Circumcision and Baptism revisited

Status
Not open for further replies.

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
In Suk,

Forgive me but it appears as if your perspective of paedo theology is almost like you see it teaching infant baptism only. Yet every paedobaptist clearly glories in the instruction of baptizing adult converts and all of the scripture that comes with that. I'm not sure I see what sense it makes to stumble over, as you would say, mature Christian conversions by then asking where the children are in the very same example? There is more than enough scripture to go around if you want to see that infants also belong in the New Covenant.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Hi Michael,
I'm only trying to speak into baptism and not covenant theology, of which I'm still learning. I believe that there is sufficient evidence to point to the sanctification of children and their inclusion in the family unit. I'm just pointing out how so-called baptismal/circumcision texts are not as strong as they seem in making a case for baptismal procedure. I still think that covenant theology and not exegesis of biblical prescriptions per se, serves as the ground for a theology of baptism. and with baptism being such a crucial sacrament of the church, should we take such chances?
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
Regarding "all who are far off", do you agree that this needs to be viewed in exactly the same way as "you and your children"? Is there something in the text that sets it off as a separate item?

If covenant inclusion is in view, what could Peter possibly mean? Is every nation necessarily a covenant member? Are those to whom the gospel is preached necessarily a covenant member?

You see the problem with treating "all who are far off" the same as the children..

---------- Post added at 01:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:55 PM ----------

One more thought: That circumcision has no place in the NC is clear. Paul doesn't have good things to say about circumcision ... I'm curious, why is there no alarm or pause in the mind of paedos in making an argument for baptism based on circumcision? What makes a paedo feel confident in proceeding with circumcision as a basis for anything?


I don't want to get tied up too deeply in this discussion. The two of you are dialoguing well, so I am just tossing a chunk of meat into the dog pit here.

You raise two points above that are very good, and the discussion moved on before these were answered squarely. Unanswered, you are correct that the Paedo position has serious inconsistencies.

1. You are pointing out the apparant, grevious double standard. "Your children" are members of the covenant, but "All who are far off" are not YET covenant members-therefore not proper subjects for baptism. Consider the context of Acts 2. Peter is preaching to scattered Jews from many nations who are gathered to celebrate Pentecost. He has already referenced Joel 2, and presented this moment as the fulfillment of that prophecy concenerning ISRAEL. At this point, Peter knows nothing about Gentile converts. So "All who are far off" cannot (in Peter's mind at the time) refer to the coming wave of Gentile converts. He must be thinking about the scattered Jews who are "far off" These are already covenant members. I hope you can see the importance of this in light of the double standard that you are seeing. In hindsight we realize that Peter's words are bigger than he imagined, but try not to read that knowledge back into Acts 2. Reading Joel 2 might help as well.

2. "That circumcision has no place in the NC is clear. Paul doesn't have good things to say about circumcision" - This isn't entirely true. In Acts 21, Paul takes a Nazirite vow after visiting the church in Jerusalem. The vow was intended to assure the Jews that He was NOT teaching them to abandon circumcision. Paul railed against the abuse of circumcision, but not circumcision itself. In this instance he is very clearly going out of his way to embrace it. So in Acts 21 you have an Apostle in the NT expressly condoning infant inclusion in the covenant. Remember the Old Covenant was passinga way, but not gone yet. Also consider that he circumcised Timothy. Paul was very specific in his circumcision disputes. He wanted no one to place confidence in it.

Hope that is helpful
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks Brandon for offering that angle on things. I hadn't considered that "all who are far off" in the mind of Peter are Jews, already considered in the covenant. So what Peter seems to be saying is basically 'the promise (covenant) is for every single one of you.' But, I'm not sure if this solves the problems for me. Let's examine the text:

Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Act 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
Act 2:40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
Act 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

First of all, is the 'promise' in this verse identical with the covenant? Abraham does not acutally occur anywhere in this discourse, or in the chapter. so, it's presumptuous to link this with the Abrahamic covenant at all.

But let's say the link is implied. Let's note the string of noun phrases placed in serial: the promise is for ...
1. you
2. your children
3. all who are far off
4. everyone the Lord our God calls to himself

If I read you correctly, you are observing that participants #1-3 are all Jews and therefore already in the covenant by circumcision. Thus, by inference, Peter seems to have a Jewish way of looking at covenants and gospel benefits.

But what are we to make of #4? It would be wrong to interpret this to mean that God necessarily calls #1-3. Rather, this fourth category of persons are included in the promise on the condition that God calls them. I believe #4 is not really a separate category but a summary of all the persons Peter has in mind to receive this promise, including #1-3. Here's where we will differ. The paedo might argue that #1-3 are automatically in the covenant by their circumcision, but #4 are conditionally in the covenant IF God calls them. Again I see the arbitrary splitting of categories and the apparent double standard.

