Colossians 2:11
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) The circumcision made without hands.—This abrupt introduction of the idea of circumcision would be difficult to understand, were it not for the knowledge of the enforcement of Jewish observance so strangely mixed with this “philosophy” at Colossæ. (Comp. Ephesians 2:11, “Ye who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made with hands.”) The phrase “made without hands” is so constantly used of heavenly realities (as in Mark 14:58; 2Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24), as opposed to earthly symbols, that it comes to have the positive sense of “spiritual.” It is defined below as “the circumcision of Christ”—that which Christ has given us in Himself—in contradistinction to the old circumcision which is now “nothing.” (On the treatment of this subject in the Epistles of this period, comp. with this passage Ephesians 2:11-12; Philippians 3:2-3, and see Notes there.)

In putting off the body . . .—The words “of the sins” are not found in the best MSS. They are, no doubt, an explanatory gloss to soften the harshness of the phrase “the body of the flesh.” (1) What “the body of the flesh” is we see clearly by Colossians 3:9, “having put off the old man.” It is, like the “body of sin” (in Romans 6:6) and the “body of death” (in Romans 7:24), the body so far as it is, in the bad sense of the word “flesh,” fleshly. The body itself is not “put off:” for it is not evil; it is a part of the true man, and becomes the temple of God. It is only so far as in it the flesh rebels against the spirit, and the “old man is gradually corrupted by the lusts of deceit” (Ephesians 4:22), that it is to be “put off.” (2) But why the “body of the flesh,” and not the “flesh” simply? The answer is, no doubt, that which Chrysostom here gives, that the bodily circumcision was but of one member, in mere symbolism of one form of purity; the spiritual circumcision is the putting away of the whole of the power of the flesh, and that, too, not in symbol, but in reality.

Colossians 2:11-12. In whom also ye are circumcised — Ye have received the spiritual blessings signified of old by circumcision; with the circumcision made without hands — Namely, an internal, spiritual circumcision; in putting off — Not a little skin, but the whole body of the sins of the flesh — All the sins proceeding from your corrupt nature; by the circumcision of Christ — The circumcision of the heart, which Christ requires and effects. Buried with him, &c. — That is, which he wrought in you when you were, as it were, buried with him in baptism — The ancient manner of baptizing by immersion is as manifestly alluded to here, as the other manner of baptizing by sprinkling, or pouring of water, is, Hebrews 10:22. But no stress is laid on the age of the baptized, or the manner of performing it, in one or the other place; but only on our being quickened, or renewed, through the powerful operation of his Spirit in the soul, which we cannot but know assuredly, if we really are so: and if we do not experience this, our baptism has not answered the end of its institution. Wherein — Or rather, by which; ye are risen with him — From the death of sin, to the life of righteousness; through the faith of the operation of God — Faith wrought in you by God: see on Ephesians 2:8; or, through faith in the energy of God, as some render δια της πιστεως της ενεργειας του Θεου; who raised him from the dead — They who put this latter sense upon the passage explain it thus: “The circumcision which Christ performs being accomplished by the influence of the doctrines of the gospel upon the minds of believers, and their belief of these doctrines being founded on their belief of the resurrection of Christ, their belief of that great miracle is justly represented as the means whereby they are made new creatures.” The doctrines of the gospel, however, will produce no such effect, unless they be accompanied by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

2:8-17 There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men's fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God. To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word complete, is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. In him, not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law. Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ's death was the death of our sins; Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities. The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord's day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.In whom - In connection with whom, or in virtue of whose religion.

Ye are circumcised - You have received that which was designed to be represented by circumcision - the putting away of sin; Notes, Philippians 3:3.

With the circumcision made without hands - That made in the heart by the renunciation of all sin. The Jewish teachers insisted on the necessity of the literal circumcision in order to salvation (compare Ephesians 2:11); and hence, this subject is so often introduced into the writings of Paul, and he is at so much pains to show that, by believing in Christ, all was obtained which was required in order to salvation. Circumcision was an ordinance by which it was denoted that all sin was to be cut off or renounced, and that he who was circumcised was to be devoted to God and to a holy life. All this, the apostle says, was obtained by the gospel; and, consequently they had all that was denoted by the ancient rite of circumcision. What Christians had obtained, moreover, related to the heart; it was not a mere ordinance pertaining to the flesh.

