PART III

                                             Water Baptism

Returning to our study on the Promised Land, we will now begin to look at the issue of circumcision and consider how this is to be applied to you.

We’ll begin by reading:

Joshua 5:2-5

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again. So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.” Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt – all the men of military age – died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not.

The result was that, that day “the reproach of Egypt had been rolled away from them” as we can read in Joshua 5:9.

Circumcision was a sign of their covenant with God as established with Abraham. We can read this in:

Genesis 17:9-14

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is My covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. For the generations to come, every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner – those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. 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.”

However, even in the case of the Old Testament believers, their acceptance by God was based on their faith and not just on the outward sign of circumcision as we can read in:

Hebrews 11:8-11

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the City with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise.

Jesus had this to say about Abraham in John 8:56

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.

And Paul writes in Romans 4:1-3

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness."

We can read this in Genesis 15:6

Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

How can we apply this to our lives? Paul explains it in: 

Romans 2:29b

…. and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code….

This refers to our born again, or born from above experience, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. His role is explained to us by John in: 

John 16:8

To convict the world (of which you and I are a part) of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement

Jesus spoke about this born again experience in: 

John 3:5-8

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at My saying, “You must be born again”. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

At that time “the reproach of our Egypt has been rolled away from us” just as it happened to the Israelites at their time of circumcision (Joshua 5:9) as we can see from:

II Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

And in Philippians 3:13b

… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.

And in Romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the Law of Sin and Death.

Though in the Old Testament only males were circumcised, in the New Testament this circumcision of the heart Paul speaks of is for men and women, for we are all sons of God and co-heirs with Christ as we can read in:

Romans 8:14-17

Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…

For the New Testament believer the outward sign of the born again experience is water baptism as Paul explained in:

Romans 6:3-4

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

And in Colossians 2:11-12

In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.

And in Galatians 3:26-27

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

And Luke gives us various accounts of believers who were baptised as in: 

Acts 2:38-39

Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptised, everyone of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

And in Acts 2:41

Those who accepted his (Peter’s) message were baptised …

And in Acts 8:12

But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women.

And in Acts 8:32-38

The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. In His humiliation He was deprived of justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him.

And in Acts 9:18

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised.

And in Acts 10:47-48a

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.

And in Acts 19:4-5

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe on the One coming after him, that is in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised into the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself was baptised in water as we can read in: 

Matthew 3:13-16a

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John (the Baptist). But John tried to deter Him, saying, “I need to be baptised by You, and do You come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do so to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptised He went up out of the water….

Jesus included Water Baptism in His Great Commission as we can read in: 

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

From Scripture we can learn then that the first step a person has to take is to repent, and the following step is water baptism as an outward sign of what has already taken place in a person’s heart. Though water baptism in itself does not save a person, just as physical circumcision in itself did not save an Israelite, it is an important step of obedience for a believer. This is, in fact, the next step we need to take in order for us to be able to successfully possess our Promised Land.

Part IV