In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians2:11-12
The Jewish Christians had been urging the Colossian Christians to undergo physical circumcision. They would have argued that it was necessary "because Jesus was circumcised..."
Paul makes it clear that we should not get confused between the signpost and that which is being pointed to:
Circumcision pointed to the idea that we want to "put aside" our sinful nature (symbolised by the removal of a piece of skin) but Paul points out that we can't defeat our sinful nature by ourselves. We can only begin to be transformed when we are made new by Christ. We need a new beginning to become new people.
In a parallel statement, Paul reminds us that baptism, which is about washing, also points to a deeper truth: We have died to our sinful nature and have been raised by Christ to live a new life.
We must be very careful about according too much meaning to the signposts: Today Christians don't get too sidetracked by circumcision, but we do still get into long and complex debates about baptism.
The important issue to note from this text is that Paul is using both traditions (circumcision and baptism) to point to the same truth:
We need to become new people but we can't do it by ourselves
--not but cutting skin off and not by washing in water...
We can go through either or both rituals and it can mean nothing...
It is in Christ alone that we can have a new beginning!!
Theo Groeneveld firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/