For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Continuing on from last time, we come to a paragraph that is both full and rich in meaning, and yet often cluttered up with unnecessary doctrines. Consider the opening sentence, Paul points out that in the Person of Jesus lives all the fullness of God: Jesus is all God and Jesus is all man: God lived in His physical body. Jesus has also brought you and me to fullness, but fullness of what kind? Here it is in simple terms: All of the fullness of God resided in Jesus Christ, and in Christ the fullness of the Holy Spirit resides in you and me. Neither you nor I are the Messiah, nor are we divine, but we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He is divine. Kind of makes you wonder why we don’t follow His lead more often, doesn’t it?
Paul continues to state that Jesus is the head of every power; He is at the right hand of God running the universe… and we are in Him.
Not a bad place to hang out!
The next sentence goes on to say that we have received a circumcision that wasn’t performed by human hands. This is puzzling until we recall what circumcision was in the Old Testament. There, circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham; it was how people would recognize a man in covenant relationship with God. That was the covenant that set God’s covenant people apart from everyone else, and circumcision was a kind of mark or seal of that covenant. Paul is talking about another kind of seal or sign of our covenant relationship with God, a sign that marks us as belonging to Him.
The last sentence in our text answers a question, and raises another:
The first part answers a question when it identifies Christ as the one who performed this circumcision without human hands, and that tells us that this circumcision is not a physical procedure at all, but instead a spiritual procedure. In this procedure, our natural self that lives according to the flesh is put off, and I think most of us will agree that this happens when we enter a relationship with Christ. This would be really easy if Paul stopped right there, but he goes on…
Here’s the whole sentence again:
Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
The trouble happens when Paul followed the having been circumcised by Christ with “having been buried with Him in baptism”. I say that there is trouble here, because this is where Christians like to divide into camps and slug it out. We aren’t going to do that though, are we?
It appears to me that there is some kind of a connection between this “circumcision” and baptism, but what is the connection? If we were “buried with him in baptism” what were we buried into? Well, when He was buried, He was dead, having died on the cross. So, if we are “buried with him” then we must be buried into His death… right? If this “circumcision” was the link between the old man and the new man, and it is also linked to baptism into His death, then there must be a link of some kind being established here… see it? They are parallel. Notice that Paul also mentions that we are “raised with Him” by our “faith in the workings of God.”
OK, so here’s what we’ve got so far:
1. What an awesome thing it is to be in Christ!
2. He is the central focus of our lives, our all in all as the old hymn says.
3. In Christ, we have the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit: Amazing!
4. Paul has made a comparison between Old Testament circumcision, a new kind of circumcision and baptism.
5. Paul elaborates on that comparison in the next section. We’ll leave this as a tease for now, and I’ll look forward to seeing you back here next time.