Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Lutheran View of the Relationship between Circumcision and Baptism

God does not clearly spell out in the Bible exactly how he saves infants and very young children; not under the Old Covenant, nor under the New Covenant. What we do know, however, is this:

1. There is no indication in the Bible, that under the Old Covenant, believing parents were in a state of constant fear for the first five to seven years of their child's life, waiting for the child to  "do something" to be "saved".   King David seems to infer that his dead infant was "saved".  There is no proof of this either way, but is it possible that the Hebrews believed that their infants were born "saved or safe"; saved/safe under the protection of the promises of God to Abraham and his offspring; that for the Hebrew believer's child, salvation was not something to obtain in the future when the child was older, but something that he grew up possessing that could be lost...lost by an abandonment of one's faith, when one was older and had the capacity to reject God and turn to a life of willful sin or indifference??

2. There is no record of any requirement of a one time "born again" experience in the OT for the children born into the households of believers. Children grew up in a home that taught faith and obedience to God. If the child grew up and continued to place his faith in God, he was "saved". If he grew up and turned his back on God and his faith, he was damned.

3. The Old Covenant sign of promise, circumcision, is never held up in the OT or in the NT to be "salvific". But the refusal, rejection, and spurning of the sign, WAS a basis of damnation.

Lutherans believe that the same pattern continues in the New Covenant, only with a new sign of promise: Baptism. It is not the sign itself that saves, it is faith. But the rejection of the sign brings damnation...not due to a lack of the sign but due to a lack of true faith.

God told the Hebrews to circumcise all their male infants when they were very young (eight days). Whatever the significance of circumcision, to disobey this command was to bring judgment and damnation upon the child. (See Genesis chapter 17)

God tells us under the New Covenant to baptize all nations. He does not exclude infants in that command. Christ did not state in the Great Commission that we should wait until "all nations" are old enough to understand the meaning of the sign of promise;  just as God did not give the command, under the Old Covenant, that the sign of promise be given only once the child was old enough to understand its purpose.

Lutherans and other orthodox Christians follow God's command to baptize "all". It is God who gives the gift of faith and belief. The baptized child, just as the circumcised child in the OT, will either grow up and continue to place his faith in God and receive eternal life, or he will turn to sin, abandon his faith, and perish to eternal damnation.

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