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  • Writer's pictureTrey Talley

The Confusion of Replacing Baby Circumcision with Baby Baptism

Updated: Mar 25

(2nd article of Baptizing Babies is not Biblical)

Baby baptizers argue that the sign of the covenant with God changed from circumcision to water baptism; therefore, if babies were circumcised to be placed in the Old Covenant, then now babies must be baptized to be placed in the New Covenant. It sounds simple enough, but upon closer examination of the God-given regulations regarding circumcision, we find that baby baptizers’ supposed continuity of covenant practice is confusing, inconsistent, and contrary to the laws of God.

To clarify the discussion at hand, let’s look back to when God first announced circumcision to Abraham:

9And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh, an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." (Genesis 17:9-14).

This passage clearly articulates that circumcision was the covenant sign between God and Abraham's household and that all male babies were to be circumcised. The covenant sign of circumcision that began with Abraham continued with Jacob, Isaac, and the Israelites of the Exodus. They were also the children of Abraham and recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant.[1] But along with the sign came specific God-given regulations.

On the Eighth Day Only

The ongoing practice of circumcision can be seen as we look hundreds of years after Abraham received them to the laws that were put in place by Moses for the nation of Israel in the book of Leviticus: "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."[2] This was not a new command but was a reiteration of what God told Abraham: “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”[3]

The generations that followed Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses were to continue to obey the same eighth-day circumcision command from God. This continuity can be seen as the New Testament opens. Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”[4] It is safe to assume that the apostles, also descendants of Abraham, had been circumcised as well. The Apostle Paul indeed mentions that he was, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews ...”[5] There is no doubt that circumcision on the eighth day was still viewed as law by the Israelites.

Eighth-day circumcision was a clear command of God. It was not to be performed on days seven, nine, or ten but only on the eighth day. Yet, today, baby baptizers do not abide by this law in the least. They encourage parents to baptize their babies, yet this clear command that the babies must be circumcised (now baptized) on the eighth day has been completely neglected. Why? Is it because the New Testament speaks of babies being baptized on a different day? Or that the New Testament gives parents the liberty to choose which day they prefer? Well, since we do not have a sole case of a baby being baptized, nor do we have any direction on baby baptism ever given in the New Testament, baby baptizers are forced to apply the regulations given for circumcision to baptism. Not that I agree with baby baptism; however, my point is that to be consistent, baby baptizers must obey the eighth-day command or else violate the law of God.

This creates no minor problem for baby baptizers who claim to be abiding by the law of God by baptizing their babies with the sign of the covenant, but what about the accompanying rules? Do baby baptizers have the liberty to choose the day of their baby’s baptism, but the parents practicing circumcision did not? Baby baptizers take liberty with the time of baby baptism but do so contrary to the Scripture that they claim they adhere to.

Let’s look back in history to see if God ever changed the eighth-day rule or if freedom of choice was ever given to the parents to practice circumcision whenever they saw fit. Consider the freedom that Moses attempted to practice regarding the commands of circumcision:

24At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin, touched Moses' feet with it, and said, "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!" 26So he let him alone. It was then that she said, "A bridegroom of blood," because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26).

We are not given much detail in this passage, but one thing is clear: Moses was guilty of not placing the covenant sign upon his son on the eighth day. It is hard to imagine, but Moses, the lawgiver, was about to be put to death by God for breaking the law of not circumcising his son when he was supposed to do so. God took the sign of the covenant seriously, and Moses should have as well. Moses knew the circumcision regulations, yet for whatever reason, he had delayed acting. Finally, his wife, Zipporah, stepped in to do what Moses had failed to accomplish, thus saving Moses' life. The point is that hundreds of years after the sign of circumcision had been given to Abraham, the rules remained the same: baby boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day.

However, modern baby baptizers act as if the 8th-day command does not continue. They make the mistake of justifying the sign of circumcision being switched out for baptism but not bringing forth the rest of the commands. To be consistent, they must abide by the eighth-day rule or face the fact that they are covenant breakers. What would this mean for baby-baptizing churches that have parents who have not baptized their babies on the eighth day? Once again, if baby baptizers were consistent with the Genesis 17 commands, the church would need to discipline them and break fellowship with all such covenant breakers who are in their congregation until such parents repented of violating the command of God.

Every Male Must Be Circumcised/Baptized?

