Circumcision and Baptism - RR130BZ140

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Circumcision and Baptism
Course: Course - Church Law
Subject: Subject:Law
Lesson#: 4
Length: 0:45:32
TapeCode: RR130BZ140
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
IBL14 Church Law.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Our Scripture is 1st Peter 3:18-22. Circumcision and Baptism. 1st Peter 3:18-22.

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”

Our subject this morning is circumcision and baptism. And it is important to understand not only the relationship of the two, but also, their relationship to Noah. Thus, much of what we say this morning will be directed to providing a background so that we can understand what Saint Peter meant when he compared baptism to the flood. Unless we understand the comparison there, we fail to understand the meaning of Baptism. Now the relationship between Circumcision and baptism is very close in scripture; the two are the same rite. The ritual of induction, initiation, entrance into the covenant of grace. We saw last week that the relationship between the two is so close that in the early church it required a church council to give permission for baptism to dying children, prior to the 8th day; because according to scripture circumcision was only to be on or after the 8th day. [00:03:16]

Clearly they saw that the same law governed both, because

Clearly they saw that the same law governed both, because circumcision and baptism were the same sign of the covenant. This is why in the church there was infant baptism. The Baptist scholars ignore such things as this council, or the fact of communion being served to all Baptized children, because such evidence makes clear that infant baptism was the rule.

Circumcision was the mark of the covenant in the Old Testament, and it made a witness to man’s fallen nature, and a need for a new nature in Gods covenant. Doctor Geerhardus Vos some years ago, in writing on circumcision said, and I quote: “Circumcision has something to do with the process of propagation; not in the sense that the act is of itself sinful, because there is no sense of this anywhere in the Old Testament. It is not the act but human nature, which is unclean and disqualified, its very source. Sin consequently is a matter of race, and not of the individual only. The need of qualification had to be specifically emphasized under the Old Testament; at that time the promises of God has proximate reference to temporal, natural things. Hereby the danger was created that natural decent might be understood as entitling to the grace of God. Circumcision teaches that physical decent from Abraham is not sufficient to make a true Israelite. The uncleanness and disqualification of nature must be taken away. Dogmatically speaking therefore Circumcision stands for justification and regeneration, plus sanctification.”

Circumcision was the symbolic cutting on the organ of generation. To indicate that there is no hope in in generation, but only in regeneration; symbolically therefore circumcision represents a form of death; it meant a death of hope in regeneration, a cutting off of life. It also represented the removal of an impediment, as in Exodus 6 verses 12 and 30. The unregenerate heart is often spoken of in Scripture as “Uncircumcised.”. Circumcision as a sign of death, clearly pointed to the death of Christ as mans representative. In the rite of circumcision, Abraham and his descendants supplied the blood, indicating the necessity for death as entrance into the covenant. In the Passover sacrifice it was the Lord who commanded the sacrifice and provided the blood in token of His blood covenanting. Christ died for us as our substitute; and the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Passover lamb alike typified the work of Christ; provided in a sense both by His humanity, and by Himself as very God. High Priest and victim. [00:07:09]

Now that His work on the cross has been established

Now that His work on the cross has been established, blood has ceased to be, except in a memorial sense, an aspect of the Covenant rite. In the place of blood as a token of the sacrifice, something radically different and yet outwardly resembling it has been substituted. Win; wine as a life-giving, refreshing substitute. To indicate now the entrance into the covenant does not mean that we look ahead to death, to the death of the lamb of God to take away our sin, but that this is behind us, and now the covenant is life-giving and refreshing, and therefore it is no longer set forth in blood, both in circumcision and in the Passover, but by wine, to indicate life, and water to indicate in part, cleansing.

Thus the Old Testament rites looked ahead to Christ; the blood of circumcision and of the Passover lamb. They looked back to Adam in Abraham, and in the Passover in Egypt. Baptism and Circumcision look back to the same events and to the cross, but ahead to our progressive sanctification, to the re-conquest of men and nations and their submission to the Lord and to the new creation.

