All of the religious practices which the Lord commanded the children Israel to perform were symbolic, and each one pointed to the redemption which was to come through Christ in the New Covenant. Let us briefly examine as few aspects of the Old Covenant from Hebrews chapter 9.
"Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.' Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." (verses 18-22)
"Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; the holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience." (verses 6-9)
Now we see that the Old Covenant was not perfect; it could not make anyone perfect. When the high priest entered the holiest place in the tabernacle with the blood of bulls and goats, this was a copy which foreshadowed Christ Jesus entering the holiest place in the universe with His own blood which He offered once for the sins of all mankind. Jesus entered heaven,
"Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." (verse 11)
"And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death," (verse 15)
"But now, at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (verse 26)
"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:12)
In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God foretells of the New Covenant which He is to establish with Israel. This covenant will not be like the Old Covenant which God established with their fathers when He brought them out of bondage in Egypt.
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:7)
Israel failed to keep their end of the bargain, repeatedly breaking God's laws. They just didn't seem to measure up to God's righteous standard of holiness. Therefore the Lord promised them a better covenant in which He would forget their sins and put it into their hearts to do His will. Hebrews chapter 8 repeats Jeremiah's prophesy. Verses 10-12 read,
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel in those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
God did establish this covenant just as He promised throughout the centuries before Christ. In the previous section we saw how God worked to initiate and ordain the New Covenant through the coming of Jesus Christ, according to the will and the foreknowledge of God. In this section we explored the answer to the question "why?" We read over and over again that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from and blots out our sin. We also discovered the role which blood played in the establishment of the Old Covenant between God and the children of Israel. We learned that a new and better covenant was promised to Israel from the beginning of the first one. We saw how Jesus Christ fulfilled the laws of the first covenant by offering Himself for the sins of all the people, and how He entered heaven with the blood which He shed in order to purchase our redemption and free us from sin. After this, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the power of God where He serves as Mediator of the New Covenant.
So what does all this have to do with baptism? Does Scripture tie together the water of baptism and the blood of Christ? At what point, when we are forgiven, is the blood of Christ applied to wash away our sins? In the next section we will see that the water and the blood are received together, and as always, we'll see what Scripture has to say about it.