To me, the evidence is very strongly in favor of the interpretation that the promise is only for those whom the Lord calls (conditional on their repentance and faith). This "call" must be referring to effectual calling because the promise itself is referring to forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.38). The presence of #4 removes the possibility that Peter is thinking in purely Jewish-covenantal terms when he refers to the promise. In essence, the promise is 'for you, your children, and all who are far off, IF the Lord calls you."

Lastly, let's look at the context of those who received this promise.
1. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized (v.38)
2. They were exhorted to 'save themselves' (v.40)
3. Those who 'received the word' were baptized (v.41)

Adults are most certainly in view. Michael has rightly argued that this does not exclude infants, as there are numerous places where children are included with parents. But the text is silent regarding this and is primarily aimed at adults.

As Christians who seek to follow the text closely, especially for such a sacred ordinance, it seems the text only allows us to go so far.

---------- Post added at 08:29 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:14 AM ----------

"That circumcision has no place in the NC is clear. Paul doesn't have good things to say about circumcision" - This isn't entirely true. In Acts 21, Paul takes a Nazirite vow after visiting the church in Jerusalem. The vow was intended to assure the Jews that He was NOT teaching them to abandon circumcision.

Consider this: If Paul did not believe in abandoning circumcision, then he obviously didn't believe that baptism was its replacement. This argument actually ends up hurting paedo-covenant theology, but if that's what the text says, so be it.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
In Suk,

I heard something from Dr. Beach today listening to Covenant Radio that I believe is apropos. He stated that if one is looking at baptism as a testimony of something that God has done in your life then everything about paedobaptism will seem strange to that person.

Bruce has noted this in multiple threads on this subject but, very often, these discussions are trying to determine the "killer verse" that will put a stake in the heart of a position. I liken it to the "Big 3" that Arminians want to fall back on to control any dialog that might overcome their position. In saying this, I'm not comparing a Reformed Baptist to an Arminian but I am cautioning both sides of an issue that a much wider aperture is necessary than considering a single verse or even a pericope as all-controlling for the issue.

I'm listening to Sinclair Ferguson's nearly 2 year exegesis of Romans that he delivered at his Church. It's worth listening to the whole thing but I want to point out a particular portion in Romans 2 that places a finger on the pulse of Reformed Covenant Theology with respect to the signs of the Covenant and the relationship of the person who is in possession of that sign to the Gospel.

Here's the audio: Sunday PM

You ought to listen to his exegesis of the surrounding text as well but I'm going to bracket the text that he exegetes above so marvelously:

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded [2] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code [3] and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Often with Paul, we have to read between the lines as to why he's writing certain things. You can get an early sense in the Book of Romans that he's having to defend the fact that he's an Apostle or that he soft-peddles certain issues, or that he even denies certain things about the Word of God. For a Church he's never met, then, he wants to lay out "...my Gospel..." to make it clear what he's actually teaching about the Gospel. His Gospel is, in fact, the Gospel but there are those who would detract from it.

You can see a decided aim in the verses above against Jews who are resisting the Gospel and this is where Paul aims his heavy gunfire upon them. The Gentile world has already been demonstrated by Paul to be under the wrath and curse of God for their rebellion of God's righteousness and this might leave a Jew smug in the position that: "Yes this is true to them but I have circumcision. I have been set apart from this wrath and curse. I am in Abraham."

An astute observer of this would note that this very attitude can be in the heart of a man who has been baptized previously and sees himself as no longer in the state of the world's judgment but presumptuously assuming he's made the decision, received the sign, and is safe and secure.

B.B. Warfield pointed out that very often the Baptist reduction of circumcision resembles, in many ways, the error that the Jews had that Paul has to break down and show is completely erroneous.

The Jew was never and I repeat never to view his circumcision in the manner that Paul criticizes. Paul is calling down the judgment of God for sin and unrighteousness and the Jew was looking to his circumcision as protection from it. Rightly understood, Paul says, circumcision by itself was never intended to direct a person's heart away from a broken and contrite heart but was always intended to direct their need to God for His mercy. Later, in Romans 3, Paul appeals to Psalm 51 where David manifests this heart of brokenness and recognition of unrighteousness and need for mercy. He rightly understands that all visible signs pointed beyond themselves to something that was to come. Be it circumcision or hyssop or burnt offerings - every one of these things was ultimately pointless if the believer's heart was not directed toward the Savior as these signs were intended to point toward.

