Baptism, The Wedding Ring of the Saved
Text: Genesis 17; 1Pt. 3:18-22; 1 Cor. 10:1-4
Proposition: As the covenant that God makes with man is of great importance so also is the sign of that covenant.
Introduction: a couple of weeks ago I performed a wedding service for a young couple. After the exchange of their wedding vows to each other, there came a part in the ceremony where they were going to give each other a wedding ring. The preamble to that sounds like this, “Wedding rings are an outward and visible sign
of inward and spiritual truths. As they are worn, they symbolize to others your union of marriage. The rings in no way become the force that unites, for that is a matter between your two hearts.” What I mean by that is that though the wedding ring is not what binds them together it is at the same a very important sign that something has taken place in both their lives, it points to an inward and spiritual truth that they are now one with this other person. So the ring in and of itself is just a simple ring, but what it symbolizes to the whole of creation is that you belong to another. This promise or covenant we make with each other is like a picture or type of the greater promise God makes with us. In Ephesians 5: 30-32 Paul writes, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” The great covenant that God makes with us is to bind us together with Christ by grace through faith that we would be one with Him in righteousness and everlasting life. That covenant God seals with His Holy Spirit and then puts a sign upon it to all creation that we belong to another, we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are made part of the church, the bride of Christ. That sign is the Baptism, the wedding ring of the Saved.
I. The Covenants’ Sign.
God instituted a previous covenant sign in Genesis 17 when God ordered Abraham to take all the male children and adults and even the males who had been bought as slaves, to take them and circumcise them. It was such an urgent command that before the day was out Abraham himself and his son whom he begot through Hagar, Ishmael, now 13 years old, and all the males under his care, all were circumcised that same day. It was not an option, if the sign of circumcision was not there then neither was the covenant of God in effect with that person. It was not the surgical procedure of circumcision that God was seeking from these people, it was the heart of faith that believed God and would move even to this extreme pain. Years later Paul writes in Romans 2:28,29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God.” I’m not sure why God chose this sign of circumcision, a sign only able to be applied to the males. Was it signifying their headship and that those under that headship were also included in the covenant? Was God cueing us to the importance of a man being the head of the home, a grave and demanding responsibility? Was God perhaps pointing to the way that sin is imparted from conception on and that marking His people in this way confronted the transmission of sin with the transmission of God’s sovereign grace and covenant? In Col 2:11,12 Paul writes, “ and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” In other words Paul says that the sign of God’s covenant for those who have by faith believed in Jesus Christ is now the sign of Baptism. Every baptism seeks to do exactly that, to proclaim that by faith I now belong to Jesus. It is just as serious a sign, just as strong an order or command, just as effectual an act.
II. The Signs’ Significance.
The image of baptism in the Scripture has always been that of a person being immersed in water. The very word, ‘baptize’ means to dip or immerse. The significance for a Christian is that it proclaims what Christ has done. It proclaims the washing away of sins condemnation before God. It proclaims the way that God permitted Jesus to die and then be buried as the means for taking away the sin of the world. It proclaims the way Jesus was raised from the dead and the way that God places new life in person by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit once they have been born anew by faith in Jesus. The significance is that it is done publicly, it is done not by ourselves in a corner but in the full light of day. Publicly it proclaims my faith in Jesus and my belonging to this great covenant of God where “the two shall become one flesh”, the great, great mystery of Christ and the church. Like a wedding ring, the water symbolizes a greater truth, the truth of the circumcision of my heart, the truth that what really matters is the love of God for me, the truth of His covenant that He sets up and tells me to obey, the wonder of the way that such obedience in faith causes a disciple to grow.