Jason Helopoulos / Jul 7, 2019 / Romans 4:11-12
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
In last Sunday’s sermon, Jason continued our summer series on worship and tackled the sacrament of baptism.
Not only is God’s word the means for directing worship, but we can also see his word in worship. As Augustine put it, “the sacraments are the visible word.” Jason showed us that this was true for circumcision and is now true for covenant baptism.
The text was Romans 4:11,12, and Paul is approaching the topic of the righteousness of faith by showing us what God did with circumcision in the Old Testament. Here we learn that Abraham was declared righteous and holy by faith alone, not by faith plus circumcision. Abraham received circumcision as a seal of what had already saved him. Circumcision was not a sign of Abraham’s subjective faith but a seal to the faith that had already saved him, a seal of the Truth.
Like circumcision, baptism is an outward physical sign of an inward spiritual reality. Like circumcision baptism points to God’s covenant promises. Unlike circumcision, baptism is a bloodless sign for the new covenant, and where circumcision pointed to a covenant of grace in seed form, baptism points to the same covenant in flower form.
Jason then addressed five questions that those new to covenant baptism (infant baptism or paedobaptism) might bring.
1 Are we saved by baptism? No! Just as Abraham was not saved by his circumcision, neither are we saved by our baptism. Neither circumcision nor baptism causes faith, but both were given to prop up faith and set us apart as members of the covenant community.
2 Do we believe in believers’ baptism? Yes! When an adult comes to faith, it is good and appropriate and necessary to baptise him or her into the covenant community.
3 Why give children the sign when they can’t express faith? We should be careful here. God is the giver of faith, and He can give it whenever and to whomever he pleases. Remember, John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit in the womb!
4 Why give children the sign before a profession of faith? Both circumcision and baptism are initiations into the covenant community. There is, over both old and new testaments, one covenant of grace, and had the apostles introduced a change to this, surely we would have seen it.
5 Why are there no New Testament examples of infant baptisms? While there are examples of household baptisms, the church was being built by adults coming to faith. The burden of proof is really on the other side, as there are no examples of a change in the continuity between Old Testament and New. In fact, passages such as Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 7, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 6 underscore the inclusion of children.
Regardless of what we believe about baptism, we should not let disagreement dominate, but our minds should run to the kindness of God. The sacraments are a gift for our feeble faith. In them we can see and taste and touch something of the spiritual realities they point to. And for our covenant children, their baptisms will, as Martin Luter put it, “call out to them Believe! Believe!”