Buried with Him, Risen with Him

Written by  //  May 17, 2010  //  Uncategorized  //  No comments

Colossians 2:11-12

In Christ, we have access to all of the blessings and benefits of salvation (Col. 2:9).  Therefore once we are “in Him” we are “complete,” (Col 2:10)  i.e. once we have become a part of that elect body, the church, we are saved from our sins and we have access to all of the wonderful blessings that can only be enjoyed in a relationship with Jesus our Lord.  The question before us is simple, how do I enter into this elect body and this saving relationship?

In Colossians 2:11, we find out that not only are we complete in Him but we are circumcised in Him.  The term circumcised simply means to “cut away” many see a tie to the Old Testament right of circumcision in this passage but such is unnecessary, the passage simply speaks of a cutting away or a “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.”  There is real danger in seeing this as Old Testament circumcision.  Under the Law of Moses circumcision was symbolic; it symbolized the covenant of God with His people (Rom. 4:11, Gen. 17:11). If Paul was referencing Mosaic circumcision would it not then follow that the cutting away of sins was merely symbolic as well? On the contrary, Paul is here is describing the “operation of God” in actually removing our guilt by cutting away our sin.  So we see that in order for us to enjoy the saving relationship that is “in Him,” we must have experienced this cutting away, separating ourselves from the body of sin.  Again, the question is simple; when does this cutting away take place?

The first words of verse 12 give us great insight into when we receive this cutting away which allows us to enter into a saving relationship with Christ; when one is “buried with Him in baptism.” This particular clause modifies, both logically and grammatically, the term circumcision in verse 11 and expresses the conditions, or circumstances under which the cutting away occurs.  In other words, the cutting away of sins by Jesus Christ takes place when one is buried “with Him.”  When are we buried with Him; “in (en) baptism.”  The Greek preposition en is used primarily to denote position in place, state, or time it gives us the condition under which an action takes place.  In this passage, Paul gives us all three: place: we are “complete en Him” (vs. 10), state: we are circumcised en Him (vs. 11), time: when we are buried en baptism (vs. 12).  In order to be “in Him” we must be buried “with Him” so that our sins may be cut away “by Him.”

Some see this as baptismal regeneration, a form of sacramentalism which places the power in the act of baptism.  Neither this passage nor any other teach that baptism is inherently efficacious, i.e. that the power to save is in the water or in the act of baptism itself.  A further examination of verse 12 makes this abundantly clear.

We are not only buried in baptism, we are risen.  Romans 6:4, a parallel passage, tells us that we are “buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The Greek term translated “risen” in Colossians 2:12 is used two other times and in both contexts has to do with a new life that is lived in Christ (Eph. 2:6, Col. 3:1).  Just as in Romans 6 we have here a death, the old man of sin, or the cut away sins of the flesh, and a raising i.e. a new life given to a justified believer.  The question now becomes what gives one this new life?

Paul answers this question plainly for us, “wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God.”  The word “wherein” is en so when we are baptized we are also risen i.e. a spiritual life is given to us who were previously “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). The word “through” however is the preposition dia, this term always indicates the means through which a thing is accomplished which in this passage is faith.  Baptism before or without faith is ineffective.  Faith serves as a mediate agent for the power of God.  “The operation of God” is the power that gives us life.  In verse 11, we see a cutting away of the body of the sins of the flesh; this cutting is made “without hands” that is without human power or ability.  It is the operation, or working, of God that allows us to be risen to a new life in Christ not the human work of baptism.

Why be baptized?  In baptism we appeal to God in faith for the forgiveness of our sins.  In Colossians 2:11-12, we have two distinct but simultaneous actions one performed with hands one performed without.  By being baptized, the repentant sinner appeals in faith to the very power that raised Jesus from the grave (1Pet 3:21) petitioning God for a new life free of the burden of sin, in baptism God exercises that power cutting away the unbearable burden.  Baptism that saves is not a boast before either God or man that one has been saved; instead it is the humblest form of submission in which a guilty sinner pleads to the mighty God for forgiveness.  By submitting to baptism, we submit to the conditions of God’s grace, we appeal to his mercy and we experience His saving power.

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