God’s covenant.
- (The sign of circumcision)
- The covenant sign that God gave the OT people was circumcision.
- The removal of the foreskin from the male reproductive organ accomplished two purposes:
- It signified the removal of spiritual uncleanness from God’s people of faith and communicated that God’s provision for blessing was being passed to all the children of Abraham from generation to generation (cf. Genesis 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Colossian 2:13).
- Circumcision marked God’s people as being separated and consecrated unto him and, therefore, as being in being in union with him and with each other in covenant family and community relationships (Exodus 12:48; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:26).
- The rite of circumcision necessarily involved the shedding of blood, and was one of numerous Old Testament signs that prefigured what would be required of Christ in order for our sins to be removed (cf. Hebrews 9:22).
- B. (The extent of the sign)
- Because God’s promises extended to Abraham’s house, he was to devote all that he had to the Lord by use of the covenant sign.
- This meant that all who were part of Abraham’s household were to be devoted to God by circumcision: sons, dependent relatives and servants (Genesis 17:23; cf. Exodus 12:43-48).
- In our contemporary culture we are not used to thinking of the head of a household as spiritually representing all of its members.
- But the representative role of heads of households is an important concept in both the Old and NTs (cf. Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 11:7).
- The representative principle helps explains why Abraham devoted all in his house to God through the use of the Old Testament covenant sign even though not all would have yet expressed his faith.
- The representative principle also explains why, in the NT, the Apostle Paul can say that children of a believing parent, even one who is married to a non-believer are “holy” before God in 1 Corinthians 7:14. “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
- God communicates his grace to children while in the household of a covenant parent.
- Scripture does not say that an adult child who has turned from his parent’s faith can receive the eternal salvation promised through Abraham’s covenant, but, while children remain under the authority of a believing parent, they are represented covenantally by that parent’s faith.
- –Head of house representation also explains why the practice of circumcision was not an indication that women were excluded from the covenant, and why an adopted child, whether male or female, or even, a dependent servant had equal spiritual standing with a natural son.
- As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
- Still we must answer the question why the covenant sign was administered to those who had not yet expressed faith in God’s provision.
- (Relationship of sign and seal)
- Here’s the question: Must a child express faith before the administration of the covenant sign of baptism?
- This was not required in the OT practice of circumcision, and the NT tells us why. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 4:11 that circumcision was a “seal” as well as a “sign” of the righteousness Abraham had by faith.
- -We can easily understand how circumcision was a “sign” of righteousness provided through God’s covenant.
- The concept of putting off uncleanness by the shedding of blood, and marking the faithful as God’s special people is found in many NT passages.
- However, the concept of a “seal” is less familiar to us in today’s culture.
- -The image Paul uses with his “seal” terminology is of the wax attached to a letter or document that was marked with a signet ring to authenticate the source and validity of the contents of the document. Illust of sister Peg.
- Just as a “seal” is the pledge of its author that he will uphold his promises when described conditions are met, circumcision was God’s pledge to provide all the blessings of his covenant when the condition of faith was met in his people.
- Our faith does not activate or cause God’s covenant to extend to us (since) we know from Ephesians 1:4 that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,”
- But when we express our faith, we claim (and live out) the covenant blessings God provides to us.
- -The validity of a seal is not dependent upon the time that the conditions of the covenant accompanying it are met.
- The seal was simply the visible pledge of God that when the conditions of his covenant were met, the blessings he promised would apply as we see in Rom. 4:11. “Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”
- For this reason God did not require that covenant parents wait until a child could express faith before administering the covenant sign and seal of circumcision.
3/4. The covenant continues in the New Testament
- Third, the NT writers tell us clearly the covenant continues in effect for us
- As we read earlier, when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.” “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:28-39).
- Peter issues his call to salvation in Christ in covenantal terms by speaking of a promise that applies to his listeners and to their children as well as to others who are yet far off.
- The apostle presumes that God continues to relate to us as individuals and as families, that the covenant principles are still in effect.
- Individuals (even in covenant families) are still responsible to express their personal faith, but God continues to work out his gracious promises in families as well as extending the covenant to others.
- -The Apostle Paul is even more explicit about the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant when he writes in Gal 3: (7, 17 & 29), “Those who believe are the children of Abraham.”
- “The Law of Moses “does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.”
- If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”
- -God’s promise to Abraham to save those who have faith in God’s provision remains in effect today.
4/4. The covenant sign changes to reflect New Testament blessings.
- Fourth, while the covenant continues, its sign changes to reflect what God has done to maintain his promises.
- The bloody sign of circumcision that foreshadowed the death of Christ no longer remains appropriate after the Lamb of God has shed his blood once for all in order to remove our sin (cf. Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 1:18).
- Therefore, NT believers receive a new sign for the covenant that indicates what Christ has accomplished for them.
- Baptism with water is the sign of the washing away of our sin (cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 9:14).
- -Circumcision no longer remains a requirement for those who desire to obey God (1 Corinthians 7:18-19).
- However, baptism is now required of all those who desire to obey Christ and express their faith in him, men and women, Jew and Gentile (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:47-48).
- While the sign of the covenant changes, the features of the covenant of faith do not.
- God continues to express his love to those who have faith in him, and as a result, all believers share in the covenant God prepared for Israel through Abraham (Ephesians 3:6).
- The promises continue to be extended through parents to their children (Acts 2:38-39), with the ordinary condition remaining that these children must ultimately express their own faith in Christ in order to reap the full blessings of the covenant.
- -To emphasize both the continuity of the covenant as well as the changed nature of the sign that accompanies it, Paul writes in our passage today, 2:11-12, “In him [Christ] you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
- These words remind us that salvation that comes through faith, and also that the rite of circumcision that once signified the benefits of Abraham’s covenant has been replaced by baptism.
- -Since the covenant remains but the sign changes, NT believers will naturally expect to apply the new sign of the covenant to themselves and their children as they had the old.
- Baptism will function both as a sign and a seal of the household’s faith in Christ.
- As a seal, baptism indicates the visible pledge of God that when the conditions of his covenant were met, the promised blessings would apply.
- Will baptism save our children?
- No, neither circumcision nor baptism saves children or adults.
- Salvation comes through trusting in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior and Lord.
- Then why do we baptize our children?
- We baptize them because we believe the Bible commands us to do so.
- Because throughout biblical history, God has promised to bless through a covenant relationship with his people.
- He said to Abraham, “I will be a God to you and to your children after you.”
- In obedience to God, Abraham showed his devotion through practicing the rite of circumcision in his household.
- This rite demonstrated that God’s covenant would pass to future generations but would necessitate the shedding of blood for sin.
- The shed blood did not create the covenant but rather acted as a seal or pledge given by God, that he would honor his promise to all, who, like Abraham, put their faith in him.
- Likewise in our day, Baptism with water is the sign of the washing away of our sin which has now been accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection.
- It is the NT seal, an even more certain pledge given by God, that he will honor his promise to wash away the sins of all who put their faith in him.