Thus Baptism, like circumcision, sets forth our death and our resurrection in Christ. Our regeneration, our adoption, and our incorporation in the covenant of grace. It is a witness to grace, rather than grace itself. Thus it is not baptism, the act, that gives us grace, but it is a witness to that grace we have received through Christ. [00:09:32]

Significantly, in the early church, baptism was called

Significantly, in the early church, baptism was called the great circumcision. Moreover, from the early years of the church it was held to be valid only when done in he name of the Trinity, according to Matthew 28:19, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Very early baptism was associated with the Easter season, with resurrection, but not exclusively so. It was performed at any time of the year, although very commonly at Easter. Moreover in terms of Ezekiel 36:25, where sprinkling is signified as the sign of the New Covenant, sprinkling was the method of baptism. However, aspersion was also used, very commonly. Aspersion took place when baptism was at a river, and people waded out and stood ankle or knee deep in the water, and then it was sprinkled over them. Immersion also came in subsequently.

Now, immersion came about as a result of the belief that since the water stood for cleansing, therefore the whole body should be placed under the waters. Moreover, at the same time, in view of the idea that man went into the covenant with nothing, because the early church took so literally everything in the Bible, Baptisms were not only performed for a time with immersion, but also in the nude. The Baptists therefore are not faithful to the practice of Baptism by immersion in those days in the 3rd and 4th century, because if they were they would also practice it in the nude. Now we do have references to that practice in the days of Saint Augustine, and I would like to quote for example from one such summary of the 3rd and 4th Century practice by Bingham. [00:12:25]

Saint Chrysostom

Saint Chrysostom's speaking of baptism says: “Men were naked as Adam in Paradise, but with this difference: Adam was naked because he had sinned, but in baptism a man was naked that he might be freed from sin. The one was divested from his glory that he had once had; but the other put off the old man which he did as easily as his clothes. Saint Ambrose says: “Men came as naked to the fount, as they came into the world.” And thence he draws an argument by way of allusion to rich men, by telling them how absurd it was that a man who was born naked of his mother, and received naked by the church, should think of going rich into heaven. (?) of Jerusalem takes notice of the circumstance together with the reason of it, when he thus addresses himself to persons newly baptized: as soon as he came into the inner part of the baptistery, you put of your clothes, which is an emblem of putting off the old man with his deeds, and being thus divested he stood naked imitating Christ that was naked upon the cross, who by His nakedness, spoiled of the principalities and powers, publically triumphing over them in the cross. Oh wonderful thing, you were naked in the sight of men and not ashamed. In this truly imitating the first man Adam who was naked in paradise and not ashamed. And so (Antholokius?) in the life of Saint Basil, speaking of his baptism says: “He arose with fear and put off his clothes, and with them the old man.” Athanasius in his invectives against the Arians, among other things raised this to their Charge, that by their persuasions the Jews and the gentiles broke into the baptistery, and there offered such abuses to the Catechumen’s, as they stood with their naked bodies, as were shameful and abominable to relate.” [00:14:25]

We see how the early church was very literal minded

We see how the early church was very literal minded. They took the scriptures very seriously, and sometimes pushed them to illogical conclusions; they began by practicing baptism and infant baptism with sprinkling in terms of Ezekiel; but then because mans works had nothing to do with his salvation they felt man ought to put off everything that belonged to him, and hence baptism without a stitch on. The Baptists there are not consistent; we may be grateful for that. Certainly they would gain vast audiences if they went back to this kind of thing.

Now circumcision also signified new life in the covenant Lord, but it also signified as we have seen, judgment. A symbolic death. It indicated that in a sense they were under the judgement of God and deserved to die, and with that symbolic death which set forth as the Passover lamb did the death of Christ, they acknowledged that being sinners they deserved to die, and they lived by the grace of God who provided Himself the blood of the covenant.

Now why the comparison to the flood? It becomes obvious once we see the relationship of baptism not only to life, but also to death. Circumcision being related not only to life, but also to death; a symbolic death and arising from death. The whole of the sinful world, of the days of Noah, because it was not under the blood of the covenant, was given over to death. And the waters of the flood covered the earth. And all died, saving, says Saint Peter, 8 souls, who were saved by water. Noah representing Christ had preached to those who were in his day; as the minister, as the representative of Christ he preached to the spirits in prison, that is to the people of his day, who were in bondage to sin, and were disobedient. And the long suffering of God waited while they were ministered to in the person of Noah. But then they were judged, and the waters of the flood overwhelmed them. [00:17:50]

A like figure whereunto even baptism does even now

A like figure whereunto even baptism does even now save us. In other words, Baptism signifies not only the washing away of our sins, but Saint Peter says one aspect of it alone; he says not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, that is just a minor aspect, the negative. A positive is the answer of a good conscience towards God. So that the judgement upon the old world is signified not only by the blood of the covenant, by the cross, by circumcision, by the Passover lamb, but also by baptism. Therefore, the mark of the covenant, baptism, and circumcision, is also a sign of Gods unfailing judgment upon covenant breakers from the beginning of history.