Consequently, I don't really think you'll ever grasp Reformed Covenant theology if you don't grasp how we see the signs operating in the lives of believers from all redemptive eras. In other words, it will not do to simply cast doubt about whether specific verses in Acts provide enough definitive historical example to sustain the baptism of specific groups but the entire operation of Covenant between both ends of the Scriptures literally has to be torn up and re-thought.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks Rich. I'm in agreement with this view of circumcision and what it's meant to do. I appreciate that we need to have a 'wider aperture' when considering these things, but it's a little disturbing to me that a "killer verse" is missing. I'm beginning to see that a theology of baptism is needed, but theology should be built on clear texts, and not on the system or the lens through which texts are read. But, to be fair, isn't the Abrahamic covenant somewhat of a "all-controlling" killer verse for paedos?

I see paedobaptistic theology as being built on a system. This system has some basic presuppostions:
1. Signs always function the same way in all covenants, without exception
2. Older and newer covenants are completely harmonious with each other, without exception.
3. non-abrogation of a sign means its perpetual use.

I'm not really equipped at the moment to comment on whether the system is true, it may very well be. But this can only be determined by exegesis of clear texts, not by invoking the presupposition. I've been trying to show that the NT passages that are often quoted are not as strong as prooftexts as they appear to the paedo, and this could cast doubt on the presuppositions. I hope I don't sound dispensational!

Acts presents us with descriptions of history, a picture of how things were done; and they seem strongly in favour for an exclusivist view, in my opinion. There isn't a whole lot of commentary to guide us into its deeper meaning or its relation with previous practices, but we are still responsible to mimic as much as possible what was described, in the packaging that comes with it.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
The presence of #4 removes the possibility that Peter is thinking in purely Jewish-covenantal terms when he refers to the promise.

See Joel 2:32. I would completely agree that your #4 is not a separate category, but rather an explanation of #1-3. That is the clearest teaching especially since Peter's sermon is basically an exposition of Joel 2: 23-32. He begins in Joel 2:23-31 explaining that the present time is the fulfillment of that prophecy. The prophecy is regarding the gathering together of the remnant of Israel and the pouring out of the Spirit upon them. Peter then presses the Jews to see how Jesus is the Christ gathering his remnant. He concludes with Joel 2:32 "Even among the survivors (remnant) whom the LORD calls."

Also remember that in chapter 10 Peter will say to Cornelius -"You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me (just now) that I should not call any man unholy or unclean"



Consider this: If Paul did not believe in abandoning circumcision, then he obviously didn't believe that baptism was its replacement. This argument actually ends up hurting paedo-covenant theology, but if that's what the text says, so be it.

Regarding circumcision, I do not believe baptism replaces it. I believe that it corresponds to it. They both signify regeneration, and they are both tokens of covenant membership. But there is not a 1:1 relationship of replacement. This is a transitional period, passing the baton so to speak. Hebrews says the old covenant is fading away - soon to disappear. The point I am making with Acts 21 is that Paul doesn't take the opportunity to explain that the Jewish church cannot circumcise their children because God now deals with individuals on an individual basis. He does the opposite.


The point is that Paedo's will always refer to Acts 2:39 because of its clear teaching that the covenantal family unit is still in place.



To me, the evidence is very strongly in favor of the interpretation that the promise is only for those whom the Lord calls (conditional on their repentance and faith). This "call" must be referring to effectual calling because the promise itself is referring to forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.38).

If Baptism was only intended to be administered to truly regenerate individuals, then it cannot be adminstered by men. But I'm sure you've been made aware of this :)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Thanks Rich. I'm in agreement with this view of circumcision and what it's meant to do. I appreciate that we need to have a 'wider aperture' when considering these things, but it's a little disturbing to me that a "killer verse" is missing. I'm beginning to see that a theology of baptism is needed, but theology should be built on clear texts, and not on the system or the lens through which texts are read. But, to be fair, isn't the Abrahamic covenant somewhat of a "all-controlling" killer verse for paedos?

Not precisely. I didn't say that Systematic Theology is not built upon exegesis but that individual verses do not serve in the manner that many try to approach them. Certainly the verses in Scripture add up to build a Biblical exegesis, which then forms a Systematic understanding of certain topics. Often, however, many do not understand how much they are carrying with them when they go to specific verses to defeat a concept that is built verse by verse, pericope by pericope, etc into a larger understanding of Biblical concepts.

I'm not stating that the Reformed view is divorced from the text or that the Covenants made with Abraham and others are irrelevant but they build a larger picture that, when you zoom out and see the whole, allows you to see how the individual portions of Scripture inform those.

You're coming at the text from your own Systematic understanding of things and aren't even consciously aware (at least your presentation does not imply this) what you're reading into certain texts as necessary consequence.

I see paedobaptistic theology as being built on a system. This system has some basic presuppostions:
1. Signs always function the same way in all covenants, without exception
2. Older and newer covenants are completely harmonious with each other, without exception.
3. non-abrogation of a sign means its perpetual use.
First, what you "see" is not accurate.

Even if I agreed with any of the three, they are not "pre-suppositions" but derivative understandings of exegesis combined with categorization that leads to the broader understanding.