In putting off the body of the sins of the flesh - That is, in renouncing the deeds of the flesh, or becoming holy. The word "body," here, seems to be used with reference to circumcision. In that ordinance, the body of the FLesH was subjected to the rite; with Christians, it is the body of Sin that is cut off.

By the circumcision of Christ - Not by the fact that Christ was circumcised, but that we have that kind of circumcision which Christ established, to wit, the renouncing of sin. The idea of the apostle here seems to be, that since we have thus been enabled by Christ to renounce sin, and to devote ourselves to God, we should not, be induced by any plausible arguments to return to an ordinance pertaining to the flesh, as if that were needful for salvation.

11. Implying that they did not need, as the Judaizers taught, the outward rite of circumcision, since they had already the inward spiritual reality of it.

are—rather, as the Greek, "Ye were (once for all) circumcised (spiritually, at your conversion and baptism, Ro 2:28, 29; Php 3:3) with a (so the Greek) circumcision made without hands"; opposed to "the circumcision in the flesh made by hands" (Eph 2:11). Christ's own body, by which the believer is sanctified, is said to be "not made with hands" (Mr 14:58; Heb 9:11; compare Da 2:45).

in putting off—rather as Greek, "in your putting off"; as an old garment (Eph 4:22); alluding to the putting off the foreskin in circumcision.

the body of the sins of the flesh—The oldest manuscripts read, "the body of the flesh," omitting "of the sins," that is, "the body," of which the prominent feature is fleshiness (compare Ro 8:13, where "flesh" and "the body" mutually correspond). This fleshly body, in its sinful aspect, is put off in baptism (where baptism answers its ideal) as the seal of regeneration where received in repentance and faith. In circumcision the foreskin only was put off; in Christian regeneration "the body of the flesh" is spiritually put off, at least it is so in its ideal conception, however imperfectly believers realize that ideal.

by—Greek, "in." This spiritual circumcision is realized in, or by, union with Christ, whose "circumcision," whereby He became responsible for us to keep the whole law, is imputed to believers for justification; and union with whom, in all His vicarious obedience, including His circumcision, is the source of our sanctification. Alford makes it explanatory of the previous, "a circumcision made without hands," namely, "the circumcision brought about by your union with Christ." The former view seems to me better to accord with Col 2:12; 3:1, 3, 4, which similarly makes the believer, by spiritual union with Christ, to have personal fellowship in the several states of Christ, namely, His death, resurrection, and appearing in glory. Nothing was done or suffered by our Mediator as such, but may be acted in our souls and represented in our spirits. Pearson's view, however, is that of Alford. Joshua, the type (not Moses in the wilderness), circumcised the Israelites in Canaan (Jos 5:2-9) the second time: the people that came out of Egypt having been circumcised, and afterwards having died in the wilderness; but those born after the Exodus not having been so. Jesus, the Antitype, is the author of the true circumcision, which is therefore called "the circumcision of Christ" (Ro 2:29). As Joshua was "Moses' minister," so Jesus, "minister of the circumcision for the truth of God" unto the Gentiles (Ro 15:8).

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands: he removes what they who are addicted to superstition might suggest, as if there were somewhat defective to a completeness in Christ, by showing there was no need of any addition to what he required in the gospel; for that they might most plausibly urge of circumcision, as being the seal of the old covenant, and an obligation to the whole law, Galatians 5:3, which some pressed as necessary to salvation, Acts 15:1,24, he here shows was altogether needless now, that they were sanctified and had the thing signified by it, the circumcision of the heart, Romans 2:28,29 Php 3:3, and were complete in Christ without it; yea, that the urging of that and other ceremonies now, was a pernicious error, tending to annihilate the cross of Christ, and overthrow the whole mystery of his grace. It is true it was appointed to the Jews, a figure of a thing absent; they therefore who retain that figure after the coming of Christ, deny that to be complete which it doth figure, and so abolish the presence of the truth; by stickling for the shadow, they let go the substance, viz. the circumcision not made by the operation of man, but of God; not with the knife of Moses, but the word of Christ, sharper than any two-edged sword, Hebrews 4:12: and if we compare this with the verse following, and Philippians 3:3, the apostle intimates that baptism is the same to us Christians which circumcision was to the Jews; and that is often ascribed to the external administration, that is only the internal operation of the Spirit, as Romans 6:3,4 Ga 3:27,28 Tit 3:5 1 Peter 3:21. Now though there was during the shadow of it, Hebrews 10:1, under the Old Testament, the circumcision of the heart, as well as under the New, Deu 10:16 30:6 Jeremiah 4:4; yet under the New Testament Christ the substance (who was only before in the promise) being now exhibited, having abolished the old symbol and instituted baptism in the room of it; that with the hands in the flesh, Ephesians 2:11, which they who received not the promise, i.e. the Messiah promised, used, Hebrews 11:39, was to be no more urged, now the benefit by the merit of his obedience unto the death of the cross, whereby he circumciseth from sin, might be enjoyed, as was signified by baptism, appointed to this end, Matthew 28:19 Acts 2:38 Romans 6:3,4 Ga 3:27 1 Peter 3:21.