Those who bear the covenant mark and then sin are doubly covenant breakers, the early church knew this. They knew that baptism signified just what the flood had represented: Gods judgement upon unbelief. Gods judgment upon sin. And that anyone who was baptized was doubly a sinner in the sight of God, not only in terms of his status as a natural man already under the sentence of death, but for profaning the rite, for being doubly a sinner, doubly offending in terms of his baptism, and thus it was quite common in the early church for people to postpone their baptism until they were on their death bed. This was the case with Constantine the great, for example. [00:20:02]

Doctor Meredith Kline in our day has pointed out at

Doctor Meredith Kline in our day has pointed out at great length how the early church saw baptism as comparable to the waters of Noah, the waters of the flood, as judgement. And he writes and I quote: “Jesus reception of Johns baptism can more easily be understood on this approach: as covenant servant. Jesus submitted in symbol to the judgment of God of the covenant in the waters of Baptism. But for Jesus as the Lamb of God to submit to the symbol of judgment was to offer himself up to the curse as a covenant. By His baptism Jesus was consecrating Himself unto His sacrificial death in the judicial ordeal of the cross. Such an understanding of His baptism is reflected in Jesus own reference to His coming passion as a baptism: “I have a baptism to be baptized with.” Jesus symbolic baptism unto judgment appropriately concluded with a divine verdict, the verdict of justification expressed by the heavenly voice and sealed by the spirits anointing, messiahs earnest of the kingdom inheritance. This verdict of son-ship was contested by Satan, and that led to the ordeal by combat between Jesus and Satan beginning with the wilderness temptation, immediately after Jesus Baptism, and culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection, a vindication of the victorious Christ, the prelude to His reception of all the kingdoms of the world, the issue under dispute in the ordeal.”

This is very well put. Baptism very clearly signified judgement, and Christ in His baptism took on judgment that we might be spared from judgement. And so when we are baptized we signify that we together with all men deserve the same judgment that God passed upon the generation of Noah, but that we are cleansed by the waters of baptism, by Christ’s atoning blood, and made new creatures in Him.

And so it was when Jesus was baptized, and went up straightly out of the waters, lo the heavens were opened unto Him and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. [00:22:49]

This, as the early church again and again reminded

This, as the early church again and again reminded people in its preaching was like Genesis 1; the Holy Spirit brooding over the abyss; over the chaos, over the world; and bringing forth creation. And so when Jesus Christ was baptized, signifying by the water of baptism the judgment upon the whole of the world, when He descended out of the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit to signify that this was again a new creation, was there. Hovering over the new creation Jesus Christ.

Thus one of the earliest documents of the early church reads and I quote: “Now regeneration is by water and spirit as was all creation. For the Spirit of God moved on the abyss, and for this reason the savior was baptized, though not Himself needing to be so, in order that He might consecrate the whole water for those who were being regenerated.”

Thus, baptism is the sacrament of the new creation. It signifies that although those outside who are not under the waters of baptism will be under the waters of judgement, even us, those who have been baptized, who have been faithless to the covenant. But that we arising out of baptism a new creation, are delivered by God into a new world, where Christ the king is our Lord, delivers us from victory unto victory.

The promises to the covenant people in the Old Testament are remarkable ones. These are not retracted in the New Testament, but are rather expanded. As John Murray so very ably stated it, and I quote: “Finally, we cannot believe that the New Testament economy is less beneficent than was the old. It is rather the case that the New Testament gives more abundant scope to the blessing of Gods covenant. We are not therefore led to expect retraction, we are left to expect expansion and extension. It would not accord with the genius of the new economy to suppose that there is the abrogation, of so cardinal a method of disposing and apply thing the grace that lies at the heart of Gods covenant administration.” [00:25:54]

Thus even as the blood of the New Covenant, the communion

Thus even as the blood of the New Covenant, the communion, signifies not only refreshing wine, a new life, but also that all those who are not in the covenant are under the blood of judgment, even as the first born of Egypt. So the waters of baptism not only signify new life unto us, and the washing away of our sins, and the answer of a good conscience towards God, but that those who are not in Christ are under the waters of the flood, under a flood of judgment. Let us pray.