As I said above, one cannot even begin to critique the position from individual verses or their exegesis in light of what they say within their pericopes if one does not even see how those pericopes build into the Covenant theology in view.

Just to demonstrate one use of a pericope, we can take the light that Paul clearly sheds on the role of circumcision within Romans 2 and 3 as he criticizes those who mis-apprehend what the signatory function of Circumcision was intended for. One can clearly discern circumcision as acting to direct the members of the OC beyond the signs to the substance of things signified. Other pericopes (Romans 4, Psalm 51, etc) will further fill in other blanks about the role of circumcision in the life of the Covenant and other pericopes will unpack the signs and shadows of the OC sacrifices (throughout Hebrews for instance).

Taken together, then, when one considers the sign of Circumcision from various parts of Scripture a complete understanding (both OT verses and NT verses that illumine them) you can fully develop an understanding of circumcision. This then causes one to begin to put the pieces together concerning NC signs and sacraments and begin to see the clear parallels that exist as well as other data about the inclusion of children within the scope of the Covenant.

If one is only interested in "killer verses", however, then it will simply leave the person at the level of "raw data". In other words, there will be single data points that can be connected to a particular conclusion that the person reading wants to connect without doing the hard work of building all the other interconnected pieces.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The presence of #4 removes the possibility that Peter is thinking in purely Jewish-covenantal terms when he refers to the promise.
Also remember that in chapter 10 Peter will say to Cornelius -"You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me (just now) that I should not call any man unholy or unclean"
Hmm, now if the logic follows, as has been argued, that Cornelius and all men are "holy" (though having not yet heard the gospel, believed or been baptized), then does that make them in the covenant? Here, I see the argument breaking down for "holy children" as meaning that they are in the covenant.

Regarding circumcision, I do not believe baptism replaces it. I believe that it corresponds to it. They both signify regeneration, and they are both tokens of covenant membership. But there is not a 1:1 relationship of replacement. This is a transitional period, passing the baton so to speak. Hebrews says the old covenant is fading away - soon to disappear. The point I am making with Acts 21 is that Paul doesn't take the opportunity to explain that the Jewish church cannot circumcise their children because God now deals with individuals on an individual basis. He does the opposite.
Or, another possibility is that baptism and circumcision are two different things altogether. I think Paul views circumcision as not representing anything spiritual any longer, but sees its value only in its relation to Israel's privileged ethnicity (Rom 3:1-2).

The point is that Paedo's will always refer to Acts 2:39 because of its clear teaching that the covenantal family unit is still in place.
It still begs the question of the status of 'all who are far off'. Either they must be viewed as co-equal with the family unit, or all the categories of individuals must be subsumed under a conditional status: all are in the covenant whom the Lord calls to himself.

If Baptism was only intended to be administered to truly regenerate individuals, then it cannot be adminstered by men. But I'm sure you've been made aware of this :)

Yes, that's the kicker! :) I guess the best the baptist can say is, "we don't intentionally baptize the non-elect."

---------- Post added at 11:58 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:46 AM ----------

Let's look at Romans 2 ...

Rom 2:26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

This verse speaks volumes to me about Paul's view of circumcision.
1. Circumcision is a spiritual not a physical reality.
2. the one who keeps the law perfectly is regarded as circumcized. This of course can only be said of Christ, and those in Christ. cf. Phil 3:3
3. The conversion of uncircumcision to circumcision does not come by parental lineage, but personal adherence to the whole law ("if a man...")

I'd have to research more, but this points back to my point, that circumcision as spiritual reality in the NT in no wise refers back to the practice of infant circumcision.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I think Paul views circumcision as not representing anything spiritual any longer, but sees its value only in its relation to Israel's privileged ethnicity (Rom 3:1-2).

Here's the problem right here that I'm pointing out.

When you say that Paul does not view circumcision as "...not representing anything spiritual..." any longer what do you mean?

Did it ever have significance beyond itself or was it merely a marker of "privileged ethnicity" as you infer with your follow-on statement?

I don't believe Romans 2 and 3 can be made sense of to imply that Paul only means to infer that circumcision served a purpose to be a marker of privileged ethnicity but as described above.

The very thing that Paul is rebuking the Jews in Romans 2-3 is over their misapprehension of privileged status before God. That is to say that he is reminding them that the sign always pointed to a need for a broken and contrite spirit and the need for mercy from a holy God. If, as David avers in Psalm 51 (and repeated in Romans 3:3-4) that God is to be justified when He judges, then there's going to be a need for a foreign righteousness and clean heart that only God can provide. Rather than telling the Jews that their circumcision represents "privileged status" in some crass way, Paul is demonstrating that the privilege of circumcision was to be a sign to a deeper reality.

