Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Iowa on 8/27/17.
Open your Bibles to Colossians 2:8-17. As all of you are aware, tonight we will be baptizing at least two individuals, if not more. I hope that all of you can come and celebrate this beautiful ordinance that Christ commands us to participate in.
Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of confusion that revolves around the ordinance of baptism. However, this this is nothing new. Satan has always attempted to twist the word of God, and man has always been vulnerable to his attacks.
In the Bible we see confusion over baptism in John 3:26 where the disciples of John the Baptist say to John, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” To this, John rightly responded, “I am not the Christ…he must increase, but I must decrease.”
We also saw confusion in the town of Ephesus in Acts 19. In verse 3 the Apostle Paul asks the men there, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
We also see confusion in the Church of Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 1:12 the Apostle Paul again says, “each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”
What I find interesting in each of these Biblical examples is the struggle between the glory of God and the glory of man. If you ask me, this is at the heart of all confusion as it relates to Baptism. There is a spiritual war being waged to put emphasis on the flesh instead of emphasis on the glory of what Christ Jesus achieved on our behalf. Hopefully, we can clear some things up this morning.
Credo verses Paedo
As most of you know, here at Cornerstone we believe in what is called Credo-Baptism. That is just a fancy way of saying that we believe that only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ should be baptized. That repentance and faith are prerequisites before someone should be baptized. Churches such as the Southern Baptist, the largest denomination in America, the Assemblies of God, and many non-denomination churches, such as ourselves and John MacArthur's Church, Grace Community Church.
This is opposed to Paedo Baptism which believes that babies of a Christian Father and Christian mother should be baptized. Churches that support this view would include Catholics, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and truly Reformed churches. This is one area that we, at Cornerstone, are not completely reformed. This is why many times when people ask about our theology here I tell them that we are reformed baptist in our thinking. Meaning that we believe in the Doctrines of Grace (Calvinism) but that we also believe in believers baptism.
Let me just spend a second talking about the Paedo position. First the Romans Catholic Church. To state the obvious, most of the people in this town were baptized as babies by the Roman Catholic Church. I want to read to you this morning from the Catholic Catechism on infant baptism: “Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” So, according to their own words, the Catholic Church teaches that the parents and the Church have the power to grant salvation through the ceremony of Baptism. Therefore, if the parents have the power to grant their children salvation, then the glory goes to the parents and the Church and not to the working of Christ on the cross. That is the Catholic position. Let me just be clear, this position is unbiblical. For Bible explicitly states that salvation comes through personal faith, by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, not the decision of mom and dad.
The Lutheran position is very similar, but they do some word-smithing. Here is a quote from the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, “we believe that Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace, through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart.” Therefore they believe that when a baby is baptized by his parents, that the during that ceremony it causes God to create faith in a baby’s heart. Once again, it puts the emphasis on the parents. Through baptism, they can force the hand of God to create faith in their child’s heart. Once again, I believe this position is unbiblical, and is just a sibling to the catholic position.
The last view I want to focus on is the Reformed view of infant baptism. This would be the view of Presbyterians, Methodist, and people like RC Sproul, Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, and John Frame. It would also include people like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Matthew Henry. The reformed view is the view that baptism corresponds, or parallels, the physical practice of Old Testament Circumcision. Specifically, that Christian parents should baptize their babies to show that the parents are Christians and that the child will be raised in a Christian home, and therefore the baby is part of God’s family through biological association. Once again, this places the emphasis on the flesh, namely Christian parents giving birth to a child. As you could guess, I also believe this position is unbiblical, however, I will say that this position at least does not claim that baptism has any power to convert a sinners heart, such as Catholicism or Lutheranism.
Here at Cornerstone, we reject all of those views. We do not believe the scriptures support any of those positions. To take a phrase from John MacArthur, none of those positions are reformed enough. Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Sproul have all stopped short of full reformation, and have consequently wrongly allowed the glory of Christ to be stolen and given to the flesh of man. And as God states in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” This includes baptism. God does not share the glory of what baptism symbolizes. So with that said, let us finally get to our text this morning.
Beware of Human Tradition
To begin, let us look at verse eight. In the ESV translation it says “See to it.” If you have the King James version is says, “Beware.” The Greek word is blepō. Which literally means to see, however, at times is translated to “beware” because of the context of the verse. In fact blepo is used by Jesus in Mark 8:15 and is translated to “beware.” Jesus cautioned his disciples, “Watch out; beware (blepo) of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Likewise the Apostle Paul used the word blepo in Philippians 3:2, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Therefore, it is not uncommon for the world blepo to be used as a cautionary word. And this is exactly how it is being used in our text today, to caution the people of Colosse. To encourage them to be alert for danger.
