By Weldon Rightmer
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Heb. 10:1)
“Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col. 2:17)
“Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation (a making thoroughly right).” (Heb. 9:10)
In the matter of salvation it is very important that we arrive at proper conclusions. However, we feel that even here many men miss the mark. They try to impose upon us some of the things which belong back in the shadow days. One should never be satisfied with anything less than the real substance.
For instance, a wrong interpretation is placed upon Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5. Those who believe in baptismal regeneration make a big to do about the meaning of the word “washing” in these two passages. The word is “loutron,” meaning “laver” or “bath.” This immediately reminds us of the truth brought out in Exodus 30:17-21. It was necessary that the priest and his sons wash at this laver before entering the Tabernacle. Because of the connection between these words, many insist that sinners are saved by submitting to baptism in water. A careful reading of Hebrews 9:8-12 and 10:1 will show the folly of such a notion. The washing in Ephesians is accomplished by the Word. It takes place in the sphere of the Word, not in some baptistry. The washing in Titus could not be by water; for God says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” The word “regeneration” means “re-creation” or “rebirth.” This washing, or cleansing, takes place when we are created anew in Christ Jesus. We feel sorry for those who would rather have the shadow than the substance.
Another case is found in 1 Peter 3:21.
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
This carries us back beyond the shadows of the law. But, in a measure, we see shadow and substance. The word “figure” means “antitype” in this particular passage. If the baptism mentioned here is the antitype, then Noah’s experience must have been the type. Noah certainly did not get wet. God shut Noah in the ark, and it was lifted up by the waters, above the judgment sent by Almighty God. The waters beat against the ark, but Noah and his family were safe within. This ark is a type of Christ. The flood waters that beat against our Lord at Calvary will not reach those who are in Him. (See Psalms 42:7). We believe that Peter was speaking of the baptism of suffering our Saviour experienced at Calvary. Read Luke 12:50. This is the baptism that saves.
Even in this dispensation, it is necessary that one be baptized in order to go to heaven. Let us say quickly that we do not have reference to water baptism. In times past there have been “divers baptisms.” These were merely shadows. There is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). We believe that a careful reading of Ephesians 1:13 and 4:3 indicates that this is the baptism accomplished by the Holy Spirit. When one accepts the Lord as Saviour the Spirit of God sets His seal upon the work of Christ. Also, the Lord says that He is talking about the “unity of the Spirit.” Why should we bring in a foreign element?
Listen to this verse,
“Buried with him in baptism, the baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col. 2:12)
This is real baptism, administered by God Himself. As someone has wisely said, “We are the ones who have actually been baptized.” Those before us had only the shadows.
Is it necessary for one to be circumcised in order to go to heaven? It all depends on whether we are speaking of shadow or substance. Our readers will immediately say, “we are definitely not a circumcised people.” In a sense that is true. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands” (Eph. 2:11). Compare also Galatians 2:7. We are not the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands. To practice such circumcision for spiritual reasons is to no avail in the present dispensation. See Galatians 5:3-6. It was very important to Israel.
Does this verse contradict what we have just given?
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil. 3:3)
We are the ones who have real circumcision. Israel had merely a shadow.
“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.” (Col. 2:11)
This circumcision cuts away the filth of the heart.
“And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen. 17:11).
Compare this with the 6th verse. “And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” Each time a male child was circumcised, Israel was to be reminded that reproduction was by the power of God, and the seed to the glory of God. This shows the sacredness of the marriage vow.
Because of the circumcision of our Lord and His death on Calvary, we are to reckon our old man to be crucified with Him.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed—that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. 6:6)
The body of the flesh is put off by the circumcision of Christ. Only by the power of God can one be born into the family of God. We should also remember that it is by His power that the individual can be fruitful. This is the most sacred relationship of all.
We do not shy away from the above Scriptures just because of the use of the words “baptism and circumcision.” We wouldn’t think of relegating to Israel the verses mentioned in Philippians and Colossians. Perhaps we are wrong in applying 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 strictly to the Jew. Let us look into this truth.
“For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Back in the shadow days the people were required to offer a Passover lamb. It is now in Christ (and because of what He has done) that God passes over our sins. In Him there is reality. Does God see you in Christ? Are you “accepted in the Beloved?” In our dear Lord there is everything the sinner will ever need.
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” (Rom. 8:32)