“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11).
The things we believe are certain to impact the choices we make- and this is especially true of our spiritual beliefs. For instance, those who subscribe to an erroneous spiritual teaching are certain to fall into any number of practical errors. That unfortunate reality will occupy the focus of much of the remainder of Colossians chapter two.
The act of circumcision mentioned here in Colossians 2:11 represented a prominent and controversial topic within the early church. Therefore, it served as a good foundation for Paul the Apostle to use in building a proper view of this practice. We find the origin of this custom in God’s directive to the Old Testament patriarch Abraham…
“This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you” (Genesis 17:10-11 NLT).
Judging from the content of this letter to the Colossian church, it appears there were some who sought to encourage the non-Jewish Christians of Colossae to submit to this practice. Since Paul had been brought up in strict adherence to the Old Testament Law, he was well qualified to address those who embraced that idea and use it to illustrate the new relationship we enjoy with God through faith in Christ.
The physical act of circumcision was designed to serve as a mark of separation and dedication to God. However, the New Testament expression of this idea differs in one important respect. Unlike the external act of circumcision, the type of circumcision mentioned here in Colossians 2:11 involves “cutting away” the sinful nature of those who seek acceptance with God through faith in Christ. Thus, it is a circumcision made “without hands” so to speak.
Its also important to recognize that circumcision did not make Abraham right with God- it was faith that made him right with God. We can say this with confidence in light of what we read in Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Therefore, the message of Colossians 2:11 applies to anyone who is saved through faith in Jesus: “When you came to Christ, you were ‘circumcised,’ but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature” (NLT).