Colossians 2:11-12

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by sevenzedek, Apr 15, 2012.

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  1. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    I need help from a Greek student. When I read Colossians 2:11-12, it appears that Paul is saying that we are spiritually circumcised by having been buried with Christ in baptism—thereby linking circumcision and baptism. How do I know whether Paul is not merely saying that we have been spiritually circumcised "and" baptized as well—not linking circumcision and baptism? Is he writing a list or is he building up a stack of related ideas here? Is it possible that the Greek would shed some light on this? It would seem that Paul is definitely saying what a Baptist would not like him to say. Thanks for the help.

    Colossians 2:11-12 (ESV)
    11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
  2. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

  3. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    The main verb is you were circumcised, and having been buried with him in baptism is a dependent participial clause functioning adverbially, which means it modifies or describes the circumstances of the main verb in some way.
  4. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    If Colossians 2:11-12 does indeed explain the way in which believers are now sealed by the sign of the covenant--i.e. having been baptized--then what is the baptist response for why we should not conclude that baptism has been replaced with circumcision?

    ---------- Post added at 02:01 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:50 PM ----------

    Sorry, folks. I did a "Colossians 2:11-12" search later than sooner and found that a discussion on this topic has already been blown up on PB.
  5. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    It may be that Paul is speaking of both spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism which are accomplished for us (the verbs are passive here and in Romans 6) and that these are effectual because accomplished by God via our union with Christ. We were crucified-with Him, buried-with Him, raised-with Him by the power of the Spirit.
  6. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    How might I come to the conclusion that Paul is truly writing about a spiritual baptism? We don't need to assume that Paul is writing about a spiritual circumcision because he says that it "made without hands." How do I conclude that Paul is actually writing about a spiritual baptism when he doesn't make it obvious.

    The fact of the matter is that Paul is either writing about a spiritual baptism or a physical baptism. Is there a way for us to know what he means from what he writes? If I were on my own and wasn't watching myself very carefully, I would just assume what I want to be true and get on a band-wagon. But I don't want to get on a band-wagon. I just want to know the truth.

    Thanks again for the help.
  7. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    The several passages (Romans 6; Colossians 2; Ephesians 2) consistently tie the salvific blessings we receive as coming to us through our union with Christ. The combination of the compound verbs crucified-with, buried-with, raised with, etc. and the passive voice support the efficacious reality of this work accomplished by Christ for us and certain to us because of our union with Him from before the foundation of the world.

    This being so, the baptism spoken of in Col. 2 would be a spiritual baptism commensurate with our union with Christ.
  8. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    This may indicate baptism into Christ with the Spirit, i.e. spiritual baptism.

    But since a sacrament has two parts, the physical sign and the spiritual thing signified, if the spiritual things signified by physical circumcision and water baptism are here linked, then the Apostle is also linking physical circumcision and water baptism.

  9. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    This, while plausibly true, is not necessarily true, and in fact cannot comport with an understanding of the three passages as set forth above. The sacrament is not being set before us at all, whether credo or paedo. The baptism and circumcision mentioned is one with the death, the burial, the raising up, and the forgiveness of sins- all of which are informing us that our redemption in Christ is accomplished for us, not by us and that we need to walk in the light of those glorious eternal realities.

    These realities, communicated in the familiar concepts of circumcision, baptism, death, etc. were unilaterally and perfectly accomplished for all those chosen in Christ, by Christ, in His Sacrifice. That this scenario, laid out in all three passages is effectual it would turn this precious truth on its head to introduce the temporal sacrament performed over the centuries into the message of the apostle.
  10. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior


    It seems to me that if Paul did not want to write about the sacraments when pointing to the inward realities to which the sacraments point, then he would not name those spiritual realities by the sacrament which illustrates those inward realities. In other words, nobody has a frame by which to understand these invisible realities without the sacrament God intended for them. So, unless I am in the dark concerning your comments or I am still grasping for divine light on the subject, I can't see how Paul is not writing about the spiritual realities AND the sacraments in all those passages. Furthermore, in light of my grasping, I believe Paul is not merely communicating the spiritual realities when he mentions the sacraments. It seems to me that Paul is communicating the inward realities BY drawing our attention to the physical. I thought God's purpose was to do the same thing. Trying to understand Paul while removing the physical reality from his statements makes my brain hurt. If I am off on this, maybe I will just let the theologians figure this one out for now.

