Baptism: The Christian’s “Circumcision”

In Genesis chapter 17, we read of God making a covenant (agreement) with Abraham that the Holy Land, the land of Canaan, would always belong to Abraham’s descendants as long as they obeyed him.  The “sign of the covenant” would be the circumcision in the flesh of every male at least eight days old (Gen. 17:10-14).  Abraham immediately made sure that he and his entire family were circumcised that same day (Gen. 17:22-27).  This was the basis for the law which required that all Jews be circumcised (Lev. 12:3).

Thousands of years later during the early days of the church, Jewish Christians who had converted out of Judaism were trying to bring tenets of Judaism into Christianity.  Circumcision was one of these tenets (Acts 15; Gal. 1-6).  Paul made it clear that physical circumcision was not required to be a Christian like it was in order to be a Jew.  However, the Holy Spirit inspired him to use the Jews’ mindset of circumcision being a sign that they had a covenant with God to teach a very important lesson about baptism in the book of Colossians.

Much of Colossians dealt with Paul reassuring Gentile Christians that they did not have to obey all the laws of Judaism in order to be Christians.  While doing so, he told them that they, like all Christians, had been filled in Christ, who is the head of all rule and authority (Col. 2:10).  Notice what he said next in Colossians 2:11-12“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.”

Think about this for a second.  We are not under the covenant God made with Israel.  That was taken out of the way at the cross (Col. 2:14), and we are under a new covenant (Heb. 8:6-13), Christ’s covenant.  But just like 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.  But this is not a literal, fleshly, physical circumcision.  No, Paul says that it is a spiritual circumcision, “made without hands.”  He then clarifies it has having occurred when one was baptized – literally “immersed” in the Greek – in water.

From Abraham to the church, God and everyone else would know whether or not one was a Jew if they were physically circumcised.  Does God and everyone else recognize you to be a Christian?  Baptism preceded by repentance (Acts 2:38) which was brought on by faith (Mark 16:16) is the key, the key to salvation and forgiveness of sins.  It is only through baptism that one is spiritually buried with Christ to rise again to a new life (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-4).  It is only through baptism that one puts on Christ and becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27).  It is only through baptism that the Holy Spirit adds you to Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:13), that body being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), of which there is only one in the sight of God (Eph. 4:4-6), not the many found in the numerous sects and denominations of Christendom today.

Have you been spiritually circumcised?  Are you truly a Christian in the sight of God?



5 thoughts on “Baptism: The Christian’s “Circumcision”

  1. Isn’t nice to know that we don’t need a physical covenant to be a child of the “Most High”? If we just obey from the heart and follow His commands we will gain a spiritual covenant with the “Great Almighty” a bond that cannot be broken like something physical can be.

  2. “Those who hold to baptismal regeneration would have us to believe that one passes from being a “natural man” to a “spiritual man” through baptism; yet, from whence does this desire to be baptized come? Is God not pleased when we are baptized? Of course. Yet, Paul said that the one who is still fleshly cannot please God. If such a person is the enemy of God, enslaved to sin, how is it that he is able to do such a spiritual and pleasing thing as to desire to be baptized? Obviously, this is impossible. Baptism signifies our death to the old way of life and our resurrection to new life in Christ, as Paul uses it in Romans 6:1-4. Unless we have died to sin, and been raised with Christ in reality prior to our baptism, the symbol becomes meaningless. So we see that the position that posits baptism as the means of regeneration and forgiveness ignores the most basic teachings of Scripture regarding man’s inability. In taking the position they do, the baptismal regenerationists not only make man capable of things he is not, but they reduce God’s grace to a mere aid, and make the death of Christ a theory that is dependent upon man’s act of obedience, rather than the finished and effective work that the Bible teaches it to be (Hebrews 10:10-14).”

    1. Hi A. Glad you responded with the quote that you cited, as it brings up a common misconception many have about the notion that baptism is needed for salvation.

      Nowhere in Scripture does it state or imply that baptism ALONE saves. I urge you to consider a very important principle laid out in Ps. 119:160, which is that the “sum,” or “entirety” of God’s Word is truth. In order to know the complete truth about any biblical subject, one must first examine the totality of what the Bible has to say about it.

