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  • Writer's pictureTrey Talley

Does This Verse Prove That Baby Circumcision Was Replaced by Baby Baptism?

Updated: Mar 25

(3rd article of Baptizing Babies is not Biblical)

Baby baptizers base their practice on the belief that baby baptism has replaced baby circumcision as the sign of the covenant. But what passages is this replacement theory based upon? For there to be so many baby baptizers, there must surely be a multitude of clear Biblical teachings supporting their practice. However, many are shocked to find there is not a lot, little, or even one single passage of Scripture that supports the replacement of baby circumcision with baby baptism.

Any baby baptizer who has been trained to defend their position would immediately object to this accusation by saying something to the effect of, "Oh, well, what about Colossians 2 where Paul says that circumcision has been replaced with baptism?" This passage is considered the supreme passage that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christians should baptize their babies. So, let's not beat around the bush and get directly to the foremost proof text supposedly in their arsenal. Paul writes:

11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11-14) 

Paul was writing to the prominently Gentile church in Colossae, who had not been physically circumcised since circumcision was only given to the Israelites [1] Circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham. It involved cutting off the foreskin of the male genitalia with a sharp knife and was performed primarily by the hands of the child's parents or a priest on the 8th day. Will the Gentile believers need to be physically circumcised now that they are saved? No. Why not? Because Paul lets them know that the physical circumcision sign of the Old Covenant is said to be replaced with something greater, what Paul calls "the circumcision of Christ."

Don't miss this point: the physical circumcision of the Old Covenant has been replaced by "the circumcision of Christ," not with water baptism. What kind of circumcision is the circumcision of Christ? Good question. Let’s find out before we continue to baptism.

The Circumcision of Christ Has Been Performed on All Christians

From the text, it is evident that the replacement was a universal experience for all Christians. God performed it, and it was spiritual, not physical. Every single one of the Colossian believers had already received the circumcision of Christ, even though they had not been, nor needed to be, physically circumcised. This truth was not only for the Gentile believers in Colossae but for all believers everywhere. This we can see as Paul wrote to the Philippians in virtually the same way:


2Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, and look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2-3)

In Philippians, like in Colossians 2, Paul reveals that the replacement of physical circumcision has to do with what had happened to all of the Philippian believers. All of them were now enabled to rightly worship the Spirit of God due to the spiritual circumcision they had received. According to Paul, believers, no matter if they were Jewish (as Paul was) or Gentile (like the Philippians and Colossians), had all received the "circumcision of Christ" and were now considered members of "the circumcision." This is extremely similar to how he wrote that the Colossians, who, even though physically uncircumcised, had received something far greater, the "circumcision of Christ." In both passages, Paul emphasized the universality of the new circumcision upon all believers.


Who Performs the Circumcision of Christ?

One thing is sure: it is not performed upon us by the hand of a priest or a parent. Paul makes this clear in Colossians when he says that the circumcision which they received was "not done with the hands." Instead, it was supernaturally performed by Christ Himself, which is why it is called "the circumcision of Christ." 

Circumcision of the Old Covenant involved a surgical procedure that involved the removal of a small piece of skin, but the new circumcision performed by Christ removes something much larger (metaphorically speaking), the "body of flesh." This does not mean that Christ removes our entire physical body; instead, it is a metaphorical way of speaking about a person whose "body" was once controlled by sinful desires but now has been made new, a supernatural work of God.[2] As Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."[3] The stony heart that was insensitive to the things of God has been removed, and a heart that beats for God has replaced it.[4] No longer are those who are saved, dominated, or enslaved by their sinful flesh because it has been circumcised. 

The Circumcision of Christ is Spiritual, not Physical


The circumcision of Christ is another way of speaking of salvation, specifically in connection with the regeneration aspect of salvation. Observe how Paul speaks of the more significant circumcision to the Romans:

28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

Here, too, we see that the Spirit accomplishes circumcision, not man. Also note that the circumcision which Paul is speaking of is not performed on the outside of the body but on the inside. The circumcision that Paul writes of is performed by God on the heart of every believer.


What Does This Have to Do With Baptism?


Sorry for the delay, but it is essential to understand the teaching of verse 11, that spiritual circumcision has replaced physical circumcision, before we get to verse 12, which speaks about baptism. Now, with a good understanding of verse 11, let's proceed, but first, let's read it in context again.