In putting off the body of the sins of the flesh: hence he doth illustrate this spiritual circumcision by describing the parts of it, beginning with the mortification of the old man, corrupted nature, containing not only the body and senses, but the soul tainted with the defilements of sin, Colossians 3:5 Romans 6:6 Galatians 5:19-21,24 Eph 4:22. The body of sins which do mostly exert themselves in the flesh, every member and power while unregenerate being active in the committing of sin, till the new man be put on, Ephesians 4:24, and the dominion of it be subdued; not by any natural part which a man hath of himself for that purpose, but by the circumcision of Christ, not properly that whereby he himself was circumcised in the flesh the eighth day, but that which he hath indispensably required to have admission into his kingdom, John 3:3, and which he himself is the worker of, doth procure by his merit, and effect by his Spirit, which all the suasion of the sublimest philosophers, and devotion of superstitious ones, cannot do.

In whom also ye are circumcised,.... This is said to prevent an objection that might be made to the perfection of these Gentile believers, because they were not circumcised; for the Jews thought that perfection lay in circumcision, at least that there could be no perfection without it:

"great is circumcision (say they (x)), for notwithstanding all the commands which Abraham our father did, he was not called perfect until he was circumcised; as it is written, Genesis 17:1; "walk before me, and be thou perfect:"

which objection the apostle anticipates, by observing, that they were circumcised in Christ their head, who is made unto them sanctification; and by him as the meritorious and efficient cause of their regeneration and conversion, or internal circumcision, the antitype and perfection of circumcision in the flesh; for the former, and not the latter, is here meant: these believers were circumcised in Christ, or by him; not with external circumcision, which was peculiar to the Jews, the natural seed of Abraham, prefigured Christ, and had its accomplishment in him, the body and substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law; and so was now nothing, either to Jew or Gentile: as for the Gentiles, they never were obliged unto it; and as for the Jews, it was an insupportable yoke to them, binding them to keep the whole law of Moses, which they could not do, and so it made nothing perfect; but Christ the substance of that, and the end of the whole law, has, the head of the body the church, in whom all the members of it are complete, and are circumcised:

with the circumcision made without hands: which is that of the heart, in the spirit; every man, though he may be circumcised in the flesh, is uncircumcised in heart, until he is circumcised by Christ and his Spirit; which is done, when he is pricked to the heart, and thoroughly convinced of sin, and the exceeding sinfulness of it; when the callousness and hardness of his heart is taken off and removed, and the iniquity of it is, laid open, the plague and corruption in it discerned, and all made naked and bare to the sinner's view; and when he is in pain on account of it, is broken and groans under a sense of it, and is filled with shame for it, and loathing and abhorrence of it: now this is effected not "by the hand of man", as the Ethiopic version reads it, as outward circumcision was; this is not done by any creature whatever; not by angels, who rejoice at the repentance of sinners, but cannot produce it; nor by ministers of the Gospel, who at most are but instruments of regeneration and conversion; nor by men themselves; this is not by might or power of man, by the strength of his free will, but by the Spirit of God: for though men are sometimes exhorted to circumcise themselves, as in Deuteronomy 10:16, in order to convince them of the corruption of their nature, and the need they stand in of spiritual circumcision; yet whereas there is an utter disability in them to effect it, and they need the power and grace of God for that purpose, the Lord has graciously promised his people to do it himself for them, Deuteronomy 30:6; so that this circumcision is in the name sense made without hands, as the human nature of Christ is said to be a tabernacle not made with hands, that, is of men, but of God, being what God has pitched, and not man; and it stands opposed to circumcision in the flesh, which was made with hands, Ephesians 2:11; and by some instrument, as a sharp knife or stone:

