A gracEmail subscriber asks when we are “circumcised” spiritually as mentioned in Colossians 2:11-12. He wonders if it occurs simultaneously with baptism in water.
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Paul says that the true “removal of the body of the flesh” occurred when “in [Jesus] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). Jesus our representative was circumcised physically (the covenant sign of a Jewish male) and God viewed that literal circumcision in spiritual terms for those whom Jesus represents.
Because Jesus faithfully obeyed God and gave himself as an atoning sacrifice on the cross, God treats those whom Jesus saves as if they had personally done what Jesus their representative did for them. Fleshly circumcision is now irrelevant from a spiritual standpoint. What matters is that Jesus lived totally apart from sin, which that ancient physical ordinance was intended to symbolize. Jesus’ circumcision committed him to keep God’s whole law — and he did that for his people (Gal. 5:3).
The Bible never encourages us to think of God as sitting in heaven with a stopwatch, waiting to click it at the exact moment we do the right thing to be saved. Jesus did the “right thing” to save us almost 2,000 years ago. Nothing we have done or ever will do is any part of that life record which sets us right with God. All we can do is trust the gospel announcement concerning what Jesus our representative did for us and respond to that good news in faith. Such faith/trust produces praise, obedience and good works. By receiving water baptism, which Jesus personally ordained, the believer tangibly expresses saving faith in sight of God and of fellow humans (Col. 2:12). This divine ordinance thus points to (“sign-i-fies”) God’s saving work in Jesus Christ — to which our own faith and works are the fitting response.