“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12)
Many have erroneously sought proof of the false doctrine of infant baptism in a parallel between it and the Old Testament practice of circumcision. According to them, the sign of the Old Covenant was a circumcised baby. It was circumcision that identified each newborn as an Israelite and member of the covenant community of God. Thus, these proponents of false doctrine mistakenly conclude that the sign of the New Covenant is a baptized baby. In their opinion, it is now baptism that identifies newborns as members of the church, the new covenant community of God.
Unfortunately, many have allowed this abuse of the truth to cause them to refuse the truth. They’ve moved to the opposite extreme, arguing against the false doctrine of infant baptism on the erroneous grounds that Old Testament circumcision has no scriptural parallel with New Testament baptism.
In my opinion, the scriptural parallel between the mark of the Old Covenant (circumcision) and the New Covenant (baptism) is indisputable. The problem with those at the two extremes—those who teach infant baptism on the grounds that it parallels with circumcision and those who argue against it on the grounds that there is no parallel between circumcision and baptism—is their failure to understand the transition from the Old Testament’s physical type to the New Testament’s spiritual truth.
The fallacy of the arguments of extremists on both ends of the infant baptism debate is easily found in the New Testament’s teaching that Old Testament types and shadows are physical illustrations of the spiritual truths taught in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). Whereas physical circumcision was performed eight days after physical birth to introduce the physical seed of Abraham into the earthly and temporal community of Israel, baptism—circumcision’s obvious spiritual counterpart in the New Testament—is to be performed after spiritual birth to introduce the spiritual seed of Abraham into the spiritual and eternal community of the church.
To suggest, as do the defenders of infant baptism, that newborn children must be baptized in order to be introduced into the covenant community of God, is to relegate the spiritual truth of New Testament baptism into the shadow of circumcision, which is nothing more than its Old Testament type. It is not physical newborns, but spiritual newborns—those who have been born again—to whom the spiritual truth of New Testament baptism is to be applied. To apply it to those born “of natural descent, of human decision [and] a husband’s will” rather than to those “born of God” is to miss the spiritual substance of the New Testament truth and to live in the shade of its Old Testament type (John 1:13; Colossians 2:16-17).
The New Testament plainly teaches us that circumcision has been superseded by believer’s baptism, not infant baptism. Indeed, according to the New Testament, circumcision is “nothing” and of “no avail” (1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6). The only circumcision that counts today is spiritual, not physical. It is not “outward in the flesh,” but “inward,” a “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29). It is not by the “letter,” but by the “spirit” that the true children of God are known today.
According to the Apostle Paul, believer’s baptism is a sign of “the circumcision of Christ,” not of the surgical cutting away of a small piece of flesh by human hands but of the supernatural removal of the whole “body of the sins of the flesh” from the human heart (Colossians 2:11-12). Whereas the former is a mere work of the hands of man, the latter is a miraculous “operation of God.”