God had "cut them out" from the world to manifest grace unto His people and everything about the established relationship was to be about grace. Every sign was to point to grace. The Jew that saw in that only a "privilege" and didn't see his sin in need of hiding from God became, as Paul emphasizes, un-circumcised.

Christ rebukes this crass idea of privilege where the Pharisee simply thanks God for all his privileges in being unlike the world and all the Covenant blessings he enjoys by keeping the Law and states that the prayer of the publican ("Have mercy on me a sinner!") left the Pharisee unjustified and the publican justified in God's sight.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Let's look at Romans 2 ...

Rom 2:26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

This verse speaks volumes to me about Paul's view of circumcision.
1. Circumcision is a spiritual not a physical reality.
2. the one who keeps the law perfectly is regarded as circumcized. This of course can only be said of Christ, and those in Christ. cf. Phil 3:3
3. The conversion of uncircumcision to circumcision does not come by parental lineage, but personal adherence to the whole law ("if a man...")

I'd have to research more, but this points back to my point, that circumcision as spiritual reality in the NT in no wise refers back to the practice of infant circumcision.

This exegesis of Romans 2 is horrible and underlines my point about how to treat verses. One does not even need to leave Romans to point out how flawed this treatment is.

You drive a wedge between the sign and the thing signified that Paul is rebuking in the Jewish thinking to begin with.

Your view of why God instituted physical signs is impious. It makes a mockery of God's signs as if they are not meant to speak to spiritual things when, throughout the OT and NT, the Scriptures repeatedly enjoin the OT believer to look from the sign of God's Covenant to the spiritual things they signify.

Indeed, you must research more. For a person who is, by his own admission, a novice you need much more instruction before you intend to teach on such things. I really don't care so much about whether one wants to draw parallels from circumcision to baptism but I must insist that our forebears in the faith be treated with the dignity that their faith was not somehow completely foreign to our own as your theological presentation infers.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Ok, to clarify. Yes, circumcision indeed pointed to all those things above and had those deeper meanings from the beginning. But when the gospel and gentiles are concerned, Paul lowers the emphasis to protect the gospel.
Rom 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
I wish he went on to describe points 2,3,4, as to the value of circumcision etc, but his main point is that circumcision is Jewish. That seems clear.

In Acts 21, he takes the Nazirite vow to appease Jewish Christians and convince them that he is not against Jewish custom and law obedience.

In Acts 16, he circumcizes Timothy because he has a Jewish mom.

Here's my point. When it comes to Gentiles, circumcision (of the flesh, according to custom) has no place in his teaching or practice. He only speaks of the true circumcision, and in his mind, that pertains to the faithful.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
I realize that your getting responses that are pulling you all over the map. But did you read Joel 2. The "all who are far off as many as the Lord shall call" is drawn from there. The status of "all who are far off" is covenant members (Jews and proselytes) who must believe the Christ in order to escape the wicked generation and avoid being cut off. See Acts 3:22-23.

Now you might say that this need for belief and repentance shows the difference between new covenant membership and the old, but members of the old are called to faith and repentance as well. The "ethnic" understanding of circumcision cannot allow for proselytes. Yet we see that one who wished to worship God had to become a Jew in order to do it.

---------- Post added at 02:22 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:19 PM ----------

Cicumcision is slightly more than Jewish custom
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Ok, to clarify. Yes, circumcision indeed pointed to all those things above and had those deeper meanings from the beginning. But when the gospel and gentiles are concerned, Paul lowers the emphasis to protect the gospel.
Rom 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
I wish he went on to describe points 2,3,4, as to the value of circumcision etc, but his main point is that circumcision is Jewish. That seems clear.

In Acts 21, he takes the Nazirite vow to appease Jewish Christians and convince them that he is not against Jewish custom and law obedience.

In Acts 16, he circumcizes Timothy because he has a Jewish mom.

Here's my point. When it comes to Gentiles, circumcision (of the flesh, according to custom) has no place in his teaching or practice. He only speaks of the true circumcision, and in his mind, that pertains to the faithful.

No, you're missing Paul's point. In fact, the reason he brings up the "value" of circumcision is to deal with the Jewish objector who wrongly infers from Paul's teaching that circumcision never had any value. He's circling back to deal with a common impious objection he heard (and he probably made to Stephen himself.)

Certainly I agree that Paul is not arguing for the continued practice of circumcision but you're mixing apples and oranges here. Paul's purpose in this is not to precisely deal with the continued significance of circumcision but it is to correct a Jewish objector from thinking that he didn't need the same kind of Gospel that the rest of the world needed. Circumcision always and everywhere was to point to Christ. Full stop. "All you Jews," Paul is saying, "that think you're any better than Gentiles before a holy God because you're "privileged" are missing the entire point of that sign in your flesh! David understood this. The Scriptures testify to your own unrighteousness before the Law. Stop trusting in your privilege as the Covenant people of God because the Scriptures testify that ALL are guilty before the bar of God's judgment."

