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The Rev. William Klock: Two more sermons on Genesis

November 30, 2012

From the Rev. William Klock of Living Word REC in British Columbia, here are two more sermons in his series on Genesis.

In the second of these messages, Fr. Bill makes a powerful point about Genesis 17 and its meaning for baptism:

Now, what does this mean for us?  Circumcision was the sign and seal of the Old Covenant.  You and I live in God’s New Covenant.  The sign and seal of God’s covenant with us is Baptism.  And yet we’ve already seen that there’s a connection.  They’re different sacraments but there is some continuity between the two.  What does Genesis—what do Abraham and circumcision—teach us about Baptism?  Look again at Colossians 2:11-12.  We’ve already seen verse 11, but look at what follows:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

St. Paul establishes a direct link between circumcision as the sign and seal of the Old Covenant and Baptism as the sign and seal of the New.  How does that work?  Well, think back to God’s call to Abraham and to Israel in the Old Covenant: “Walk before me and be blameless.”  That was their duty, their side of the covenant.  And yet not a single person from Abraham to Mary was able to be truly blameless, truly righteous.  Circumcision was a reminder of God’s call to holiness, but no man or woman could actually be holy—at least not to God’s standard.  But when the Son of God became incarnate in the person of Jesus, he fulfilled the Old Covenant in every way.  He was circumcised and he lived the holy life that God had called Abraham to live.  Then Jesus died on our behalf at the cross.  He who knew no sin became sin for us and paid the penalty.  Now he calls us to pass through the waters of Baptism in faith.  Through the sign and seal—through the sacrament—of the New Covenant he washes away the guilt of our sins and pours into us his own Holy Spirit.  He declares us holy on his own merits and then he gives us of his own self that we might actually be holy—that we might really and truly walk before God and be blameless.  The old law was written on tablet of stone.  It was external.  It was impossible to obey.  But through the work of Jesus it is now written on the hearts of his people.  This is the covenant of which Baptism is the sign and seal.  And as the sacrament of circumcision could not be separated from the Old Covenant call to walk with God the sacrament of Baptism cannot be separated from the New Covenant call to walk with God.

All of this underscores the importance of baptism as an integral part of our participation in Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus God offers us a promise of redemption and new life.  It is by faith that we accept and trust in God’s promise and accept the sign and seal of that promise in Baptism.  Faith and act are two different things, but in the economy of God’s covenant they cannot be separated.  God has established that his covenants are entered by faithfully accepting the sign and seal of his promise.  To wilfully reject the sign of the promise is to reject the promise itself and to be “cut off”, to have broken God’s covenant.  We cannot claim to be walking in faith while at the same time being disobedient to the very first command God gives to those who choose him.

Perhaps sometimes we need to remember, as we live our lives before the face of God, that there is a covenantal aspect to baptism, and this sermon by Fr. Bill is a very good reminder of this.

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