Thursday, March 5, 2009
Baptism, this is not a picture, it is a reality
Col. 2:8-15 (ESV)
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.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.  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,  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.  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,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
“In him you were circumcised… having been buried with him in baptism.” There are a couple things about this passage that need further attention. 1. Circumcision and baptism are all but equated here. This is a strong argument in favor of infant baptism. 2. Everything here is communicated as having happened to you in baptism. There is no symbolical language used here, no metaphor or simile.
A word about circumcision, It was an Old Testament sacrament imposed on 8 day old babies. No one questioned whether the babies believed or not, they were incorporated into God’s family. From there on out the father was expected to train the child up in the faith. If baptism is the circumcision of Christ, it makes sense that we would also baptize infants with the same understanding. We as parents have a duty to our children, a responsibility given to us from God. We are to baptize our children and bring them up in the faith.
I often hear parents say that they want it to be their child’s choice. Well for one thing your children are going to do what they are going to do when they get older anyway. But God does not tell you wait until your children can make a choice. He tells parents to bring their children up in the faith. So you baptize them, and teach them. You teach them the faith, first and foremost by going to church every Sunday. If the children don’t see it mattering to you, it won’t matter to them. You teach them by having family devotions. And you train them by sending them off to confirmation when they are old enough. This is the pattern in the Old Testament, and it is the pattern in the New Testament. The only thing that has changed is the means. No longer is it circumcision, but baptism.
A word about baptism, it is not symbolic. Christ does something to you when He baptizes you as John the Baptizer says: “with the Holy Spirit.” He gives you a circumcision without hands, a circumcision of the heart that puts off the flesh. In baptism you are buried with him, and this happens whether you are sprinkled or immersed. Baptism isn’t a picture, it is a reality. I am reminded of René Magritte’s painting “The treason of Images” or “This is not a Pipe.” People are always saying baptism is supposed to be a picture. Well if it is a picture then it is not a reality. Baptism is much more than a picture, it is reality. Paul doesn’t say it symbolizes anything, he says it happens. In baptism you are circumcised, you are buried, and you are raised. You who were dead in your trespasses were made alive in Christ. So live!