Titus 3:5 He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
In teaching the covenant children on Baptism I often times will us the illustration that Baptism is like God’s branding us with His mark of ownership. I will tell them just as a Rancher might brand his cattle, so God brands us with the mark of Baptism that is indelible to His eyes. When He looks at us He sees that we are marked with His mark and so treats us as His own.
In Baptism we are marked with God’s mark. It is the mark wherein we find our identity. It is the only mark that we need have placed upon us. Indeed, by marking ourselves with other permanent marks it could be easily argued that we are putting marks on ourselves that are in identity competition with God’s mark of Baptism.
In this vein it is interesting that historically tattoos have been used as an identifying mark that one belongs to this or that god. The gods were thought to have required that their people be marked with their mark. Of course, today no one in the modern West would, upon receiving a tattoo, think that they were doing so as a mark of belonging to some ancient tribal deity but perhaps worse yet what being tatted today demonstrates and signals is the god-like power one seizes over one’s own body. If one views themselves as autonomous beings then they will mark themselves with their own marks. This is understandable but the Christian who has been marked with God’s mark of Baptism should not want to be marked with any other mark.
Not only should they not want to be marked with any other mark they are forbidden to be marked out with any other mark. The Priest class in the Old Testament was not allowed to be tattooed, like the pagans around them,
Leviticus 21:5 They (the Priests) shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.
This is relevant to those who profess Christ today who resolve to be tattooed because in the New Testament it is the Church and Christians who are identified as God’s Priest class.
I Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
All God’s people today are prophets, priests, and kings under sovereign God, and so all God’s people today, as God’s Priests, are proscribed by God from making any cuts on their body. And why should they want any other marks on their bodies since they’ve been marked by their God in Baptism?
Why this desire, by professing Christians, for a further marking besides God’s mark of Baptism? One wonders if the increase of tattooing isn’t due to God’s people not understanding their identity in Christ. In so many ways Westerners have been separated and stripped from, and of, their Christian history — and so their identity — that perhaps, at some level, the reason body modification is being pursued by Christians so intently is because they are trying to find a meaning that has eluded them. The modern Western man has been deracinated to the point that he no longer is even sure about gender, and is now treated as a interchangeable cog in a vast impersonal machine culture. Given that, it is not a wonder that the modern Western man, be he Christian or non Christian, is exploring all avenues, including tattooing, to imbue his life with some possible meaning.
Of course modern Western man does not speak to himself in such terms. He probably couldn’t and wouldn’t articulate his thinking (if he even thinks about it at all) in such a way. For modern man tattooing one’s self is just what people do. Modern man would insist that tattooing doesn’t mean anything except, “it’s cool and it’s pretty and my peers are doing it and I want to fit in.”
However, if Christians who are also Moderns, had explained to them what God’s mark of Baptism means then just possibly they would see that pursuing any other mark, besides the mark of Baptism, would be a pursuing of a counter claim by a different god.