It was fine for the Jews to hear that the Gentiles were going to be judged by a holy God. But them? "How can this be? We are the children of Abraham!"

"Stop!", Paul says, "you are guilty, guilty, guilty."

In your attempts to try to prove a point that Paul is not even dealing with in this passage, you're missing Paul's point in even bringing circumcision into the discussion.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Let's look at Romans 2 ...

Rom 2:26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

This verse speaks volumes to me about Paul's view of circumcision.
1. Circumcision is a spiritual not a physical reality.
2. the one who keeps the law perfectly is regarded as circumcized. This of course can only be said of Christ, and those in Christ. cf. Phil 3:3
3. The conversion of uncircumcision to circumcision does not come by parental lineage, but personal adherence to the whole law ("if a man...")

I'd have to research more, but this points back to my point, that circumcision as spiritual reality in the NT in no wise refers back to the practice of infant circumcision.

This exegesis of Romans 2 is horrible and underlines my point about how to treat verses. One does not even need to leave Romans to point out how flawed this treatment is.

You drive a wedge between the sign and the thing signified that Paul is rebuking in the Jewish thinking to begin with.

Your view of why God instituted physical signs is impious. It makes a mockery of God's signs as if they are not meant to speak to spiritual things when, throughout the OT and NT, the Scriptures repeatedly enjoin the OT believer to look from the sign of God's Covenant to the spiritual things they signify.

Indeed, you must research more. For a person who is, by his own admission, a novice you need much more instruction before you intend to teach on such things. I really don't care so much about whether one wants to draw parallels from circumcision to baptism but I must insist that our forebears in the faith be treated with the dignity that their faith was not somehow completely foreign to our own as your theological presentation infers.

whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the phone. Am I missing something here? Did I say that God's signs were not meant to speak to spiritual things? Heaven forbid if my view mocks God as you suggest. Perhaps I have been unclear, and if so, I apologize.

I think all I was trying to suggest is that Paul's view of circumcision, as far as the new economy and Gentiles were concerned, was over and done with. The spiritual significance and reality still remain of course. Circumcision is ultimately spiritual; and pertains to those who are in Christ - that is all I have gleaned from Paul.

(I admit my eagerness to learn more on this subject and do not profess to have it all together. I don't think there's any need to make this personal regarding my inabilities, or my stripping the forebears in the faith of their dignity, etc. I would kindly ask you to keep to the issues, keep to the texts in question, and help me understand. cheers.)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It's nothing personal In Suk. I'm warning you that even our "eagerness" can lead us to state impious things. You need to be careful because others read this board and you are teaching whether you realize it or not.

As I stated, Paul's purpose in speaking about circumcision in Romans 2-3 is not to deal, precisely, with its continued validity. It's axiomatic that the sign has been abrogated. He's more precisely dealing with the arrogance of a Jew who sees himself as being in a privileged status because he is in Covenant with God. The same rebuke of Paul, as I noted, can be applied to the man who trusts in his baptism or decision in the same arrogant manner.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Ok Rich, I'm with you here. No objections to the above two posts. Now, a question: doesn't it seem that where Paul speaks of circumcision in Romans, he immediately thinks mostly of the Mosaic, not Abrahamic covenant? Check out the parallel in 2:28-29
Rom 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.
Rom 2:29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

So, 'outward and physical' parallels 'letter' (law). The same is true for arguments given in Galatians and Hebrews. Jewish Christians wrongly link circumcision and law, and Paul is left denouncing circumcision in most of his references.

---------- Post added at 01:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:03 PM ----------

and yes, it would be arrogant, and perhaps idolatrous for someone to trust in their baptism, regardless of their baptistic persuasion. But if you consider that the main NT picture of baptism is of burial, then the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ is signified in the act.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Ok Rich, I'm with you here. No objections to the above two posts. Now, a question: doesn't it seem that where Paul speaks of circumcision in Romans, he immediately thinks mostly of the Mosaic, not Abrahamic covenant?
No. I think he has the Covenant in view. It would have been anachronistic but Paul could have "preached" this to Ishmael. Circumcision was given to Abraham.