From the Genesis 17 circumcision commands, we find that God required all males in the household, not just baby boys. Baby baptizers love to point to this passage in their attempts to justify their practice of baptizing babies because the baby is in the household of a believer, but what about older children, teenagers, and even adult children? What if a man is saved and has an 8-day-old boy, a 13-year-old boy, and a 20-year-old man living in the same house? Are they all to be immediately baptized because the father is now a Christian? According to the law given to Abraham, “Every male among you shall be circumcised. … Every male throughout your generations,” the answer is, “Yes.”[6] If the circumcision command is brought over to the New Covenant and replaced with baptism, then the rules accompanying it must also be brought. It would be inconsistent to claim to abide by the covenant sign commands for a newly converted Christian father only to baptize his baby and not the other males in his household. Not only would it be inconsistent, but according to Genesis 17, it would be against the law of God. This is extremely problematic for baby baptizers but is often treated as a non-issue.

Would Israelites have treated the non-circumcision of the males in their household as a non-issue under the Old Covenant? What if there was someone in the household who chose not to be circumcised? According to God, such a man was a covenant breaker and should be treated as such.

14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." (Genesis 17:14).

Again, baby baptizers who replace Old Covenant circumcision with New Covenant water baptism must bring over ALL of the accompanying rules, or else face the reality that they are going against the declared law of God to which they claim to adhere. If these household rules of circumcision are to transfer over to the New Covenant, then the newly converted father must ensure that all who are in his home are baptized. If any male is not baptized, he is to be treated as a covenant breaker and removed from fellowship with the house or the rest of the people of God. Is this practiced among baby baptizers? Not that I am aware of, but the question is, “Why not?” Again, this is an obvious inconsistency.

What about parents in a baby-baptizing church whose baby has not been baptized? According to the example of Moses, the guilt would be on the parents. Moses was about to be removed from the people of God for not circumcising his child.  What does this mean for truly saved Christian parents who have not baptized every one of their children? Are they to be treated as covenant breakers and removed from fellowship? Baby baptizers who are supposedly using the circumcision commands given to Abraham and Moses must say, “Yes.” If not, once again, they are found guilty of changing God's law.

This means that a parent who is a member of a baby-baptizing church who has not baptized all of their children must be removed from the church. Is this practiced as an act of church discipline in the baby-baptizing churches? Have some of the rules changed, or have they changed God’s rules? Likewise, if this rule is applied today, it means that baby baptizers are not to be in Christian fellowship with anyone who disagrees with their position on baby baptism. Why? Because parents who do not baptize their babies are to be viewed as covenant breakers and cut off from God’s people. In other words, a Presbyterian should have nothing to do with a Baptist who has not forced his children to be baptized. Not that I am advocating for such separation; I am only pointing out the logical outcome if baby baptizers followed their beliefs by using the Genesis 17 commands that they supposedly hold dear.

What About the Girls?

From the regulations given to Abraham and Moses, we find that only males are included in the circumcision commands. What does this mean for baby baptizers who believe that baptism has replaced circumcision, and they have a baby girl? Once again, if they import the circumcision regulations given to Abraham and Moses, there is no command for baby girls to be circumcised. Therefore, there would be no command for baby girls to ever be baptized. Baby baptizers have made some attempts to argue that the "household" baptisms of the book of Acts included babies because the word "household" is used in Genesis 17 to include all males born in the household. I strongly disagree with this view and believe that those passages teach that only believers were baptized; however, even if the "household" argument could be used in the New Testament, how do baby baptizers transfer a male-only sign of the covenant to baby girls now as well? Do we have any clear teaching, like what was given to Abraham or Moses, that baby girls should receive the sign of the covenant? No, we do not.

Summary: Baby baptizers claim continuity and consistency by believing that God replaced baby circumcision with baby baptism. However, to be truly consistent, they would need to not be so inconsistent. Instead of bringing over the regulations given with circumcision by God, they choose to create their own rules regarding baptism, not relying on the Old or New Testament writings. How can all of this be resolved? They could try to apply the God-given regulations of circumcision to their baptism practices. Though this would be more consistent, it would still not solve the problem that God never commanded parents to baptize babies, nor do we have any example of a baby being baptized in the New Testament. Circumcision is now accomplished by Jesus Christ spiritually, not physically, in the lives of all believers.[7] Christians are under the New Covenant, and it is not like the Old Covenant; therefore, there is no reason to force the Old Covenant signs and rules upon it.[8]

Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder

[1] Genesis 15:1-20

[2] Leviticus 12:3

[3] Genesis 21:4

[4] Luke 2:21

[5] Philippians 3:4-5

[6] Genesis 17:10,12

[7] Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 2:11

[8] Jeremiah 31:31-32

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1 Comment

Ryan Christian Busocan
Ryan Christian Busocan
May 14

Nice Point!

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