Useful Bible Studies > Colossians Commentary > chapter 2

The meaning of circumcision

Colossians 2:11

Physical circumcision is an operation to remove a small piece of skin from the male sex part. God commanded the Jews (Israel’s people) to carry out that operation (Genesis 17:9-14). That operation reminds them of God’s covenant with (promises to) their nation. God has made their nation different from the other nations. They are a holy nation, in other words, a nation that belongs to God in a special way. Therefore, they must behave in the way that God’s people should behave. They must not simply follow their own emotions, desires and feelings as many other people do. Instead, they must do what pleases God.

Like most Christians today, the Christians in Colosse were not Jews. Therefore, they had not received physical circumcision. Paul told them that they did not need to do it. Instead, they had received what Paul calls here ‘the circumcision of Christ’. In Romans 2:29, he calls it ‘circumcision of the heart’. That is not a physical operation; but its effects on the lives of Christians are real.

When a person becomes a Christian, he accepts the benefits of Christ’s death. It is as if that person’s former life, with his selfish attitudes and desires, died with Christ (Romans 6:4). That is the real meaning of circumcision, as Paul explains. People who become Christians leave their former lives, in order to join God’s people. Then, even as God raised Christ from death, so they begin to live for God. God changes them completely (2 Corinthians 5:17). Formerly, they lived for themselves; now they live to please God (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Next part: The meaning of baptism (Colossians 2:12)


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© 2019, Keith Simons.