Justification, Circumcision, Baptism

How would one respond to this argument?

In Romans 4:11, Paul says that circumcision was the sign or seal of the righteousness which Abraham had by faith. Thus, Abraham was justified by the faith he had before he was circumcised. But if baptism is the ‘Christian circumcision’, why is justification linked to baptism? Wouldn’t this mean that faith is what justifies** and baptism is the sign and seal of the ‘righteousness one has by faith’?

** assume here that this is not related to the question of baptizing infants i.e. that faith for an infant could be supplied e.g. by the parents.

Yes, the common teaching from ancient times is that circumcision remits original and actual sins by the faith of the recipient, or for infants, by the faith of the parents. Now, by Christ’s precept justification cannot be effected except by baptism.

Per the Council of Trent, justification comprises forgiveness of sin and also “sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts” – Trent, l. c., cap. vii.
This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.[30]

ewtn.com/library/councils/trent6.htm

Baptism is the formal public profession of faith, instituted by Christ. From the Catechism:

1236 The proclamation of the Word of God enlightens the candidates and the assembly with the revealed truth and elicits the response of faith, which is inseparable from Baptism. Indeed Baptism is “the sacrament of faith” in a particular way, since it is the sacramental entry into the life of faith.

Technically (in the Christian understanding), it’s not. Everyone is justified. Baptism is linked to salvation, which is not the same thing. This distinction was not apparent to the Jews (whose concept of salvation was confused, at best).

We are all justified because of Our Lord’s Sacrifice on Calvary. We are saved by the Grace of Christian Baptism.

Yup. We can’t have Baptism without faith. But it need not be our own personal faith. In the case of infant Baptism the faith of the Sacrament comes from the parents, the godparents, and the Christian community at large.

Catholic Encyclopedia has:The Protestant conception of justification boasts of three characteristics: absolute certainty (certitudo), complete uniformity in all the justified (aequalitas), unforfeitableness (inamissibilitas). According to the teaching of the Church, sanctifying grace has the opposite characteristics: uncertainty (incertitudo), inequality (inaequalitas), and amissibility (amissibilitas).

newadvent.com/cathen/06701a.htm

Modern Catholic Dictionary has:
The Catholic Church identifies five elements of justification, which collectively define its full meaning.

[LIST=1]
*]The primary purpose of justification is the honor of God and of Christ;
*]its secondary purpose is the eternal life of mankind.
*]The main efficient cause or agent is the mercy of God;
*]the main instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is called the “sacrament of faith” to spell out the necessity of faith for salvation.
*]And that which constitutes justification or its essence is the justice of God, “not by which He is just Himself, but by which He makes us just,” namely sanctifying grace.
[/LIST]
therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

It’s not either-or. It’s both of them as a singular thread of faith. For example:*Of this Justification the causes are these: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting; while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance; but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified; lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation. (Council of Trent, 6.7)
*So you see the continuity in baptism and faith. The plural “causes” are really a singular concept, not one vs. the other. It’s kind of like asking did Jesus save us by his suffering, his death, or his resurrection? The answer is rather his entire Passion, which encompasses all these. Likewise, when James analyzes faith and works, he sees them as a singular unit, comparable to a body and spirit making up a singular living person (Jam. 2:26). And likewise, baptism is not an opponent of faith, but its “personification,” so to speak.

Another way to think of it is the sacrament of confession. Some people think that forgiveness “occurs” as soon as the person repents, and therefore doesn’t “need” to go to confession. Rather, confession is the continuation of a singular repentance (followed by satisfaction). To reject the latter is to destroy a multi-faceted repentance that is irreducible. Similarly to justification, to amputate baptism is to destroy a faith that is irreducible without baptism.

QuestioningK.

You asked:

In Romans 4:11, Paul says that circumcision was the sign or seal of the righteousness which Abraham had by faith. Thus, Abraham was justified by the faith he had before he was circumcised.

So far so good. Just don’t put in the word “alone” after faith above. Many people do that (I am not saying this of you). And it throws them off.

You went on . . . .

But if baptism is the ‘Christian circumcision’, why is justification linked to baptism?

Because “Baptism” and “faith” are always linked together. Baptism cannot be reduced to a mere water ceremony (if it were, it would not be “baptism”).

There is a natural faith or “belief” if you will, that you take to your baptism. Then there is the supernatural saving “faith” we receive in Baptism (which is one of the special “supernatural” Graces we receive at Baptism).

(If you want I can expound on these concepts from Scripture and the Catechism. Let me know if you want more information on this concept though as I don’t want to over do it with information here)

Wouldn’t this mean that faith is what justifies and baptism is the sign and seal of the ‘righteousness one has by faith’?

No because as I mentioned, “faith” and “Baptism” are always together. They are inextricably linked.

The circumcision of the flesh could never save us. We need to put on the “circumcision of Christ” . . . . we need to (by the Grace of God) put on “Baptism”.

In Romans 3

St. Paul in part of Romans, was addressing Jewish people in Rome who thought “works of the law” could save them. St. Paul specifically mentions “circumcision” in this context and contrasts Jews (circumcised) and Gentiles (uncircumcised) in Romans 3.

St. Paul’s point immediately afterwards (in Romans 4) was Abraham was in some sense justified BEFORE he was ever circumcised. St. Paul is basically reminding them . . .

. . . . “So you see “works of the law” such as “circumcision” didn’t save Abraham, so why would you think “works of the law” such as “circumcision” could save you?”

St. Paul’s point in Romans 4, would be . . .

Therefore you Jewish persons who think you do not need to be concerned with faith in Christ . . . . because after all, we are “circumcised” . . . need to rethink that theology.

That’s all that St. Paul is saying in Romans 4. St. Paul is not teaching justification by faith alone here (or anywhere else).

Hope this helps.

God bless.

Cathoholic

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