Volume 18, Issue 4: Doctrine 101
God established a covenant with Abraham, and the sign of that covenant, was male circumcision (Gen 17:9-13). Under
the Old Covenant, only the males were circumcised and bore the sign of the covenant.
We also see that male infants were made members of the covenant by receiving circumcision on the eighth day after
they were born. It was God who created this covenant, and it was God who promised to uphold this covenant with Abraham and
his seed after him. Later, looking forward to Christ, God said, "Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and
all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (Gen. 18:18). God's intent from the beginning was that Christ should be
the savior of the world, not just a single nation.
Now, when eight-day-old males were circumcised, they did not understand God's promises to them, but as they grew
up, their circumcision was a sign that they were members of God's covenant people. If they accepted this by faith, their
circumcision was a blessing, but if not, it condemned them as being unfaithful to God's covenant (Josh 5:2-4; Heb 3:17-19).
Christ is now the Mediator of a new and better covenant, made in His own blood through his death on the cross, and
not through the blood of bulls and goats. This New Covenant includes Gentiles as well as Jews, male as well as female, both
free and enslaved. It is a much larger covenant than the old, a far more inclusive covenant than the old. We know this because
"God so loved the world" (Jn. 3:16, emphasis added).
In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ gave a new covenantal sign, water baptism, to mark His covenant members. Indeed,
the resurrected Christ made this very clear when he told his disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go
ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"
(Matt. 28:18-19). Unlike circumcision, which could only be applied to male infants, water is to be equally applied to both males
Nowhere in Scripture is there a command to disenfranchise children from the covenant. In fact, just the contrary is seen.
When Jesus' disciples tried to prohibit some from bringing their children to Jesus to receive His blessing, Jesus said,
"Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14).
Having been taught for millennia since Abraham that their children were also members of the covenant, how would
Jewish parents, who had become Christians, have reacted if they were now told that their children were excluded from the covenant
of grace? We do not see such an uproar anywhere in the Bible. What we do see is a reaffirmation of the inclusion of children.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the resurrection of Jesus to the Jews, and pointed out that this miraculous event
marked Jesus as the long promised Lord and Christ. The Jews were pricked in their hearts and asked, "What shall we do?" To
which Peter replied, "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. For the promise is unto you,
and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many
as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38_39, emphasis added). Peter assured all present that the New Covenant applied
to children as well as to adults, just as did the Old Covenant.
And this brings us back to our forefather in the faith, Abraham. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Galatia,
made the connection when he explained, "For ye are all
the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have
been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male
nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise" (Gal. 3:26-29, emphasis added).
Infants don't understand that Jesus died to save the world, but their baptism testifies to them of this truth throughout
their lives. It perpetually points them to Jesus, the Savior of the world. If children accept this truth in faith, then it is indeed a
greater blessing to them than circumcision ever was to an Old Testament saint. But if they do not accept it in faith, it is then a
greater condemnation (Heb 10:28-29).
One final comment: we must remember that baptism
doesn't point to the condition of a person's heart, for then we
could never baptize anyone. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) We
also know that man looks at the outward things, but only God can see the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Hence, baptism must point
to Christ, the one who alone saves. Doctrine doesn't save, only Jesus Christ saves. We are all sons of Adam by birth, and none
of us was able to save ourselves because we were all dead in our trespasses and sin. "But God commendeth His love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." So baptism is the sign that Jesus Christ has given to point us to Himself
and to His salvation. And in receiving it, baptism marks us as members of His New Covenant just as circumcision marked
the members of the Old Covenant. However, the New Covenant is far better and far more inclusive than the Old Covenant
ever was or could be. It is just as Peter told those at Pentecost, this promise is to you and to