We mentioned this in church yesterday. As you have questions and want to delve into this topic more deeply, please refer to this paper from Redeemer NYC.
Sometimes we approach the Bible like a puzzle we don’t have the boxtop for. But Colossians 1:17 says that, in Christ, “all things hold together.” He is the boxtop to the biblical puzzle, the one who makes sense of the entire story. It was always God’s plan to redeem us through Christ, and it was always God’s plan for us to participate in Christ through baptism.
1. Baptism Fulfills Circumcision
Circumcision was first given to Abraham in Genesis 17:9-14. Abraham was circumcised as a believer, someone who had put their faith in God’s promise of Christ (see Genesis 15:6). Abraham was circumcised on the basis of his faith and God’s promise—all his children were circumcised in association with him in his household. St. Paul links circumcision with baptism in Colossians 2:11-12, and shows that we become part of Abraham’s household through circumcision in Galatians 3:27-29. Baptism is for God’s people, those who became part of it as adults through faith as well as their children who are associated with God’s people through their parents.
2. Sacramental Participation in Our Heavenly Citizenship
Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20-21 that “our citizenship is in heaven.” To become a citizen of a new country, you have to go through a naturalization process and ceremony. Baptism is like heavenly naturalization, how we participate in our heavenly citizenship. Through baptism, we enjoy: 1) earthly participation in heavenly citizenship; 2) present participation in eternal life; 3) individual participation in God’s covenant people; and 4) human participation in Triune community.
Reflection & Application Questions
- Have you been baptized? Were you an adult or a child?
- How have you understood baptism in the past? How do these passages inform or challenge the way you view it?
- The history of redemption and the gracious nature of God’s covenant in Christ demonstrate that God is the primary actor in baptism. How does this understanding of baptism shore up faith in your redemption in Christ?
- How could deemphasizing God’s work in baptism potentially lead to a legalistic understanding of it?
- Can baptism save you? Why must it be coupled with faith?
- Baptism lets us participate in the blessings of the cross and resurrection. What aspect of our participation in these blessings makes you most grateful for the gospel?