As we can see in verse 8, Paul is cautioning the church against is “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition”. So what is Paul thinking about when he speaks of these things? I believe the answer is found in verse 16 and 17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” These things that Paul lists, food, drink, festival, new moon, Sabbath are all Old Testament laws. These are the religious rituals that God had the people of Israel participate in. And the Apostle Pauls calls these Old Testament rituals shadows. And Paul’s greatest concern is that the shadow becomes the focus and not Jesus, who is the substance.
If you look at Colossians 2, and for that matter Colossians as a whole, you can see that Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired passion is the supremacy of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul's mission in life is the pursuit of bringing Christ all the glory. Now that Jesus has come, and the mystery of the Messiah is revealed, the religious rituals of Israel fade away for the Son of God shines brightly, for Christ is now central. And we must beware of this leven, we must beware of the dogs, we must beware of being taken captive by anything that strips Christ of his glory and what Jesus achieved in our salvation.
Circumcision without Hands
So what does this have to do with baptism? I believe everything. Look at verse 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.”
In verse 11, Paul Is speaking of another shadow. The shadow of circumcision. Circumcision was commanded by God for the people of Israel during the time of the Old Testament. Every male child, eight days old was to be circumcised. This is what God tells Abraham in Genesis 17:10, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” Circumcision was a sign of the Old Testament covenant that God had with the biological people of Abraham. Every Jewish male received this outward sign of the covenant, even the wicked ones. It did not matter what you believed, or if you had faith or not, if you were born into a Jewish family, you would be circumcised.
As I stated earlier, circumcision is another example of an Old Testament shadow. Circumcision is not a requirement of the new covenant. With the coming of Christ circumcision was abolished, for the substance belongs to Christ and not some ritual. This was formally settled at what is called the Jerusalem counsel found in Acts 15.
However, what is the new covenant correspondence to the circumcision of the flesh? The reformed position is that it is baptism, therefore you should baptize babies. Because in the Old covenant babies were circumcised, therefore in the new covenant babies should be baptized.
Now, it should be noted that the Bible never commands the Church to baptize babies, likewise there is not one example of a baby being baptized. However, this does not seem to deter our Reformed brothers. But in my opinion, our text today should be the nail in the coffin against paedo-baptism.
According to our text what does circumcision of the flesh correspond to? Look at verse 11 again, “ 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,” The New Covenant equivalent is not baptizing babies, it is the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision in the Old Testament points forward to the future event during the new covenant whereby Christ circumcises our heart.
This is not the only time Paul speaks of the circumcision of the heart. He also mentions it in Romans 2:9, “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. “
This leads us to the question, when does the circumcision of the heart occur? When does the Spirit of Christ come and make someone a Jew inwardly? When does a person become a part of the new covenant community? Is it when they are physically born? No, it is when they are born again by the Spirit.
So is their an outward sign that we are to perform that would correspond to a circumcision of the heart? Yes, baptism. Verse 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.”
Because Christ is to receive all the glory for our salvation, physical circumcision ended and baptism began. However, baptism points to the internal reality of what happens to a person when they are converted. Baptism is a symbolic display that provides a picture that when our hearts were circumcised by the Holy Spirit, what happened is that our old self was buried and a new creation was raised from the dead. And this is why baptism is only for born again believers, and it is not for babies, and it is not for young children. Baptism is for those who believed in their heart and confessed with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Baptism points us to the greatest event in out life, that our sins were nailed to the cross, and we are now forgiven and have eternal life, not because of the Church, and not because of our parents, but because of Christ. Therefore, it is only the Credo-baptistic position that gives Jesus Christ all the glory.
If you were baptized as a child, first, you should not feel guilty. It was not your decision, it was your parents and to be frank, it was the wrong decision, for it means nothing. It does not point to your salvation, it is merely wishful thinking. If, now as an adult, you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I would encourage you be obedient to the command of Christ and be baptized to proclaim to yourself and to the world that Christ has circumcised your heart and nailed your sins to the cross and given you new life in Him.
Tonight we are baptizing at least two individuals. If God has laid it on your heart this morning to be baptized then come and find me after today's service and we can talk more.