COLOSSIANS-SERIES NR 9 : Sign and Assurance
Colossians 2: 11-12
It may be possible to talk about these two verses for hours on end, because it summarizes the entire message of the Bible, and it shows us how we must understand the connection between the OT and the NT. It also speaks very profoundly about what happened to every Christian-believer in Christ and what the believer’s spiritual position in Christ implies.
For the purposes of this message however, we will try to briefly expound the meaning of the two verses.
A concept that often turns up in the NT is: IN CHRIST. Or: UNITED with Christ. That simply means: INCLUDED with Christ. It is not true of all people, but certainly of all people who embrace and trust the Gospel-message of salvation. All who received Jesus as Saviour and Lord. THEY are IN Christ. By the Father they were chosen and included in Christ’s death and resurrection – before creation already. When Jesus died and rose again, they were already united with Him – even if they were not yet born at that time. And when they come to faith during their earthly lifetime and place their faith-trust over onto Jesus, this unity with Christ becomes a reality in their lives – which, from God’s point of view, already existed at Jesus’s crucifixion, but actually since before creation.
We should keep in mind that the Christian-believers in the church of Colosse were not Jewish. They were mainly Greeks – therefore non-Jews (gentiles). And therefore, they had not been circumcised as babies. They were UNCIRCUMCISED concerning the body. And neither were they circumcised after they came to repentance and faith. Indeed, the Synod – mentioned in Acts 15 – decided that circumcision was not necessary any longer. The blood of Christ shed on the cross ended the shedding of blood of circumcision.
However, there were false preachers in the area who exerted an influence over the Colossians. That was one of the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to them – to warn them against the false preachers and to instruct them in the truth.
One of the things with which those false preachers confused the Colossians was with circumcision. The opinion of the false preachers was that a person could not rely only on Christ’s cross-sacrifice for redemption, but that you should ALSO obey certain OT-instructions (whether Jew or non-Jew).
Paul is therefore saying to the Colossians: “Listen to me, this business of circumcision that you still need in order to get into God’s good books, is nonsense. Let me explain to you exactly where circumcision fits into the puzzle of the Word and how it operates. Then you will understand why you can relax and ignore the doctrine of the false preachers.”
Let us now look at it step-by-step:
1 The Christian-believers in Colosse were never circumcised physically. The false preachers told them to be circumcised in order to become true Christians. The Apostle Paul tells them that they do not have to be circumcised, because 1) they already are circumcised through their faith IN Christ, and 2) they were baptized with water. In other words: Having been baptized and by placing their hope in Christ, they ALREADY HAVE everything that circumcision spoke of in the OT-time. In the NT water-baptism and be-in-Christ-by-faith are saying EVERYTHING that circumcision implied in the OT.
2 What did the circumcision in the OT speak of? Well, circumcision implied two things: It was a SIGN (picture) of something and it was an ASSURANCE (guarantee) of something.
What was it a sign/picture of AND what was it an assurance/guarantee of?
It was a picture of a new spiritual heart. And it was an assurance of being in the right standing with God that the person would receive should he/she come to repentance and faith.
Since infancy circumcision was to the OT-person a sign and the assurance that declared: If you come to repentance and faith, you will receive a new heart and you will be made 100% righteous with God. In a right relationship with Him. Acquitted of all your sin.
Put plainer: The OT baby boys were circumcised on the 8th day. (The girls obviously not, but the same blessing were ascribed to them because males represented females). At that young age they could not yet believe and repent and could therefore not receive new hearts and be put right with God.
But circumcision was long beforehand 1) a sign of the new spiritual heart they would receive when they come to repentance and faith, and 2) an assurance that they would be made perfectly RIGHTEOUS (acquitted – as in a court of law) when they should come to repentance and faith.
Incidentally: Should a circumcised person never come to repentance and faith, and die in that state, he will NOT have a new heart and not be made righteous with God. Then his circumcision would become a witness against him and a sign of judgment.
Where are the Scriptures proving that circumcision was a picture and guarantee?
A Picture of a new heart = Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4.
B Guarantee of righteousness = Romans 4:11.
3 Paul is now saying to the believers in Colosse: You do not have to distress yourselves in any way about circumcision, because you have already received both the meanings (sign and assurance) of circumcision by your faith in Christ and water-baptism.
Because baptism confirms to you exactly that which circumcision confirmed to the OT church: The full deliverance that you acquire in Jesus’s death and resurrection when you come to repentance and faith. And you HAVE come to repentance and faith. Therefore you ARE now included in His death, His burial, His resurrection. Therefore you WERE buried with Him and have risen with Him. Therefore you now HAVE new spiritual hearts. And that is exactly what your baptism testifies. So why do you still want to be circumcised? It is not necessary! Forget it. Forget what the false preachers have told you.
4 Circumcision is a deed that was done with human hands. A piece of flesh was removed by someone else with a knife. But it was only a sign of ANOTHER kind of circumcision that had to take place: the circumcision of CHRIST – which is not at all done with human hands, because it is inside, in the heart, in the human spirit. It is done by the HOLY SPIRIT. And it does not incorporate the removal of a piece of flesh. It incorporates a spiritual heart-transplant: The entire package of sin and sinful nature is cut away! The entire depraved/corrupt human nature in Adam is cut away! It is a spiritual circumcision!
That does not mean that the believer is now without sin and not able to sin any longer. It means that the sinful nature (in the case of the believer) is cut away in principle IN CHRIST, and will finally be removed on the New Earth.
5 Of EVERY person who is truly IN CHRIST, the following three perplexing realities are already true:
1) The sinful depraved fallen man is in principle already dead and removed
2) The sinful nature and being IS crucified with Christ and is therefore dead
3) Together with Christ‘s resurrection a new being has risen that will remain forever.
6 What remains for the true believer, is to daily live OUT OF these realities. BECAUSE the sinful old me has died with Christ, I MUST regard myself dead to sin. Romans 6 explains it in so many words. I do not have to sin. I do not have to give in to temptation. I CAN live victoriously. Not by gnashing my teeth and trying, but by trusting the Lord’s Word and the witness of my baptism which tell me THAT I died with Christ 2000 years ago (included) and that my sinful nature is cut off IN CHRIST and that I am a NEW CREATION together with Christ!
That is the victorious way a Christian must live every day.
Translated by Marthie Wilson