In last weekend’s paedo-/credobaptist debate, Gene Cook pressed a distinction between Abraham’s natural and spiritual children. Abe’s natural children get circumcised physically, but his spiritual children (those with saving, perseverant, God-given faith) get circumcised inwardly, and signify that outwardly with baptism. But the natural children of the spiritual children of Abraham don’t get anything, because they are not (yet) spiritual children of Abraham themselves, and they are not (ever) natural children of Abraham (unless they happen to be ethnically Jewish, which is irrelevant anyways, because the Jewish covenant is obsolete).
If it is only appropriate to initiate into God’s covenant people those infants who are the natural children of Abraham, what does Gene think happened in the Old Testament when Gentiles were converted into Judaism? Would their children have to grow up and have a bar mitzvah before they got circumcised? No! A convert who came to Judaism by faith in the displayed power of God, and who wanted to express his faith in God’s promises by partaking in the Passover meal, needed to have “all his males circumcised“. (In exactly the same way, Christians must be baptized before partaking in the Lord’s Supper).
Gene also said in his closing (or was it rebuttal? I paraphrase (but very closely)):
It doesn’t matter if you are a child of Isaac, for God tells us “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated”; you need to be a child of Abraham!
I wonder what Ishmael would have thought of that argument?
We see from the above that, as a sign of covenant initiation, circumcision is not just appropriate for all and only biological sons of Abraham. But it is a sign of faith — the faith (heart circumcision) of the parents in God for their own salvation, and their faith that God will also circumcise the child’s heart, giving him the faith to receive his own salvation.
Just like baptism.
Members of the New Covenant baptize babies because they are in exactly the same state before God as babies in the Old Covenant: they are in the visible church. And we hope (and are by default to assume) that they will be in the invisible church. So let’s all sing along:
Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them, and so are YOU
So let’s just praise the Lord!
Has a baptist ever sung that song to their baby? We all certainly have the right to, because our covenant children are just like natural sons of Abraham.