      Therefore, concerning the biblical topic of salvation, it would certainly be a mistake on my part to cite 1 Pet. 3:21, which says “…baptism now saves you…,” and conclude that all one has to do in order to be saved is to be baptized, and that what Christ did on the cross, God’s grace, his love, our faith, obedience, and repentance are not equally needed for salvation. The Scriptures clearly teach that we would not be saved if not for the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 2:11-12), his love (John 3:16), and what Christ did on the cross (Rom. 5:8-9; 1 John 2:1-2). In like manner, the Scriptures clearly teach that one is not saved if one does not believe in Christ (John 3:16), confess that faith (Rom. 10:9-10), and repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:9-10), all in addition to being baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:35-38). After baptism, our Lord taught that his disciples are to observe all his commandments (Matt. 28:19-20).

      In fact, the Col. 2:11-14 passage that I cited in my article mentions in correlation to the spiritual circumcision that puts one under the Christian covenant with God not only baptism, but also faith and repentance, as well as the work that God does (which to me brings to mind his grace and love that sent Christ to the cross.)

      The Scriptures plainly teach what God has done in order to save us, that his work is in fact finished and effective, and that we by ourselves are powerless to either bring about or earn our salvation. The Heb. 10 passage your quote cites is very clear on that matter, as well as other passages. However, the Hebrew writer also mentioned earlier that Christ “is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Jesus himself said that those who enter the kingdom of heaven are those who “do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Let us not make the mistake of focusing so much on what God has done for us that we neglect to focus on what God wants us to do.

      Sin is breaking the laws of God (1 John 3:4). With that in mind, remember that Paul rhetorically asked, “Shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? God forbid!” (Rom. 6:1-2) The Hebrew writer also said that those who sin willfully insult the Spirit of grace and no longer have a sacrifice for sin on their behalf; rather, all they have to expect is terrifying, fiery judgment (Heb. 10:26-31). That’s why God’s grace was not only brought to all mankind, but also teaches mankind to do certain things, namely, to obey God (Tit. 2:11-12). Being baptized when all is said and done is really nothing more than that: obeying what God said to do and believing his promise.

  3. Thanks for your reply. From what you stated, I am to assume then that one fully saved even without Baptism, yes? If there is a situation where water is unavailable for Baptism, yet a person has accepted the gift of Jesus (not just believed that He did it, because scripture states that even the demons believe) and then they die, were they fully saved? Or were they only “half-way there” since they weren’t Baptized? And what counts for Baptism? Full immersion?

    1. The demons believed, true, and yet they weren’t saved because of their disobedience, thus showing that their faith, without works, was dead in the sight of God (James 2:14-26). In like manner, when people have faith in Jesus (and thus call him “Lord” and hear his Word), and yet do not do what he says, their faith likewise is dead and they will not be saved (Matt. 7:21-27; Luke 6:46). That’s the point God through James is making when he cites the demons as an illustration that one must do more than simply have faith.

      Therefore, one is not saved (it’s not a matter of “fully;” one is either saved or not saved, there is no such thing in the Bible as “partially” saved) if one does not do what God says. If one believes and yet does not repent of their sins and is not baptized, one is not saved. If one is baptized and yet does not believe and repent of their sins, one is not saved. If one repents of their sins and yet does not believe and is not baptized, one is not saved. We must do all of what God has told us to do in order to be saved. After all, God does all of what he has promised to do in order to save us.

      The idea of being in a place where water is not available is, respectfully, irrelevant to the discussion. One could apply that same question to anything else God requires of us, besides baptism. What if one is in a place where one cannot acquire faith in Jesus? Will they be saved if they die before ever hearing about Jesus and thus obtaining faith in him? (Rom. 10:17) The Bible says that ignorance is no longer overlooked and faith in Jesus is a necessity for salvation, so the answer is that they will not be saved, even though they were ignorant (Acts 17:30-31; John 3:16; 14:6). (This is why Christians are told to bring the gospel to every person – Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19).

      Therefore, I respectfully urge you to consider that rather than wondering about whether a hypothetical person somewhere out there will be condemned because they couldn’t find water, one should be like the Ethiopian, who after being told the good news about Jesus, was ready to be baptized at the moment he first came upon some water (Acts 8:35-38).

      Concerning immersion, that is the only definition of the Greek word (baptizo) transliterated in our English Bibles as “baptism” or “baptize.” There are completely different Greek words used in the New Testament that translate into “sprinkling” or “pouring,” and none of them are ever used in commands concerning salvation and forgiveness of sins. Thus, biblical baptism is immersion. Good question.

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