You Just Gotta Have Faith, Uh-Faith, Uh-Faith-Uh!
Over at Green Baggins, Lane Keister has written a thoughtful post considering Romans 4:9-11 and its bearing on the relationship of faith, baptism, and justification, in which he argues that the error manifested in the Federal Visionist, Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic doctrines of baptism is in attributing to baptism what should be attributed to faith. In Lane’s words, “the sign/seal does not cause the thing signified/sealed.”
The most important point to notice here is that Abraham had both faith and righteousness before circumcision. If this is true, then circumcision could not have brought about either faith, or the righteousness that comes by faith. The next most important thing to notice here is that both “sign” and “seal” are present in this passage in verse 11. Therefore, neither the sign-ness nor the seal-ness of circumcision brought about the faith or the imputed righteousness. Instead, it was the Holy Spirit working faith in Abraham, which constitutes the sacramental union between sign and thing signified. So, given proposition 1 above, baptism works the same way as circumcision. Therefore the sign-ness and seal-ness of baptism does not bring about faith or the righteousness of faith (imputed righteousness). Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who connects the sign to the thing signified in the believer by bringing about faith. It is faith that is instrumental for bringing about imputed righteousness for the believer.