in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. The Vulgate Latin version leaves out the word "sins", and so the Alexandrian copy and some others; and the Syriac version the word "body": by "the flesh" is meant corrupt nature, which is born of the flesh, and propagated in a carnal way, and is the source and spring of all sin; by "the sins" of it are intended the works of the flesh, the inward motions of sin in the members, and the outward actions of it: these are said to be a "body", because sin consists of various parts and members, as a body does; and these united together, and which receive frequent and daily additions; and which are committed and yielded to by the members of the natural body; and which body and bulk of sins arising from the corruption of nature are compared to a garment, and a very filthy one it is; in the putting off of which lies spiritual circumcision: this is done several ways; partly by Christ's wrapping himself in the sins of his people, bearing them in his body, and becoming a sacrifice for them, whereby the old man was crucified, and the body of sin destroyed; and by an application of his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, to the consciences of his people, whereby their iniquities are caused to pass from them, and they are clothed with change of raiment; and by the power of his Spirit, laying sin under the restraints of grace, not suffering it to have dominion, but causing grace to reign through righteousness; and by the saints themselves, under the influence of grace, who put off the old man with his deeds, according to the former conversation:

by the circumcision of Christ; not that with which Christ was circumcised at eight days old, that he might appear to be truly man, and a son of Abraham, and under the law, and to fulfil all the righteousness of it, but that which he by his Spirit is the author of, and what is before expressed,

(x) Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 11.

{9} In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the {p} body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

(9) Now he deals precisely against the third type, that is to say, against those who urged the Jewish religion: and first of all, he denies that we have need of the circumcision of the flesh, seeing that without it we are circumcised within, by the power of Christ.

(p) These many words are used to show what the old man is, whom Paul in other places calls the body of sin.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 2:11. Respecting the connection and its reference to the false teachers, so far as they “Iegem evangelio miscebant” (Calvin), see on Colossians 2:10.

ἐν ᾧ] like ἐν αὐτῷ in Colossians 2:10 : on whom it also causally depends that ye, etc. This applies to the point of time of their entrance into the union with Christ, as is clear from the historical περιετμ., which took place on them through their conversion (comp. Colossians 2:12).

καί] also circumcised were ye. The καί is the simple also, which, however, does not introduce an element included under πεπληρωμ. ἐστε (Hofmann), but to the previous relative statement (ὅς ἐστιν κ.τ.λ.) appends another; comp. Colossians 2:12. Hofmann’s objection, that the foregoing relative statement has indeed reference to the readers, but is made without reference to them, is an empty subtlety, which is connected with the erroneous rendering of πάσης ἀρχῆς κ. ἐξουσ.

περιτομῇ ἀχειροπ.] is not supplementary and parenthetical (Hofmann), as if Paul had written περιτομῇ δὲ ἀχειροπ., but appends immediately to περιετμηθ. its characteristic, whereby it is distinguished from what is elsewhere meant by circumcision; hence the thought is: “in your union with Christ there has also taken place a circumcision upon you (Gentiles), which is not (like the Jewish circumcision) the work of hands;” comp. Ephesians 2:11. On the word ἀχειροπ. itself (which is similar to ἀχειρούργητος, Poll. ii. 154), in analogous antithetical reference, comp. Mark 14:58; 2 Corinthians 5:1; and on the idea of the inner ethical circumcision, of which the bodily is the type, comp. Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51. See Michaelis in loc., and the expositors on Romans 2:29; Schoettgen, Hor. I. p. 815.

ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει κ.τ.λ.] This characteristic περειτμήθητε περιτ. ἀχειρ. took place by means of the putting off of the body of the flesh, which was accomplished in your case (observe the passive connection), i.e. in that the body, whose essence and nature are flesh, was taken off and put away from you by God.[96] With reference to ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει κ.τ.λ., which is to be coupled not merely with ΠΕΡΙΕΤΜΉΘΗΤΕ (Hofmann), but with the entire specifically defined conception of circumcision ΠΕΡΙΕΤΜ. ΠΕΡΙΤ. ἈΧΕΙΡΟΠ., it is to be noticed: (1) that the genitive Τῆς ΣΆΡΚΟς is the genitivus materiae, as in Colossians 1:22; (2) that the σάρξ here is not indifferent, but means the flesh as the seat of sin, and of its lusts and strivings (Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25; Romans 8:3; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 3:5, et al.); so that Paul (3) might have conveyed the idea of τὸ σῶμα τῆς σαρκ. also by ΤῸ ΣῶΜΑ Τῆς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς (Romans 6:6), but the description by Τῆς ΣΑΡΚΌς was suggested to him by the thought of the circumcision (Romans 2:28; Ephesians 2:11). (4) The significant and weighty expression ἈΠΕΚΔΎΣΕΙ (the substantive used only here, the verb also in Colossians 2:15; Colossians 3:9; Josephus, Antt. vi. 14. 2) is selected in contrast to the operation of the legal circumcision, which only wounded the σῶμα τ. σαρκός and removed a portion of one member of it; whereas the spiritual circumcision, divinely performed, consisted in a complete parting and doing away with this body, in so far as God, by means of this ethical circumcision, has taken off and removed the sinful body from man (the two acts are expressed by the double compound), like a garment which is drawn off and laid aside. Ethically circumcised, i.e. translated by conversion from the estate of sin into that of the Christian life of faith and righteousness (see Colossians 2:12), consequently born again as καινὴ κτίσις,[97] as a καινὸς ἄνθρωπος created after God (Ephesians 4:24), man has no longer any σῶμα τῆς σαρκός at all, because the body which he has is rid of the sinful ΣΆΡΞ as such, as regards its sinful quality; he is no longer ἘΝ Τῇ ΣΑΡΚΊ as previously, when lust ἘΝΗΡΓΕῖΤΟ ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΜΈΛΕΣΙΝ (Romans 7:5; comp. Colossians 2:23); he is no longer ΣΆΡΚΙΝΟς, ΠΕΠΡΑΜΈΝΟς ὙΠῸ ΤῊΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑΝ (Romans 7:14), but is dead for sin (Romans 6:11); he has crucified the ΣΆΡΞ (Galatians 5:24), and no longer walks ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ, but ἘΝ ΚΑΙΝΌΤΗΤΙ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς (Romans 7:6); by the law of the Holy Spirit he is freed from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), ἘΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΙ (Romans 8:9), dead with Christ (Galatians 2:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 3:3), and risen, so that his members are ὍΠΛΑ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗς Τῷ ΘΕῷ (Romans 6:13). This Christian transformation is represented in its ideal aspect, which disregards the empirical imperfection, according to which the σάρξ is still doubtless even in the regenerate at variance with the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ (Galatians 5:17). Our dogmatists well describe regeneration as perfecta a parte Dei, but as imperfecta a parte hominum recipientium. To take σῶμα in the sense of massa or aggregate (Calvin, Grotius, Calovius, and others, including Steiger and Bähr[98]), is opposed as well to the context, in which the discourse turns upon circumcision and (Colossians 2:12) upon burial and resurrection, as also to the linguistic usage of the N. T. In classic authors it expresses the notion in question in the physical sense, e.g. Plat. Tim. p. 32 C: τὸ τοῦ κόσμου σῶμα (comp. p. 31 B, Hipp. maj. p. 301 B), and in later writers may also denote generally a whole consisting of parts (comp. Cicero, ad Att. 2:1. 4). In opposition to the erroneous assumption that σῶμα must have a figurative meaning here, as Julius Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 459 f., still in the 5th ed., thinks,[99] see on Romans 6:6; comp. also Hofmann, Schriftbew. I. p. 560 f.

ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χ.] by means of the circumcision of Christ, parallel to the previous ἐν τῇ ἀπεκσύσει κ.τ.λ., naming specifically (as different from that of the Old Testament) the circumcision described previously according to its nature. The genitive τοῦ Χριστοῦ is to be rendered: the circumcision, which is produced through Christ. The context requires this by the further explanation of the thing itself in Colossians 2:12. Comp. above, ἐν ᾧ. But Christ is not conceived of as Himself the circumciser, in so far, namely, as by baptism (Theophylact, Beza, and others), or by His Spirit (Bleek), He accomplishes the cleansing and sanctification of man (see on Colossians 2:11. The reference to circumcision seems to come in abruptly. But probably it stands in close connexion with what has gone before. For the return to the principalities and powers in Colossians 2:15 shows that Paul is not passing here to a new section of his subject. Judaism, of which circumcision was the most characteristic feature, was regarded as under angelic powers, and the removal of them meant its abolition. It seems probable that the false teachers set a high value on circumcision, and urged it on the Colossians, not as indispensable to salvation, in which case Paul would have definitely attacked them on this point, but as conferring a higher sanctity. There seems to be no suggestion that it was regarded as a charm against evil spirits. The Apostle does not merely leave them with the statement that they have been made full in Christ, which rendered circumcision unnecessary, but adds that they have already received circumcision, not material but spiritual, not the removal of a fragment of the body, but the complete putting off of the body of flesh.—ἐν ᾧ καὶ περιετμήθητε. A definite historical fact is referred to, as is shown by the aorist. This was their conversion, the inward circumcision of the heart, by which they entered on the blessings of the New Covenant. The outward sign of this is baptism, with which Paul connects it in the next verse. But it cannot be identified with it, for it is not made with hands. The circumcision of the heart is a prophetic idea (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:25, Ezekiel 44:7; Ezekiel 44:9). In Paul it occurs Romans 2:28-29, Php 3:3.—περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ: “with 2 circumcision not wrought by hands,” i.e., spiritual, ethical (cf. Ephesians 2:11, οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία ὑπὸ τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆς ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιήτου).—ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός: “in the stripping from you of the body of the flesh”. The expression σῶμα τ. σαρκὸς is unusual. It means the body which consists of flesh, and of flesh as the seat of sin. By the removal of the home in which sin dwelt sin itself was removed. It is one of those cases in which the sense of σῶμα approximates to that of σάρξ. This body of flesh is removed from the Christian at his conversion.—ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. This cannot be the circumcision endured by Christ in His infancy, for that was wrought by hands, and such a reference would be most unfortunate for the polemic against ceremonies and altogether un-Pauline. Usually it is explained as the circumcision of our hearts which comes from Christ. But this has no parallel in the N.T.; further, it practically repeats ἐν ᾧ κ. περιετ.; and, coming between the removal of the body of the flesh and the burial with Christ, breaks the connexion. Accordingly Schneckenburger (followed by Kl[13], Sod., Haupt) suggested that it was really an expression for the death of Christ. (His view that ἀπεκ. τ. σ. τ. σ. was to be taken similarly has met with no acceptance.) In favour of this it may be said that in the immediate context Paul goes on to speak of burial and resurrection with Christ, and a reference to the death would naturally precede. And circumcision is a happy metaphor for Christ’s death to sin (Romans 6:10). Meyer’s objection that it is inappropriate since Christ endured actual circumcision is not serious, for, if sound, it should have excluded the choice of these ambiguous words altogether, which naturally suggest a circumcision suffered by Christ. But what creates a grave difficulty is that the thought does not seem to run on connectedly. There is a transition from the death of Christ on the cross to the burial of Christians with Him in their own personal experience. Perhaps this interpretation involves taking περιετμήθητε of the death of Christians with Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:14), for it doubles the difficulty if Paul passes from the personal experience of the Christian to the cross, and from the cross back to personal experience. This suggests the possibility that περ. Χ. might be interpreted on the analogy of θλίψεων τ. Χριστοῦ (Colossians 1:24) as the circumcision of Christ in the believer. This would give a good connexion, and one that would suit the apparent identification of the circumcision of Christ with the putting off of the body of the flesh. The phrase, however, is so strange, and the idea that Christ dies with us so questionable (we die with Him), that it seems unsafe to adopt it. It is, therefore, best to mitigate the difficulty by the view that in these words Paul interpolates, in a concise and obscure expression, a reference to the great fact which underlay the spiritual experiences of which he is speaking. This circumcision, he would say, that is the removal of the flesh, was first experienced by Christ on the cross, and what happened to you ideally then is realised though union with Him now.

[13] Klöpper.

