Thursday, September 14, 2023

Circumcision, Baptism, and the Feasts

In Colossians 2:6-23, the apostle Paul writes about how Christians under the new covenant do not need to adopt the ceremonial ordinances of the old covenant, since they already have the substance of these ceremonies in Christ. Furthermore, Christ has appointed new ordinances like baptism that fulfill the role of the old ones and better fit the present administration of the covenant of grace (Col. 2:11-12). Here are a few brief thoughts on the sacraments and holy days of the old and new covenants (for a more in depth post on this passage, click here).

Circumcision and Baptism

In the old covenant, circumcision was the seal of the righteousness that is had by faith, as well as a symbol of regeneration and repentance (Rom. 4:11, Deut. 30:6, Jer. 4:4). This sign was to be received by professing believers and their infant offspring (Gen. 17:7, 10, Ex. 12:48).

In the new covenant, baptism fulfills the same role. It is a different sign that symbolizes the same things (Col. 2:11-12, Gal. 3:27-29, Acts 22:16). Baptism is now the sign and seal of justification and regeneration and it is to be given to professing believers and their children. God still establishes his covenant with believers and their offspring, to be their God and the God of their offspring (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:38-39).

As the inability to profess their faith did not bar the children of believers from receiving circumcision in the days before Christ, so that inability does not bar the children of believers from receiving baptism today. Our babies are baptized as heirs of the covenant of grace and members of the visible church, to be raised as such in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4).

Festivals, Old and New

The festivals of the old covenant were shadows of the things to come, the substance of which belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).
  • The Passover pointed to Christ, our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:6-13). 
  • The Feast of Firstfruits pointed to Christ, who rose as the firstfruits of the dead on that very day (1 Cor. 15). 
  • The Feast of Weeks pointed to Christ, who achieved lasting rest for his people (Heb. 3-4) and who poured out his Spirit on that day upon his disciples (Acts 2). 
  • The Feast of Trumpets prepared the Israelites for the next two events in that seventh month:
  • The Day of Atonement pointed to Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross (Hebrews 9-10). 
  • The Feast of Booths pointed to Christ as the true bread from heaven (John 6) and the rock from which comes living water (John 4, 7:2, 37-39, 1 Cor. 10). 
These feasts are profitable to know from Scripture, but the observance of them is no longer binding now that the new covenant order as been established (Col. 2:16). We have their substance in Christ. The holy day of the new covenant is the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, which is the Christian Sabbath. The new covenant feast is the Lord's Supper. Even though these observances are fewer and simpler, yet the covenant of grace is held forth in this age with more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy to all nations by the power of the Spirit.

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