A Circumcision Made Without Hands

by Mike Ratliff

For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. In him you also were circumcised — not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12 NET)

In light of our study on The Holiness of God,  with the emphasis on God’s separation from the fallenness and sin of creation, let us look at the part of His work in our regeneration that washes us clean. There is a great deal of false teaching in our time that claims that people can be saved without repentance and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. However, as we have seen the last several posts, both repentance and surrender to the Lordship of Christ comes through regeneration and, therefore, are not “works.”

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)

Please read the passage I placed at the top of this post (Colossians 2:9-12). God circumcised all genuine believers at salvation not with a  circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. What does this mean? The Greek word used in Colossians 2:11 for circumcision  is “περιτομη” or “peritomé.” It literally means “to cut around” and refers to circumcision or cutting off the foreskin. However, Paul gave it a spiritual connotation here and in Romans 3:30, 4:12, and Galatians 2:7-9. In this context it is speaking of the spiritual circumcision of the heart and affections by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh (Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11). This word is also used by Paul to refer to those who have been spiritually circumcised (Philippians 3:3). 

In the Old Covenant period circumcision symbolized man’s need for cleansing of the heart. 

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-17 ESV)

Circumcision was also the outward sign of the cleansing of sin that comes by faith in God. 

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12 ESV)

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– (Philippians 3:2-3 ESV)

This spiritual circumcision takes place at salvation “by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 3:3; Titus 3:5). Christians are new creations and that wonderful work of God takes place when they are regenerated. In the Old Covenant this was outwardly symbolized by circumcision, but in the New Covenant, it is now baptism by water (Acts 2:38).  

Some may question why this is all necessary. They may believe what they have been told by their religious leaders that repentance is not necessarily part of salvation. However, we must remember that salvation by God accomplishes much more than just the bestowing of eternal life on the believer. It is also a salvation or deliverance from sin itself. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)

Christ went to the cross to take the sins of His people upon Himself in order to incur the wrath of God against them. He was the sinless sacrifice, the Lamb of God, and the propitiation for the elect. This bloody sacrifice was necessary because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

Therefore, all whom God saves must become separate from the body of sin, which is the works of the flesh. Why? God is Holy and all who will spend eternity with Him must be holy as well. Right now, all living Christians are both holy and separate before God and fleshly and sinful in the temporal. In this horrid condition we are commanded by God to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:18 that the saints are “scarcely saved.” 

And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18 ESV)

What does this mean? The Greek word translated as “scarcely” in this passage is “μόλις” or “mol’is” and means “with difficulty.” Paul was quoting from the Septuagint version of Proverbs 11:31. What Paul is telling us, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is that justification comes only with great difficulty, suffering, pain, and loss. This is why we are standing firm against all the false teaching in the world that says the opposite. The genuine Gospel is clear that no one is saved without repentance and only the regenerate can repent. When a believer is marvelously saved by God, that is the starting place on the narrow, difficult path that leads to God and eternity with Him. This path is the one that few take because it is hard and difficult. What is so amazing is that this path runs right through the world. The temptations and persecutions and tribulations that come upon those separate and radically saved saints (Matthew 5:11-12) are actually used by God for His glory and the saints’ sanctification. 

Time is short my brethren. It appears that the Compromised Church is replacing the genuine Church. Islamic advocates are working hard all over the world to make the practice of any other religion except Islam into a capital crime. Solid Bible teachers and preachers who preach expository sermons using sound Biblical exegesis are by far the minority in the 21st Century Church. Why? Unregenerate men are in control of very public ministries that are geared to please men rather than glorify God. Those who stand firm and contend for the faith against all who oppose the truth will be persecuted. This is already happening and it is going to get worse. Therefore, my brethren we must draw near unto God, commune with Him, stay grounded in the Word, and pray continually. Some are blessed with solid local churches who have not yet apostatized, but there are growing numbers of genuine believers who have been forced out of their churches and there are none left in their area that have not compromised. To these brethren I say, “Worship Him, pray, and stay in the Word the best you can. God is good and all who belong to Him are held in His hands. He will not lose one.“

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “A Circumcision Made Without Hands

  1. Thank You, Brother Mike.

    (John 3:7) “…Ye must be born-again”

    We are washed by the Blood Of the Lamb.

    (John 8:11) “…Go and sin no more”.

  2. Good post Mike,

    The Jews were certain that the outward display of circumcisions was necessary to be “good for God”, but spiritual circumcision is completely of God and a circumcision of the heart.

    JS

  3. Your last 4 sentences is where most of us are at. We will take your advice. Its so good to know that God is so much bigger than man and his social activities they call ‘church’. I am so greatful that God is sovereign. Hope you had a blessed Lords day……..

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