Check out the parallel in 2:28-29
Rom 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.
Rom 2:29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

So, 'outward and physical' parallels 'letter' (law). The same is true for arguments given in Galatians and Hebrews. Jewish Christians wrongly link circumcision and law, and Paul is left denouncing circumcision in most of his references.
Actually, if you read Paul more carefully, "outward and physical" does not equal Law but equals man's perversion of the Law to assume that he can attain righteousness through outward and physical conformity. Law was never given to point men to outward and physical conformity but to drive them to the Gospel (see Rom 3:21).

and yes, it would be arrogant, and perhaps idolatrous for someone to trust in their baptism, regardless of their baptistic persuasion. But if you consider that the main NT picture of baptism is of burial, then the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ is signified in the act.
There are several "pictures" of what baptism represents as even the LBCF testifies to. That said, circumcision obviously did not operate with the same light that Baptism can for the NT believer. It did, however, function to direct attention to the same saving God.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
As I stated, Paul's purpose in speaking about circumcision in Romans 2-3 is not to deal, precisely, with its continued validity. It's axiomatic that the sign has been abrogated. He's more precisely dealing with the arrogance of a Jew who sees himself as being in a privileged status because he is in Covenant with God. The same rebuke of Paul, as I noted, can be applied to the man who trusts in his baptism or decision in the same arrogant manner.

Ok, so the sign of circumcision has been abrogated. This, to me, is a huge statement which leads to my next question: why is the practice of placing the sign on covenant children still in place? I'm a little confused at Brandon's post that baptism has not, in fact, replaced circumcision, but corresponds to it. I have often heard paedos say that it is a replacement; only the physical sign has changed. If circumcision has been abrogated, where do we find the basis for infant baptism?

As observed before, we find that Paul underwent the Nazirite vow in Jerusalem as a statement that he was not opposed to Mosaic law keeping or the continued practice of circumcision - that is, for Jewish believers. This suggests to me that he is relegating circumcision to religio-cultural status, and accepts it as long as it remains within the Jewish circle. One thing is for sure, where it comes to Gentiles taking on the practice, he is vehemently against it.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I don't think circumcision has any status before God any more. The man who circumcises his child in supposed obedience to the "Covenant" in this day and age has the same status as anyone else - they need Christ and His righteousness. Muslims circumcise their children and, as they claim Ishmael, they could be considered physical children of Abraham practicing something that is a corruption of its intended signatory purpose even as Jews are compared to being sons of the slavewoman in Gal 5.

Circumcision was not relegated to "religio-cultural" status by the inauguration of the NC but abrogated. In order to deal with a difficult, transitory period in Redemptive History, the Apostles could still make inroads into a people groups whose ideas of cultic separation required they not have any dealings with unclean Gentiles but, in this, they were becoming "all things to all people" in order to reach them with the Gospel. Paul, later in Romans 14, deals with how to treat the weak believer which has Jews in view.

As for "Gentiles" taking it on, you'll notice he circumcises Timothy (who willingly receives it) not for any religious significance but for the purpose I note for above. As for Titus, however, this is where nuance is important to notice. It is customary to view Paul as always speaking of circumcision in the same manner in every context. The context in Romans 2-3 when he refers to circumcision is different in some ways than the Galatians context. A close reading of what circumcision meant for those demanding it in Galatia is another aberration of the meaning of circumcision which equates to taking on the Jewish Law and its demands. it equated to Christ + Torah = Salvation. The "+Torah" side of the equation was *never* the equation (even in OC times) as Paul elaborates in Galatians 3.

As for your question of baptism replacing circumcision, I haven't read what Brandon wrote. All those who were to be marked out in the NT Church were to receive baptism - whether previously circumcised or not. It clearly is treated in the NT Scriptures as a sign that serves to mark the visible Church from the world as well as something that signifies Christ and His benefits sealed to the true believer. Even Baptists recognize both aspects in their Confession. Continuity is then provided as children are called out in Epistles both as holy and given Covenantal injunctions from the Apostles. There is certainly only language which confirms the family solidarity in God's covenant dealings as well as the expansion of the sign of baptism rather than its restriction.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
To clarify, circumcision is not replaced by baptism any more than Israel is replaced by the church. Replace is a poor word for what goes on between the covenants. That is why I used correspond. Consider these two sentences: 1. "I am going to start using fluorescent light bulbs in my house". 2. "I am replacing the lightbulbs in my house with fluorescent ones. No one rooted out all those of the circumcision and un-did anything, so you can't call it a replacement.

You will notice that I am really only pressing one point in my posts and that is concerning infant inclusion, regardless of any signs or seals.

I would urge you to speak of Old Covenant signs and seals with the same reverence you show for NC counterparts. No one wants to hear baptism referred to as a religeo-cultural tradition. I have a very hard time sorting out theology within the transition period. One thing I know is that there was still a 2nd commandment in place throughout. So I'm not comfortable saying that Paul is encouraging will-worship in these settings. The best understanding I have come to is that both covenants are in place for this short time. That is consistent with Hebrews saying that the old is BECOMING obsolete. I have heard it illustrated like one runner handing off the baton in a relay race. There is a point where both runners have a firm grip on the baton, and they are both moving forward at the same pace.