    ---------- Post added at 11:20 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:09 PM ----------

    There is a reason why that man is having a hard time staying his horse.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  11. anotherpilgrim

    anotherpilgrim Puritan Board Freshman

    How about this: Assume for a minute Paul is referring to physical baptism and not spiritual. Then the verse would imply that our status of being 'circumcised in Christ' came about at the moment of our physical baptism. Seeing as Paul's reference to the circumcision in Christ and a circumcision made without hands is a reference to a person's state of being saved, assuming the reference to baptism as physical would imply Paul is tying a person' salvation to their physical act of baptism. This would be inconsistent with the gospel and Paul's own teachings of salvation by faith alone.

    Therefore, he must be referring to baptism in the spiritual sense.

    Also, his use of similar language of baptism and burial in Romans, by a similar exercise, we can conclude is a spiritual reference.
  12. Logan Almy

    Logan Almy Puritan Board Freshman

    In terms of the Greek, the finite verb is "circumcised" (perietmethete) and the participle is "having been buried" (suntaphentes). Both the finite verb and the participle are aorist. In his Greek Grammar, Wallace says, "The aorist participle, for example, usually denotes antecedent time to that of the controlling verb.1 But if the main verb is also aorist, this participle may indicate contemporaneous time." In his Greek exegetical commentary on Colossians, Murray Harris provides the possible relationships between the finite verb and the participle; one of those possibilities is contemporaneous action. The Colossians were spiritually circumcised and buried with Christ in baptism at the same time. So I think Paul is connecting spiritual circumcision to baptism. But what baptism? Baptism has three parts: 1. the sign (water), 2. the thing signified (in this case, burial with Christ), and 3. the relationship between the sign and the thing signified (sometimes called "the sacramental union"). Although we should distinguish these parts of the sacrament, we should not separate them. In many places, the properties of the thing signified (washing away of sin) are attributed to the sign (water) (e.g. Acts 22:16). This is not because the sign (water) effects the thing signified (the washing away of sins), but it is a way of speaking sacramentally. We might compare this to the way the NT speaks about the two natures of Christ (communication of attributes). Peter says that the Jews killed the Author of life (Acts 3:15), but we know that Christ did not die with respect to his divine nature (Author of life); he died with respect to his human nature. But because he is one person, the attributes of one nature may be ascribed to the other. The same is true of the sacrament. Again, we distinguish, but we should not separate. I think we should say that of the way Paul speaks of baptism. We recognize that his focus is on the spiritual reality (union with Christ), but water baptism is the sign and seal of that spiritual reality. Paul would distinguish (as Peter does in 1 Peter 3) between the sign (water) and the spiritual reality (union with Christ, salvation, etc.), but he would not separate; he speaks of them together. Now when it comes to covenant baptism, I think the important point in Colossians 2:11-12 is that physical circumcision and water baptism have the same spiritual meaning. This is why Paul can say that baptism is the circumcision of Christ. Now if this is the case, then the Baptist argument that the meaning of baptism requires it to be administered to professing believers only, is incorrect; for the same argument would prevent OT saints from applying circumcision to their children. In other words, if we read Colossians 2:11-12 or Romans 6:1 ff, and say, "Now this does not make sense if infant baptism is true." Then we should see if the same line of if reasoning applies to circumcision. For example, consider Romans 4:11. If circumcision is the sign and seal of the righteousness of faith, then it should not be applied to infants. But we know that it was applied to infants. So that is the issue. Also, to say that spiritual circumcision rules out the infant seed of covenant members is contrary to Deuteronomy 30:6 where God promises to circumcise the hearts of the children.
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