Covenant Signs: Circumcision & Baptism
by Michael Schiffman
The symbol of baptism points to he sacrificial death of the Messiah. This sacrament is is an important part of our salvation according to Acts 2:38, Mark 16: 16, and I Pet. 3:21. Saul taught that Baptism was our identification with the atoning death of the Messiah.
In I Cor. 10:1-12, Saul draws an analogy between the people in the exodus who passed through the waters of the Red Sea but dropped dead in the wilderness, and baptism. By the same token, when we leave our “Egypt” we too must pass through the Red Sea of Baptism.
Christian believers understand baptism as symbolic of the work of the Messiah, pointing to His death, burial and resurrection, and our being united with Him.
We believe that water baptism is based on Jewish ritual immersion but under the New Covenant it symbolizes the work of the Messiah (Rom 6:3-6). The Lord’s supper is based on the Passover Seder and is a memorial of the Messiah’s death until He returns. They are ceremonies of the New Covenant which the Messiah commanded His body to do for salvation.” (Matthew 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-26)
Because baptism is, in one sense, an entrance requirement into the community of faith, some have understood it as a Christian counterpart to circumcision. They understand baptism as analogous to circumcision as the sign of faith, based upon Colossians 2:11-15, and since circumcision is practiced on children, they baptize children. Against this view is the absence of any direct reference to infant baptism.
Messianic Jews do not practice infant baptism, nor is baptism seen as analogous to circumcision, in regards to a rite for children. Messianic Jews practice the rite of circumcision on their male offspring, because of the Abrahamic covenant, which preceded the Law of Moses. Circumcision is a birthright of Messianic Jews. Likewise, baptism is our “brithright.”
“My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people. He has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:13b-14)
Baptism is understood to be a powerful symbol of the death and burial of the old nature in Jesus Christ, and going forth in newness of life. It is a sign of the grace of God. Circumcision is a sign of being a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is impossible to be a participant in the New Covenant without being baptized just like it is impossible for a man to be a participant in the Abrahamic covenant without circumcision (Gen.17:14). Circumcision is a part of being born and likewise. Likewise, Baptism is a very important part of the new birth, both being signs of the covenants they represent.