I think we need to be careful in assigning motives to Paul and other's confusing actions. We tend to say, "oh he is just removing obstacles and being all things to all men." Paul was still worshipping the God who cares about worship. The same God that struck down those in the OT who worshipped according to their imaginations.

---------- Post added at 05:16 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:06 PM ----------

And yes, I believe with you that circumcision has 0 spiritual significance today. But when did that become the case? Incarnation, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, Ascention, Pentecost, 70 A.D. ??? We say it was abrogated, and I agree. But When?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Brandon,

First, I didn't use the word "replace" but indicated that all, either circumcised or uncircumcised, were baptized.

Secondly, it is impossible for me to conceive of Paul or any of the Apostles bringing a burnt offering to the Temple after Christ had ascended. I can't imagine they were awaiting the Book of Hebrews to understand the import of His Priestly office. I agree that the transition period is difficult but there is no record in Acts of any of the Apostles participating in the sacrificial aspects of the OT economy.

I don't have to "assign motives" for Paul because it is indicated why Timothy was circumcised. Furthermore, when Paul took the Nazirite vow there are indications that this is a form of accommodation because the typical charge that Paul refutes surrounded him like a cloud: he had a rap for speaking against the Law of Moses. Nothing could be further from the truth but you see the fingerprints of that charge in Romans and clearly so in Galatians.

I think much of the difficulty associated with the transition period had to do with consciences that were still very scrupulous to things that men now had liberty to ignore. For instance, Romans 14 speaks to scrupulous observances that deal with days and foods and one does not need to speculate to see a reference to ceremonial aspects of the Law that had been in place for over a millennium. Paul clearly feels at ease being stricter or looser depending on the man he is trying to teach the Gospel unto. It would be nigh impossible to even get near a Jew to teach the Gospel if the man thought he was ceremonially unclean.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
The Nazirite vow involved sacrifice as indicated by Numbers 6 and Acts 21: 26

"Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them"

And I threw my bible against the wall when I read that because it just doesn't fit right, but it is there

For the record, I wasn't really directing anything towards you as I hadn't "caught up" in reading the posts.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
And yes, I believe with you that circumcision has 0 spiritual significance today. But when did that become the case? Incarnation, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, Ascention, Pentecost, 70 A.D. ??? We say it was abrogated, and I agree. But When?

I don't know precisely. Apollos, for instance, seems to be operating within the light he had before Aquila and Priscilla bumped into him. A pastor friend of mine has done some research into the periods of Judaism. Judaism, after 70 AD, pretty much ensconced a Pharisaical perversion of the Law of God and represented a decided reaction against Christianity.

I don't think the reception of baptism saved, per se, and could conceive of someone dying during that period who had not yet heard the News that the Messiah signified by circumcision had come.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
The Nazirite vow involved sacrifice as indicated by Numbers 6 and Acts 21: 26

"Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them"

And I threw my bible against the wall when I read that because it just doesn't fit right, but it is there

For the record, I wasn't really directing anything towards you as I hadn't "caught up" in reading the posts.

Fair enough. Looks like the Nazirite vow included a burnt offering, a sin offering, a peace offering, and a wave offering. There you have it. I was wrong about "no example".

I would still argue that Paul had to have understood the real sin offering had already been offered once-for-all. I haven't studied this particular section but it would be inconceivable that he thought the shadows still had any real significance when the substance had come.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Speaking of baptism....

On Sunday, the 5th of September, we are baptizing our youngest, Noah Michael, during the morning worship service at our church in Bowie, MD. If you'd like to attend PM me and I'll send you the info.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Speaking of baptism....

On Sunday, the 5th of September, we are baptizing our youngest, Noah Michael, during the morning worship service at our church in Bowie, MD. If you'd like to attend PM me and I'll send you the info.

Praise God! Thanks for sharing Ben...
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
[BIBLE]Rom 4:9-12[/BIBLE]

Verses 11b and 12 stand out for me. We are actually told the purpose of circumcision, so if baptism and circumcision are linked in the new economy, this verse ought be very enlightening indeed.
The purpose of the sign of circumcision is to make Abraham the father of faith - both uncircumcised gentiles who believe, and circumcised Jews who walk in Abraham's faith. I believe this strand in Paul's thought needs to be considered seriously. The theory that circumcision is simply a mark of covenant membership is here being challenged by Paul, wouldn't you say?

When it says that "The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well" this shows that we are not to be circumcised because of the faith of our parents, we are to be circumcised because we have imitated Abraham's faith. In other words, we are children of Abraham not in a generational sense, but in the sense that we have followed in his very own footsteps of faith. and just as he was circumcised after believing, this same pattern should apply to us: ie. baptism after believing.

The way I see it, Paul removes the generational sense of Abraham's fatherhood and replaces it with the 'imitative' sense. Abraham is our father not because we have believing parents, but because we are imitators of his faith!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top