By Fred O. Blakely
Our Lord, of course, was circumcised as a Babe, in fulfillment of the Patriarchal and Mosaic law (Lk. 2:21). That institution and His subjection to it, however, were but types and shadows of the fuller circumcision to which He submitted in laying down His life for the world's sins.
It is the latter circumcision to which Paul refers in Colossians 2:11 as "the circumcision of Christ." By our present participation in that circumcision—the one "not made with hands," as in the former dispensations—we are made spiritually "complete in Him," per verse 10.
In order to understand the Apostle's full meaning, we must comprehend what he intended by "the circumcision of Christ." It is simply that His entire earthly body and nature were cut away from His spirit by death, His spirit being circumcised of that Adamic image. That was the fulfillment of the typical cutting away of the foreskin of males—part of the productive organ of the Adamic race. With our Lord, the whole physical frame and nature were cut away by His death. So was He, "in the likeness of sinful flesh," "cut off out of the land of the [physically] living" (Isa. 53:8; Rom. 8:3-4).
Hence, Peter's representation of the occurrence: Christ was "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (I Pet. 3:18, ASV). He was not put to death in the spirit; His spirit survived His separation from the flesh by death.
The spiritual logic of this transaction, by which the world's sins were put away from the face of God, is evident in the light of Scripture's depiction of it. By the Incarnation, God prepared for the Word, who became His Son, a body in the likeness of sinful man (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-10). He then, at the cross, laid upon that body and the Person who inhabited it, "the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6), or "the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). "Who His own Self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed [of sin]" (I Pet. 2:24), and made whole, or "complete in Him." By the Son's death, the Father then cut away that body, bearing the world's sin, from the Son's spirit, so circumcising Him and the world of its sins by the death of Christ. That is "the circumcision of Christ" of which Paul speaks in the Colossians text.
Participation in this excision of sin, of course, is conditioned upon one's incorporation into the death of Christ by faith and baptism (Rom. 6:4). It is thereby that he becomes spiritually circumcised by "the circumcision of Christ." Thenceforth, "free from sin," he is to walk in "newness of life," living wholly unto Him who died for him and rose again (Rom. 6:17-18; II Cor. 5:14-15).
The close parallel in the spirit of our case with that which literally took place with Christ, our sin-bearer, is indicated in the text of Colossians 2:11. Our identification with our Lord's circumcision consisted of "the putting off of the body of the flesh" (ASV). Thus, "our old self was crucified with Him, so that the sinful body might be destroyed" (Rom. 6:6, RSV). If Christ be in us, or we in Him, the body, accordingly, "is dead because of sin" (ch. 8:10). Spiritually regarded, it has been cut away from our spirit by our union with Christ in His circumcision. The body is to be reckoned as dead, but the spirit as alive because of our subsequent righteousness, or justification (ch. 6:11).
Incidentally, in this connection occurs another solid refutation of the despicable soul-sleeping error. All that occurred in Christ's death, or will take place in ours, was the spirit's separation from the body. The body died, but the spirit lived on—in Christ's case being active in His Hadean ministry to the incarcerated spirits of the disobedient antediluvians (I Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6).