“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12
Read chapter 17 of Genesis and you’ll see how God made a covenant with Abraham. This agreement centered around the promise that the Holy Land, the land of Canaan, would always belong to Abraham’s descendents as long as they obeyed God. The “sign” that one was a part of this covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants would be the circumcision in the flesh of every male at least eight days old (vs. 10-14), which would be the basis for the Old Testament law requiring that all Jews be circumcised (Leviticus 12:3). Abraham immediately made sure that he and his entire family were circumcised that same day (vs. 22-27). Talk about having great faith and loyalty to God!
Thousands of years later during the early days of the church, we read in the New Testament that Jewish Christians who had converted out of Judaism were trying to bring tenets of Judaism into Christianity. Circumcision was one of those tenets. Acts chapter 15 and the entire book of Galatians records how these disciples were adding to the laws of Christ by saying that one could not be saved unless they were circumcised. God, through the pen of the apostle Paul, countered that argument by teaching that physical circumcision was not required in order to be a Christian like it had been in order to be a Jew in the Old Testament. However, the Holy Spirit also inspired Paul to use the Jews’ view that circumcision is a sign that they were in a covenant relationship with God to teach a very important lesson about baptism in the book of Colossians.
Much of Paul’s letter to the Colossians dealt with him reassuring Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians that they did not have to obey all the laws of Judaism in order to be Christians. While doing so, he wrote the passage that is the focus of today’s column (Colossians 2:11-12). Read the passage again and then think about this for a second. We are not under the covenant God made with Israel in the Old Testament. That was taken out of the way when Jesus died on the cross (Colossians 2:14). We are under a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13), Christ’s covenant. But just as physical circumcision was required as a sign of the old covenant, God still requires “circumcision” of a sort as a sign in the new covenant. This is not a literal, fleshly, physical circumcision. No, Paul says it is a spiritual circumcision, “made without hands.” He then clarifies that this spiritual circumcision takes place when one is baptized – literally “immersed” in the Greek – in water (cf. Acts 8:35-39).
From the time of Abraham to when Christ’s church arrived, God and everyone else would know that someone was a Jew if they were physically circumcised. Today, would God and everyone else recognize you to be a Christian? Baptism after repenting of one’s sins (Acts 2:38) due to one’s faith in Christ and the gospel (Mark 16:15-16) is the key, the key to obtaining salvation and forgiveness. Only through baptism is one spiritually buried with Christ to rise again to a new life (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-4). Only through baptism does one clothe themselves with Christ and become a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27). Only through baptism does the Holy Spirit add you to Christ’s body, which is His one and only church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4-6).
Have you been spiritually circumcised? Would He consider you to be in a covenant relationship with Him? Open your Bibles and read how people were saved in the New Testament, and do the same. Believe, repent and be baptized as they were. Be a part of the same church of which they were a part. Make “your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
If you’d like to have a Bible study to learn more, give me a call at 706-629-8459.