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July 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“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.”—Colossians 2:11–12 (NIV)
Do you have a distinguishing feature that makes you identifiable and causes you to stand out? Maybe it’s your eyes, a birthmark, a unique tattoo, or even your own eclectic fashion. Whatever it is, this thing sets you apart.
For the Jewish people, circumcision was the mark that identified them as children of God. Circumcision set the Jewish people apart from the world as partakers in the covenant God made with their forefather Abraham. They were a special people unto the Lord, His children.
But, as with the rest of the Old Testament covenants, they were shadows of what was to come. You see, these covenants were intended to point us to something greater, because on their own they’re powerless to save us. We see this clearly by the very thing that brought about the establishment of the circumcision covenant: the promise of God spoken to Abraham and the word of God believed by Abraham (faith). That’s why we’re told, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3 NIV) and then see the establishment of the covenant, the symbolic marker of the promise of God to Abraham’s family, which was brought to fruition by Jesus Christ, the earthly seed of Abraham and eternal Son of God!
So, how does this relate to us? Well, in today’s passage Paul tells us we’ve also been circumcised. However, ours isn’t from a physical circumcision, but a spiritual one, where Jesus cuts away our sinful nature and makes us clean, set apart, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, our distinguishing marker. This claim is further supported by Paul with the example of baptism, which once again refers to a physical, symbolic gesture representing something deeper.
Just as circumcision represented a setting apart unto God as His children through the cutting away of the flesh, baptism represents a washing away of sin, a death to the former life and rebirth into a new life. And this is exactly what Jesus does in us when we receive Him.
Friends, in Christ, we’ve been made pure, holy, and righteous. We’ve had our sins cut away, separated from us as far as the east is from the west. In Christ, we’ve seen our old nature removed and perish in the purifying waters of baptism as we’re raised up as a new people, as fully accepted and adopted children of God, members of an unconditional, eternal covenant. We’ve been cleaned out so the presence of the Holy Spirit can take up residence in our hearts.
So now, with such a wonderful distinguishing mark dwelling within us, I pray we may live in such a way that others can clearly see what sets us apart and seek to find what we’ve been found in!
DIG: Why does Paul use circumcision and baptism to hammer home his point about what we have received in Christ?
DISCOVER: What does it mean to be set apart unto God?
DO: Circumcision and baptism for the believer describe an internal, spiritual transformation that takes place when we receive Jesus. But these internal changes must bring about external changes in all we say, think, and do. Thus, I encourage you this week to examine your life. Ask yourself if the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit in you is evident to others? Does your life show the spiritual circumcision and baptism you underwent?
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.