11. in whom] The truth of the holy Union of members and Head is again in view. What he is about to speak of was done by the fact of, by virtue of, their oneness with Christ.

are circumcised] Better, were circumcised, when you entered “into Christ.” They already had that Divine Reality, the sacred but obsolete type of which the new teachers now pressed upon them. As regarded order, ceremonial, deed and seal of conveyance, they acquired this in their Baptism; as regarded inward and ultimate reality they acquired it by believing on the name of the Son of God. See John 1:12; cp. 1 John 5:1.—Baptism is the Sacrament of Faith, and never, in principle and idea, to be dissociated from its Thing (Res), as if its work was done where the Thing is not truly present.

made without hands] It is a thing of the spiritual, eternal, order, the immediate work of the will of God.—Cp. 2 Corinthians 5:1.—Is this “circumcision” simply holy Baptism? No, surely, but that “inward and spiritual grace” of which Baptism is the sacramental Seal, “a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness” (Church Catechism). It is vital union with Christ, through faith, by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:17), viewed as our separation from the condemnation (Romans 6:11) and power (ib., 12, 13) of sin, and so our real entrance into a position of covenanted peace (Romans 5:1) and a condition of covenanted grace. In both these aspects it is the Antitype of the type Circumcision, and the Reality under the seal Baptism.

the putting off] The Greek is one strong compound word; “the entire stripping off.” It was, in principle and as regarded the call and grace of God, a total break with the old position and condition; not a reform but a revolution of the man’s standing and state.—The physical imagery is drawn of course from the severe Abrahamic rite.

the body of the sins of the flesh] Omit, on good evidence, the words “of the sins” which appear to be a (very intelligible) gloss or comment.

What is “the body of the flesh? Elsewhere in St Paul the word “body” appears never to mean anything but the physical frame, save in passages referring to the Church; but (in passages at all akin to this) it is that frame viewed as in some sense the vehicle of sin, or rather of temptation. Cp. Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:10-11; Romans 8:13. As God’s handiwork, the body is good, and on its way, in Christ, to glorification. As the body of man in the Fall, and as man’s means of contact with a sinful external world, if in no other way, it is so conversant with and affected by evil as to be (in that respect) an evil. As such it is “the body of the flesh,” that is, the body conditioned by, and reacting upon, our nature fallen and unregenerate.—See our notes on Romans 8:4 and Ephesians 2:3, on the word “flesh.”

In Christ, “by the Spirit,” the Christian is empowered to “mortify the practices of the body” (Romans 8:13). In Christ, “the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). In this respect the man, while still liable to physical weakness and weariness, and truly capable of temptation, and as a fact never so using his “fulness” in Christ as to be wholly free (whatever his consciousness) from the burthen of evil in and through “the body of the flesh,” yet stands on such a ground of vantage over the power of that body as to find by faith a noble practical reality in the strong words of this verse.—See further, on the other hand, notes on Colossians 3:5.

by the circumcision of Christ] Lit., in &c.; “as united to, interested in.”—What is this circumcision? that given by Christ, or that undergone by Christ? Much may be said for the latter. Our Lord was “circumcised for man,” as the sacramental Seal of His “subjection to the law for man”; and so His historical Circumcision has a deep connexion with our possession, through Him, of acceptance and sanctification, the fruit of His Righteousness and Merits. But in this context the other reference is preferable. We have but just read of a “circumcision not made with hands; surely the same is in view here. Christ, Messiah (the word here is not Jesus, which might have better suggested the historical reference), gives us spiritual circumcision when He joins us to Himself (see notes above), and so the circumcision is “His.”

Colossians 2:11. Καὶ) also. Paul now enumerates the steps in the progress of those, who have become partakers of the fulness of Christ.—περιετμήθητε, ye are circumcised) As circumcision, so baptism, refers to initiation.—περιτομῇ, with the circumcision) of the heart.—ἀχειροποιήτῳ, not made with hands) An epithet very suitable for the New Testament; comp. Ephesians 2:11; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24.—ἀπεκδύσει) a word most significant; Colossians 2:15.—τοῦ σώματος, of the body) This, as a whole, is opposed to the part, uncircumcision: ἀπέκδυσις σώματος, the putting (stripping) off the body, a mild definition of death. It is different therefore from baptism: it is the circumcision of the heart; it is death spiritual, in a good sense, whereas baptism is compared to burial. [Communion with (joint participation in) the death and burial and resurrection of Christ is described in this and the following verse.—V.g.]—τῆς σαρκὸς, of the flesh) There is an apposition between the body of sins and the flesh [not the body of the sins of the flesh, as Engl. Vers., but the body of the sins, that is to say, the flesh].—ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ) by the circumcision of Christ, which accords with the New Testament; a circumcision, to which that of Moses, in the flesh, gives place.

