Nip tuck

Are you circumcised, brother? It is part of God’s covenant with mankind. Just a little nip tuck does the trick. Oh, I forgot. Paul has told us, in no uncertain terms that this physical act is no longer necessary. From his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5:6:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

I may be a descendant of Abraham by the flesh, but this, too, counts for naught. The point Paul made then, and which we must remember today, is that it is faith alone that brings us to Christ. Not our genealogy; not any action on our part or the part of others. Which brings to mind the notion held dear by many Christians that we must be baptized, in a proper Trinitarian rite, in order to be saved. Some denominations also insist that only someone who has been appointed a priest, in accordance with the apostolic succession, may baptize. Others only recognize a baptism that entails full immersion in water, as opposed to pouring or sprinkling.

I always find it useful to go the source for such things. Just as Paul tells us that the covenant first made with Abraham in Genesis 17:10 is null and void (in so many words), so let’s go to the record on baptism. Matthew, Chapter 3:

4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

I had to throw in the locusts and honey; yum, nutritious and delicious snack for your basic desert prophet named John. But the serious points made by John about baptism are two: First, it is the Holy Spirit alone that will save you in Christ Jesus. Not water.

Second, the act of baptism is irrelevant by itself. True repentance, and the ultimate judgment assigned by God the Father to Christ the Son, will work, with God’s grace, to save.

Everything else, circumcision, baptism, sacraments, may be good things. But they are not necessary things, and they have been used in Christian history to divide and exclude.

Sola fide, baby.

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