It is evident that circumcision was a sign of the work of God’s grace in the heart, whereby the heart is filled with the love of God; and therefore, it was a sign of the same grace that is signified in baptism. Again, attend to the word in Jeremiah 4:4: “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” If we translate this in the language of the New Testament, it would be as follows: “Put off the old man of sin, and put on the new man, which is renewed after the image of God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is very clear, therefore, that circumcision and baptism are essentially the same in meaning. Finally, I will also refer to Romans 4:11: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised.” In this passage circumcision is presented as a sealing of the righteousness which is by faith. God seals in the sign of circumcision that He justifies the believers by faith, and counts their faith for righteousness. And this is also the same as baptism.
It is evident that what we wrote in the immediately preceding section is entirely according to Scripture. That this is true will be clear if we compare with the abovementioned passages of Holy Writ those that speak of the significance of baptism. Thus, we read inActs 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Baptism, therefore, is a sign of the remission of sins, or, if you please, of the righteousness which is by faith. This is also clear fromActs 22:16: “And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” And in Romans 6:4 we read: “Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Baptism, like circumcision, is a sign of renewal, that is, of the renewal in Christ. In baptism we die with Christ, and we are raised with Him in newness of life and walk. The same is expressed in Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Baptism, therefore, is a sign of putting on Christ, that is, of being renewed in Him. These passages may easily be multiplied; but the above texts may suffice.
Finally, I want to call your attention to the passages in Scripture that simply identify the two, circumcision and baptism. Thus, we read, in Colossians 2:11, 12: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Here the apostle plainly identifies the sign of baptism and that of circumcision with respect to their significance. He writes to the church of the new dispensation that believers are circumcised in the spiritual sense of the .word, and that this spiritual circumcision took place when they were buried with Christ in baptism. A more direct proof that circumcision and baptism are essentially the same in meaning, the change of form being due to the transition from the old into the new dispensation, that is, from the dispensation of the shadows to that of fulfillment, could not be given. At the same time, this passage also implies that baptism is come in the place of circumcision, as all our Reformed fathers always taught. The same is true of Philippians 3:3: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Here the apostle does not mention baptism, neither does he refer to it. But nevertheless he maintains that not the Jews, but the church of the new dispensation in Christ are the circumcision. Essentially, therefore, circumcision has not been discarded, but is continued in the church of the new dispensation in the sacrament of baptism.
The Baptists, of course, deny that baptism has come in the place of circumcision, as is expressed in our Baptism Form. Yet nothing could be more evident from the Scriptures. It is simply an historic fact too that baptism forced circumcision out of the way. When baptism came, circumcision must be discarded. For a time they existed side by side, especially in Jewish Christian communities. And circumcision tried to maintain itself alongside of baptism. But this proved to be impossible. Circumcision was forced to surrender its place in the church. And what is the reason? The reason is that the Word of God plainly teaches, as we have shown, that essentially baptism has the same significance as circumcision, that the two signs with the same meaning could not exist side by side, that circumcision belongs to the time of the shadows, and therefore must make room for baptism as being the sign of fulfillment. Hence, if one would still insist that circumcision were necessary for the Christian church, he could only do so because he attached significance to it as an element of the law, sought the righteousness which is of the law, so, that Christ had become of none effect to him. And surely, baptism, as being the same sign essentially, and having the form proper to the new dispensation, has come in the place of circumcision. There can be no question about that as far as Scripture is concerned. So true this is, that the apostle can write that we, who are baptized, are the circumcision.