Verse 11. - In whom also ye were circumcised, with a circumcision not wrought by hands (Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 4:9-12; 1 Corinthians 7:18; Acts 15:l, 5; Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcision was insisted on by the new "philosophical" teacher as necessary to spiritual completeness; but from a different standpoint, and in a manner different from that of the Pharisaic Judaizers of Galatia and of Acts 15:1. By the latter it was preached as matter of Law and external requirement, and so became the critical point in the decision between the opposing principles of "faith" and "works." By the philosophical school it was enjoined as matter of symbolic moral efficiency. So Philo speaks of circumcision ('On the Migration of Abraham,' § 16) as "setting forth the excision of all the pleasures and passions, and the destruction of impious vain opinion" (see also his treatise 'On Circumcision'). From this point of view, baptism is the Christian circumcision, the new symbolic expression of the moral change which St. Paul and his opponents alike deemed necessary, though they understood it in a different sense from him (see vers. 20-23). In this respect the Christian is already complete, for his circumcision took place in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 3:5, 8, 9; Ephesians 4:22-25; Romans 6:6; Romans 7:18-25; Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 4:1, 2). The inserted "of the sins" is an ancient gloss. Ἀπ(έκ(δυσις, a double compound, found only in this Epistle (see corresponding verb in ver. 15; Colossians 3:9), denotes both "stripping off" and "putting away." "The stripping off of the body" was the ideal of the philosophical ascetics (see note on "body," ver. 23, and quotations from Philo). The apostle adds "of the flesh;" i.e. of the body in so far as it was the body of the flesh (vers. Colossians 2:13, 18, 23; Colossians 3:5). "The flesh" (in Colossians 1:22 that which Christ had put on; here that which the Christian puts off: comp. Romans 8:3) is "the flesh of sin," of Romans 8:3; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 2:3, etc. "The body," while identified with this "flesh," is "the body of sin" and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24; see Meyer, Godet, or Beet); sin inhabits it, clothes itself with it, and presents itself to us in its form; and this being the normal condition of unregenerate human nature, the sinful principle is naturally called the flesh. So "the (bodily) members" become "the members that are upon the earth," employed in the pursuit of lust and greed, till they become practically one with these vices (Colossians 3:5, see note; also Romans 7:5, 23). Yet "the body" and "the (sinful) flesh," while in the natural man one in practice, are in principle distinguishable (ver. 23: comp. Colossians 1:22], and separable (Romans 6:12). The deliverance from the physical acts and habits of the old sinful life, experienced by him who is "in Christ" (ver. 10; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17), is "the circumcision according to the Christ," or here more pointedly "of Christ" - a real and complete, instead of a partial and symbolic, putting away of the organic life and domination of sin which made the body its seat and its instrument. The genitive" of Christ "is neither objective ("undergone by Christ"), nor subjective ("wrought by Christ"), but stands in a mere general relation - "belonging to Christ," "the Christian circumcision." The occasion of this new birth in the Colossians was their baptism - Colossians 2:11Not made with hands

Compare Mark 14:58; 2 Corinthians 5:1. In allusion to the literal circumcision insisted on by the false teachers.

In the putting off (ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει)

Only here in the New Testament; and the kindred verb ἀπεκδύομαι to put off only Colossians 2:15 and Colossians 3:9. The verb ἐκδύομαι means to strip off from one's self, as clothes or armor; ἐκ out of, having the force of getting out of one's garments. By the addition to the verb of ἀπό from, there is added to the idea of getting out of one's clothes that of getting away from them; so that the word is a strong expression for wholly putting away from one's self. In the putting off, is in the act or process of. Not by.

The body of the sins of the flesh (τοῦ σώματος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τῆς σαρκὸς)

Omit of the sins. The body of the flesh (compare on Colossians 1:22) is the body which consists of the flesh, flesh having its moral sense of that material part which is the seat and organ of sin, "the flesh with its passions and lusts" (Galatians 5:24; compare 1 John 2:16). See on Colossians 1:24. For the distinction between σῶμα body and σάρξ flesh, see on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3.

In the circumcision of Christ (ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ)

The spiritual circumcision effected through Christ. See Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:29. In, as above. The fleshly circumcision removed only a portion of the body. In spiritual circumcision, through Christ, the whole corrupt, carnal nature is put away like a garment which is taken off and laid aside.

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