Sunday, March 5, 2017

Colossians 2:12

This continues the thought of the Colossian believers were spiritually circumcised. Paul is not equating circumcision and baptism in this verse, he is continuing the contrast between the two. The word that Paul uses for buried, sunthapto, means to be buried with or together.[1] The prefix sun is used here in the metaphorical sense, it is equating the believer’s identification with Christ’s burial.

The image of baptism that Paul develops is that of our being buried and rising again with Jesus Christ. Paul is careful to make the point that baptism is not a magic rite, but an act of obedience where we confess outwardly the inward act of faith that has identified us with Jesus.[2] Baptism proclaims that the old order of life has passed away, and in its place a new order of life has been initiated. The new believer does not stay in the water but emerges to, as Paul states in Romans 6:4 – “so we also might walk in newness of life.”

It is important to see Paul’s connection of identification with Christ in this baptism as being through faith. F. F. Bruce has stated it well,

“And be it noted: it is through faith that the believer bids farewell to the old life and embarks upon the new. The sacrament of baptism derives its efficacy not from the water or from the convert’s token burial in it, but from the saving act of Christ and the regenerating work of God, producing that faith-union with the risen Lord of which the sacrament is the sign and seal.”[3]

Without faith, baptism is only an empty ritual that does nothing for the person who undergoes it. It is only efficacious if the person has faith in the right thing. Faith in baptism will get the person nowhere. Faith in anything except God’s energeia, from which we derive our word “energy,” His superhuman power or work will not bring about salvation for the believer.

Paul is continuing to contrast the physical circumcision versus the spiritual circumcision that is necessary. Not the outward mutilation of the flesh, but the inward stripping away of sinful nature of the heart. Believers only have a right relationship with God because of what God has done through the perfect work of Christ to restore the right relationship. Paul does not want the Colossian believers to be deceived into false beliefs and teachings.

Prayer: Today, as I contemplate upon the importance of where I place my faith, Spirit of Wisdom, guide my thoughts. Lead me to clearly investigate my heart. Help me to see beyond any doubt that I trust in Jesus as my Redeemer and Savior. May I not lean upon my own plans and ways, but wholly lean on Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996). Page 84. 
[2] See Paul’s writings in Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 3:1; and Eph. 2:6 
[3] Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing Co, 1984. Page 106. 

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