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Colossians 2:11-12 11 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, 12 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.

Is Paul equating baptism to circumcision

OR

Is he saying that the circumcision made without hands is something, other than baptism, but occurs when someone is baptized (generally by those who tend to use their hands to baptize)?

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    Paul simply uses circumcision as a metaphor for baptism. Nothing new here. He does this several times.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 11:07
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    @Dottard, that's what many but not all assume. I look forward to your response proving it so. While this assumption has been stated before it has not been proven in response to its direct questioning. I ask the question since it may be interpreted that this circumcision happens at baptism, but is not itself baptism.
    – Austin
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 15:23
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    They are different figures of the same event. (That is to say if one sees oneself in union with Christ in his sufferings and death and resurrection and if He is in union with oneself in one's baptism !) But they do not equate the one with the other (only males are circumcised, males and females are baptised). The figures must be seen in the context of the realities of Christ and his sufferings and his death. (Not in comparison, one figure to another : or it gets confusing.) Up-voted +1. Good question and edifying to ponder.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 17:30
  • The clause of putting off the body of flesh in Christ's circumcision of heart, breaks it to be connected with baptism. The two are not related. The baptism is not a new ritual but a usual one for the Jews, and the physical circumcision for the Jews has not been banned.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 18:16
  • Man, all these interesting comments. Hope to get some answers. :-)
    – Austin
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 18:55

4 Answers 4

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The circumcision of Colossians 2:11-13 has no reference to Jewish covenant circumcision. The Jewish-Gnostic false teachers were telling the Colossians they ought to be circumcised in accordance with the Law of Moses. Paul challenges this by telling the Colossians they have already been “circumcised” by union with the circumcision of Christ. The circumcision of Christ was his cross, his death, burial, and resurrection. If you are in a vehicle whatever happens to the vehicle happens to you. Christ put off flesh and was buried and rose again. “In him” this happens to the believer, that is, his flesh (carnality) is put off. This union with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (His circumcision) happens at baptism.

PARAPHRASE OF COLOSSIANS 2:11-12 Furthermore, in Christ you don’t need fleshly circumcision, you have had a circumcision, the one made without hands (that is, the spiritual transformation which occurred at baptism), in putting off the body of fleshliness, sin, and death at the time you were united with Christ’s circumcision -- His death, burial, and resurrection. That is, you were co-buried with him when you were immersed in water (baptized). In that immersion you were also co-raised with him from death to life. This transformation was conditioned upon your faith in the powerful energy of God, God who powerfully raised Christ from the dead on the third day.

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The history of Christ's death, burial and resurrection is ours in Him. This all happened without any of our involvement.

This included circumcision without physically circumcising anybody. The true meaning of this is shown forth in Christ's death. The stripping off of the body of flesh happened in His death. It's gone and now has been buried. Sin is done away with.

The next reality of baptism is we are buried together with Him. Since we are now joined in His death we have become a part of His resurrection to a new life. He joined us to Himself in our sin. When He is raised to new life we are still joined to Him and His new life. This is symbolic of baptism which symbolizes cleansing of sin and a brand new creation coming forth into the presence of God. We are raised up in righteousness. This all happened in Christ and does not need any outward rites of religion to make it happen.

Baptism and circumcision have come to light in Christ of their true meaning and is a complete work.

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin" (Romans 6:3–7).

All of this is done by God without any human hands.

As a side note.

Circumcision in the flesh is symbolic of man passing on the weakness of the flesh to the race.

zFor of the Law being powerless in that it was weak through the flesh, God, having sent His Son in likeness of sin of flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3

The flesh is now gone. Of course now we walk by faith in this truth, until we receive the incorruptible bodies.

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  • Very accurate portrayal of our completeness in Christ upon having faith alone in Him. So refreshing to hear the truth! +1 Commented Feb 27 at 1:57
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We must be clear about the point of view of Paul before answering this question.

His opposition to physical circumcision as a necessity to become Christian is well known. Regarding Baptism, here was what Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 (NIV);

  • 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
  • 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,
  • 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.
  • 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
  • 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul didn't mean Baptism is unnecessary, Paul was telling the Corinthians the misperception to tie their Baptism to the person who baptized them, instead of Christ. Without the proper perception, what the Corinthians got was John's Baptism, not by the Holy Spirit, that the apostles emphasized. When Paul arrived Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7), he was wondering the disciples there never heard of Holy Spirit, and discovered that they only receive John's Baptism. Paul placed his hands on them, and they were baptized in the name of Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on them.

As Paul said in Romans 2:28-29 (NIV)

  • 28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
  • 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

May be we can translate as

  • A person is not a Christian who is one only outwardly, nor is baptised merely outward and physical.
  • No, a person is a Christian who is one inwardly; and baptism is baptism of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the person who baptised him. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God.

In conclusion, my answer to the title question is, Paul was not equating Baptism to Circumcision. Paul was firming the Colossians not to be confused by the false teaching, that Circumcision was a prerequisite to become a Christian. He himself did not oppose to the Jewish Christian to have circumcision, but he strongly against them to take this as a prerequisite. For whatever we chose, we only follow Christ and Christ alone, without Him, everything will be in vain.

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All "church goers" who are NOT born again ... because they have not been full immersion baptised as Jesus was, thus have not received His life, Father and the Holy Spirit need to be full immersion baptised ASAP (they don't need someone to lay hands on them or say "special words" as it is a commitment between you and Father,Who in effect cuts you from the earthly vine and grafts you into the true Vine (Lord Jesus) ... see 1 John 4:17 (and other verses nearby) ... thus grafted into Him, spiritually you become "as He is in the world!" See also John 14:23, Gal 2:20 .... A Christian needs to have Christ-in.

Time is running out fast ... Jesus will return to our deceived, hurting and hurtful word soon.

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    @ Brian McMichan - Thank you for responding to this question. However, you did not address the point of the Question relating to circumcision. To be a meaningful Answer one must deal with the posted Question. Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Feb 27 at 0:06
  • Acts 18:24-26 "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Eph 4:5 "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," Commented Feb 27 at 6:39
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