Baptism Does Not Replace Circumcision


By Dr. Ken Matto


This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. (Genesis 17:10)


He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. (Genesis 17:13)


Growing up in the Reformed tradition, I was always taught that baby baptism was a sign of the covenant which replaced physical circumcision.  As I am going through the book of Genesis I came to Genesis 17 which speaks about the eternal covenant.  As we read above in verse 10 that every male child was to be circumcised and then in verse 13 God adds a phrase which is very significant.  “and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.”  It seems that circumcision is going to be part of the everlasting covenant which is the covenant of grace.  So how then is circumcision done after the Lord Jesus Christ had done away with the ceremonial law of Moses on Calvary?  We find the answer to that below.  Please keep in mind that everything changed at the cross.


Every male child was to be circumcised which included the future generations which were a sign of the covenant.  This also means that Abraham and all the males in his household had to be immediately circumcised.  This was part of the ceremonial law which would be done away with after the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and the veil in the temple was torn in two signifying the end of the Mosaic ceremonial law.  Those in Christ are also circumcised but they are circumcised in a different way as the three verses below indicate:


And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)


But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:29)


For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)


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: (Colossians 2:11)


It is called spiritual circumcision and only those in Christ will have it.  Men like Moses or Joshua were physically circumcised as a sign of the covenant while possessing the spiritual circumcision of the heart, but once Christ came on the scene it was spiritual circumcision of the heart only which meant that people could see we are the recipients of the covenant of grace by our changed lives.


The circumcision took place on the male reproductive organ which symbolized the shedding of blood and the removal of sin from the seed.  This also prefigures what Christ did for us as he has separated the seed of Abraham from sin by removing all sin from our souls and thus creating a clean soul readied for Heaven at the moment of salvation.  The physical circumcision was a sign of the covenant.  It prefigured spiritual circumcision.  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. (Deuteronomy 10:16)  It was a physical picture of what Christ did for us on the cross and how deeply it affected our souls by cleansing them thoroughly.


The requirement was that all males eight days old shall be circumcised.  It is interesting to note that it was on the eighth day that a male was to be circumcised because the clotting factor in the blood appears on the eighth day.  If they were circumcised on the seventh day, the baby would bleed to death because of no clotting factor.


So we see that it is spiritual circumcision of the heart which will be part of the covenant of grace which goes on for eternity.  Once God circumcises a person’s heart they have become saved plus they are now part of the covenant of grace confirmed on Calvary by Christ.  So where does baptism fit in?  Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is one of two biblical remembrances of what the Lord Jesus Christ did.  Sprinkling and pouring are not biblical modes of baptism unless a person with physical disabilities cannot be immersed, then they are fine with sprinkling or pouring.  Baptism represents the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  The Lord’s supper remembers his death and the grape juice represented his blood which is the blood of the New Covenant. 


24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)


Therefore, child baptism does not represent an entrance into any biblical covenant.  When a person becomes saved, it is at that time they are to be baptized in water as an outward representation of what happened internally in their lives plus it is a testimony to others.  Water baptism does not generate salvation because that would make it a work.  So the bottom line is that circumcision continues to this day but it is God who does the circumcising of the heart of those he had planned to save and that spiritual circumcision places them into the covenant of grace forever.