Colossians 2:11-15 From Circumcision To Baptism.
There has always been a circumcision made without hands (v. 11a). The physical act was always supposed to be an expression of what was in the heart or the core of an individual. Through Moses the LORD said, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Dt. 10:16). This heart circumcision was done by God-to love God completely (30:6). The prophet Jeremiah likens this to true repentance (4:4). Without this true repentance the outward physical act wouldn’t keep anyone from judgment (9:26 Cf. I Cor. 4:5). Paul affirmed this inward work of the Spirit as that which was sought under the old covenant administration (Rom. 2:28-29 Cf. Phil. 3:3). What comes with Christ is that this inward work becomes “the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11b), a work which is post His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
There continues to be the important emphasis on the inner transformation, now the identification for the members of the covenant community is with the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 12). It is a relationship based on faith and not of works, “faith in the working of God.” Where circumcision was once the outward sign of the covenant relationship now it is baptism, which signifies that one is “buried with Him in baptism,” and “raised with Him through faith in the working of God.” The outward act of baptism points to one “being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision” of the flesh. Furthermore, being raised with Christ to a new life means having one’s sins forgiven (v. 13). So the outward act of baptism signifies from the recipients perspective-repentance and faith, but it is meaningful only in so far that it represents the covenant headship of Christ.
Dying with Christ means dying to sin (Rom. 6:6; 7:4). There is real forgiveness of sins where there is true repentance and faith. There is also real power of a new life of belief or faith, which is the same power which raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20 Cf. Acts 2:24). One of the three uses of the law was and remains the exposure of sin for what it is, and through the Spirit the attendant conviction and repentance which ought to accompany this knowledge (v. 14 Cf. Eph. 2:15-16). When Paul says that these ordinances are nailed to the cross he is not saying that the law has been abolished. On the contrary, he is saying that the punishment which the law absolutely requires, finds fulfillment in the death of Christ on the cross. Furthermore, the resurrection is proof of the acceptance of His sacrifice, and with His resurrection there is the power to live according to the very same standard of this law.
Being forgiven all trespasses is another way of saying one is justified. “It is more characteristic of Paul to speak of justification than of forgiveness, and of sin in the singular than of sins in the plural (Rom. 5:12-21). His purpose here may be to emphasize that God has not only overcome sin as a general power, but He has also put away the guilt that stems from particular acts” (NGSB p. 1888). However, Paul also addresses the power to live for God. There is a power greater than all the spiritual forces of wickedness (v. 15). There is also a spiritual war that is taking place. Paul therefore emphasizes that Christ, in His resurrection and ascension, has demonstrated His power and victory over these forces. “With the ground of their constant accusations taken away, the hostile powers of Satan have lost their advantage forever” (NGSB p. 1888).