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we thank Thee that as age after age the floods of judgment overwhelm men and nations, Thy covenant people according to Thy word are in the Ark of salvation, even Jesus Christ. And shall be lifted up above the waters of the flood and preserved unto Thee. Make us ever mindful oh Lord that we have been called unto victory in Jesus Christ, and make us witnesses of that victory and the joy of salvation, that the joy of our Lord may ever be our strength. In His name we pray, amen.

Are there any questions now first of all with respect to our lesson. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes. As I pointed out, baptism is a witness to grace rather than grace itself. The very word that is used to describe baptism and communion is sacrament. Now a sacrament is a sign of something, not the thing itself. Communion doesn’t mean the cross, it is a sign pointing to the cross, therefore it cannot take priority over the cross of Christ, it cannot replace it. A sacrament therefore is a sing of an invisible grace. So it doesn’t give it, it sets it forth; but it is already here, that God has given His grace to us unto salvation, and therefore we are baptized; or we are born in to the covenant of grace and therefore we are baptized. [00:29:11]

So it is confusing a sacrament with the thing that

So it is confusing a sacrament with the thing that the sacrament sets forth. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes, the judgment on those who are of the covenant outwardly but reject it is greater. And therefore the punishment of Esau was a particular punishment. He was set aside in a particularly severe way, precisely because of the fact that he had received the sign of the covenant and been faithless to it. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] No, but he commissioned His disciples to baptize. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes, that is in Ezekiel 36:25. The reference to sprinkling. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes, in Genesis 3, they were naked with reverence to God and ashamed. Whenever you have a rise in nudism in any form as you have had repeatedly in history, it is a part and parcel of the abandonment of Christianity and the insistence that man is naturally good. Without regeneration. So it is a religious act, it is the affirmation that there is no sin, that man in all that he does is good. [00:31:41]


[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] The scripture does call it wine, period. And it was wine. Now, it is true that in Old Testament times, both the grape juice and the wine were called by the same word, but we do know that they did use wine, because it was only at the time of the harvesting that you had the new wine, and the Passover having come as it did, the time of the year it did, there wouldn’t have been grape juice then, you see. It would have been fermented.

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] What?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Well…

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] No what they mean by new wine is that it was freshly squeezed and it was just grape juice. But you only had that in those days, because they didn’t pasteurize, you only had it in the harvest season; and the Passover was not at the time of the harvest, so they didn’t have it.


[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Very good question. The question was, in Africa and elsewhere they do have circumcision, what is its relationship to the Old Testament rite? The relationship is this, very definitely, in every continent of the world you find circumcision, so apparently once men all over the world practiced it; very clearly in the background of their thinking you do find evidence that they once were aware of its meaning. That it had relationship to God and was a covenant sign. Very definitely however it has lost that meaning with all of them, and it has just become an act of initiation, period. Nothing more. Entirely devoid of any meaning beyond that. So it does reflect the fact that mankind in the early days when it still was not spread as far as it later spread itself, did know of the covenant, and did know of the covenant sign, and outwardly tried to pretend: “Well, we are the true people. What makes you think you are?” You see. Just as Esau and the Edomite’s always maintained: “We are really the chosen people, the Hebrews over there are not. We are the sons of Esau, the eldest.” And so Herod in the days of the apostles, claimed to be the Messiah, and the book of Acts gives us that claim. The people were all taught to cry out when he came with gold apparel and stood in the balcony: “It is the voice of a God and not of a man.” The voice of a messiah, and God struck him down.

So you can see how the idea that there was a covenant caught on with other people, and it was maintained formally, but without faith. [00:36:12]

[Audience Member] ...

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] No, they are not searching. You see, rather than primitive, they are decadent. They are people who were once on the same level, say, as Abraham and the others, and they have gone downhill progressively into barbarism and savagery. And instead of seeking they are running away. Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] Yes, right. A very good point. You have had in every continent peoples who for reasons of race, power, have claimed to be the chosen people of history, or God, or of the Gods. Our time is just about up but there are a couple of things I would like to share with you. One of the aspects incidentally of our Christian faith is, that the Christian faith throughout history has been notable whenever it has been healthy, as a religion of joy. Most religions are somber and gloomy, and unfortunately in our day churches tend to make it a somber and gloomy thing, but laughter and joy are a part of our faith.

