In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands…
I. EVERY REAL CHRISTIAN HAS EXPERIENCED THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION. The argument is that circumcision was unnecessary, since the Colossians had undergone the new birth which it signified.
1. It is spiritual, and plainly distinguished from that which was made with hands. The idea was not a novel one (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51; Romans 2:28-29).
2. The true character of the operation is the putting off of the body of the flesh, "the old man," corrupt human nature, with all its carnal instincts and tendencies. Manual circumcision cut off only a small part of the flesh, the spiritual is an entire transformation of the whole man. Old habits are abandoned, evil associations forsaken, and the soul is ushered into a new life, with new thoughts, affections, etc. It is a putting on of the new man.
3. It is Divine, "the circumcision of Christ," ordained and communicated by Him, with Him for its author and model.
II. THIS TRUE CIRCUMCISION IS REALIZED ONLY IN UNION WITH CHRIST IN HIS DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION.
1. The Saviour died for us, and when the anxious sinner trusts Christ he is regarded as having died with Him.
2. The reality of death is evinced by burial, and the death of the believer with Christ is the casting off of the body of the flesh. The old man is sepulchred.
3. The soul in regeneration arises with Christ to a new and holy life.
III. THIS UNION IS REALIZED IN THE BAPTISM. It is generally assumed that the allusion here is to immersion.
1. But it is difficult to see any resemblance between this and the depositing of Christ's body in a rock-hewn sepulchre. The reference is to the baptism of the Spirit — the Washing of regeneration (1 Corinthians 12:13, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:14). The theory of immersion is that it is the profession of a regeneration which has already taken place; but with St. Paul the burial and resurrection are coincident with the baptism. It is quite possible to die and rise with Christ without water baptism, but not without the baptism of the Spirit.
2. Why does Paul speak disparagingly of "hand-wrought" circumcision, and proclaim its needlessness, if he is to pass immediately to speak of the efficacy of "hand-wrought" baptism? To introduce that would be to introduce the very element of ceremonialism which he is denouncing.
IV. THE PRINCIPLE THROUGH WHICH THIS SPIRITUAL BAPTISM IS RECEIVED — "through faith."
1. It is surprising that so many should regard the baptism in which the disciple is said to rise with Christ as that of water. No one is raised out of water by faith, but by the arms which immersed him. The baptism of the Spirit is received by faith: an unbeliever cannot receive it.
2. "In the operation of God" does not mean that that is the origin but the object of faith. If I believe in the power that raised Christ, I believe in the power which has accepted His suretyship for me. This faith regards Christ's resurrection as the keystone of Christianity, the centre of confidence, the only basis of hope.
(J. Spence, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: