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, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
Most of the Colossian Christians were Gentiles who had never been physically circumcised. Maybe there were some who tried to convince the men among them that they had to be physically circumcised to be right with God. So Paul told them, in Him you were also circumcised, assuring them that they were indeed circumcised in a spiritual sense, which is even more important than physical circumcision.
The Colossians Christians had to deal with a whole variety of false teaching. Not only did they have wrong ideas about Jesus, but they also had wrong ideas about things like circumcision. Paul makes it clear that they were circumcised, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.
Our spiritual circumcision meant the putting off of the old man, which Paul here called “the body of the sins of the flesh.” Just as Paul told the Romans that the death of the old man is illustrated by baptism (Romans 6:3-7), he made the same point here to the Colossians.
So when Paul said that by the circumcision of Christ, they were buried with Him in baptism, he meant that these Gentile Christians find their true circumcision in their baptism. Christians don’t need to be circumcised, they need to be baptized.
Baptism answers circumcision, but it doesn’t illustrate it. Yet baptism does illustrate our identification with the death and resurrection life of Jesus. We were buried with Jesus, and buried under the water. We are also raised with Him, and raised up out of the water.
It is as if Paul wrote: “Circumcision is not important; what is important is the spiritual cutting away of the flesh that Jesus performs in the life of every believer. For Christians, the mark of this transformation isn’t circumcision, it is baptism.”
Don’t miss the last phrase: through faith in the working of God. This demonstrates that Paul understood that the power of regeneration was not in baptism or received by the act of baptism, but received through faith in the working of God.
Is your faith in the working of God? Don’t put your faith in rituals, but in God Himself. A biblical practice like baptism is an important part of the obedient Christian life and an illustration of what God did. But keep your focus on the working of God, and thankfully receive it by faith.