Well, the California Farmer for January 15 1971 has an interesting article by the editor Jack Pickett, who also has a ranch. And a few things happened on his ranch recently that are rather delightful. He has a bull named Charlie, and his neighbor has a huge dapple (Perchan?) Mare named Bess. Now these are the characters in this episode, and the title is: The Neighbor Gets Charlie in Trouble. “Charlie has been keeping his nose clean, but my neighbor has a huge dapple (pertran?) mare by the name of Bess. Bess has a habit of going visiting. No one could figure out how she got out, until one day she was shooting the bull with Charlie, to coin a phrase, and my cowboys noticed how she got out. Bess is about 3 pick handles across the butt, and she just turned around and sat on the fence. That fence went down like matchsticks, barbed wire and all. Charlie was pretty impressed. They were both into Charlie’s choice hay when my boys ran her off and go the fence back up.

Well, Bess liked Charlie’s hay. So she sat on the fence next day, and my ten cowboys were going around saying things like: “Gee-whiz” and “Gosh darn.” Because they don’t like setting fences. Well, I decided we were going to have to install an electric fence. That dumb bunch of cowboys I had didn’t know anything about an electric fence, but full instructions came along for installation. I had to leave the ranch that day but I warned those guys that 1000 votes carries a wallop like a mule. Naturally they fouled up the job. Instead of stringing just one strand like I told them, they strung two strands, and put one strand on top which didn’t make much sense.

Well, they did work like beavers and got the whole thing up and hooked her up to the juice. Guess who was the first casualty? That dumb, lazy cowhand Highpocket, decided to climb over the top of the corral rather than go around through the gate. He gingerly got over the middle wire, but he was a little careless while straddling the top wire, and it seems that there is a copper rivet at an unfortunate spot on his jeans. When he got zapped, Highpocket took off. He took off into the wild blue like a frightened goose. [00:40:56]

He was showered with beer and flowers, and obscene

He was showered with beer and flowers, and obscene gifts for the next 2 days in the hospital. The next betting pool was on whether Charlie or Bess would be the next trainee. It turned out to be Charlie. And he got a full load, he was standing in a wet spot, and he stuck out his damp inquisitive nose, and brother did that bull light up. Charlie went straight up into the air, and turned around in the air, and came down with his feet sucking air. Charlie took off like a race horse, except he was running blind. He nipped off the corner post of the brand new water tower with Shorty up there banging home the last hole on the roof. 500 gallons of water, and shorty came down in a beautiful cascade. There was a cascade of water and a cascade of opinions from Shorty, who is too dumb to get hurt except for his feelings.

Bess finally came over and sat on the fence. She was sitting when she got the message. Her owner couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his big, old, lazy mare come over the hill going like a bang-tail stretching for the final wire. Charlie must be losing his marbles, either that or he has an awful short memory. It was only two days later after knocking down the water tower that Charlie saw Bess grazing in the furthest corner she could get from that real weird Charlie corral. Anyway, Charlie saw Bess over there, and he thought of the best method of opening a fence. Charlie turned round and tried to sit on the fence, to crush it the way it seemed best to do it. Charlie didn’t have as big or tough a behind as Bess, nor does he have her weight. So that idiotic Bull backs into 1000 volts, and lightning hit the outhouse as the old saying goes. Charlie with his eyes going in concentric circles made another drag race start, flying blind. Shorty had carefully piled up the fragments of his water tower in a neat pile to see if anything could be salvaged; he had also set up the three posts in cement. Charlie hit the pile and went head over teakettle, and snapped the single pole off like a straw; a lesser bull would’ve been killed, an unrestrained Shorty would have killed him. But cowboys bull and horse seemed to have finally gotten the phone call about electric fences. So it is now in place, but they have disconnected it. [00:44:09]

One last word, it has been a very, very good week

One last word, it has been a very, very good week. Those of you who are there know that we have had a wonderful beginning to the Chalcedon Guild. We will have a second meeting on February the 11th to continue our studies in magic and witchcraft, and a third one in march. You will receive information later on that. It was also a very good week, because Kennedy took a licking, and the Beetle’s according to the papers are broke. This was our week, wasn’t it? (Laughter)

Let us bow our heads now for the benediction. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen. [00:45:18]

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