11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11-14) 

Baby baptizers believe that verse 12 is the critical passage that teaches that physical circumcision has been replaced by water baptism. However, it is vital to see that God's supernatural, spiritual action carries on from verse 11 right into the next verse. The One who circumcised them is also the One who baptized them. Even though the Colossian believers were water-baptized, this passage primarily speaks of baptism in a spiritual manner, like how Paul had just spoken of spiritual circumcision. Paul is not going from explaining something spiritual to something physical; instead, he is sticking to the same line of reasoning, which is spiritual.

The physically uncircumcised believers had been spiritually circumcised. They had also been physically baptized, as all believers were instructed to do. Still, Paul uses the picture of water baptism to speak of their spiritual baptism and union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.


What is Greater Than Water Baptism?


Just because Paul uses the word “baptism” here, it does not automatically mean that he is only talking about the water baptism they received upon belief. For instance, read the following passages and see how Paul speaks of baptism, which means something far greater than being emersed into water.


1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:2-11)


5… he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6)


26… for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)


11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)


12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)


What is the point of proving that not all baptism passages involve water? It is of tremendous importance to understand how Paul speaks of baptism in Col. 2:12 in relation to circumcision in Col. 2:12. The "baptism" that Paul is speaking of is spiritual, just like the circumcision of the preceding verse and like the other passages that were just cited. The circumcision that the believers in Colossae received was spiritual, and the same point is made as Paul moves to verse 12 and speaks on the baptism that the Colossians received.

Human hands do not perform the circumcision that Paul writes of, and neither do human hands perform the baptism of verse twelve. If not with human hands, then who is doing the circumcision and the baptism? God. This supernatural activity is seen in verses 11, 12, and again in the following verses: 


13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) 

When we read Colossians 2:11-14 rightly, we see that God is the One who circumcises, baptizes, makes us alive, forgives, and cancels our debt of sin. All of this is done by the hand of God and cannot be done by the "hands of man," which includes any man, be they a minister, priest, or a parent. 

The circumcision and the baptism that were performed upon them "without hands,” in other words, not by the hands of man is a critical point that baby baptizers fail to apply to their circumcision-baptism replacement theory. Instead of acknowledging that only God has the power to spiritually circumcise and unify a believer into the death and resurrection of Christ, they take matters into their own "hands" by baptizing babies. Such a practice cannot find any support in this passage and instead contradicts this passage, which speaks exclusively about what God has done and changes it into something they can do with their hands. By baptizing a baby, they have taken this passage to mean the opposite of the doctrine being taught by Paul. The point of this passage is to glorify God for what He had accomplished for them in salvation and has nothing to do with babies being baptized.


Baby Baptizer’s Interpretation Leads to a Greater Error


Even if Colossians 2:11-14 spoke about water baptism instead of the higher spiritual truths of being united with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, the passage would prove far more than most baby baptizers are willing to admit. According to the text, ALL those baptized have also received everything else that accompanies salvation: the circumcision of Christ, union with Christ, being made alive, and having all their sins forgiven. In other words, once a baby baptizer uses this passage to justify their practice, the same hermeneutic must continue throughout the passage. If Paul was saying that baby baptism had replaced baby circumcision, then by the same interpretive method, the baby baptizers are required to admit that the blessing of that physical baptism includes all of the blessings that Paul mentions. Such an interpretation has led many groups, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and others, to believe that a baby is regenerated at baptism. As preposterous as this seems, other groups like Presbyterians have to fight hard to use this passage to their advantage without, at the same time, espousing the heresy of baptismal regeneration. However, if their hermeneutics remain consistent, it is impossible not to arrive there.


Summary: The proof text (Colossians 2:11-14) for baby baptism is actually not one at all. Consider these questions, and I believe you will agree. How many babies were mentioned in the passage? None. How many times were the Colossians commanded to baptize their babies? None. Where did Paul say that baby circumcision has been replaced with baby baptism? Nowhere. Is there a command given for the parents to now baptize their babies instead of circumcising them? No. This supposed proof text proves nothing except that the baby baptizers have read into the text a meaning of their own making.

The replacement of physical circumcision done by the hand of man is the spiritual circumcision performed by Christ upon the heart. Yes, believers are to be water baptized, but it is NOT done to receive spiritual baptism; it is in response to it. The baptismal waters do not bring about regeneration. Regeneration is a divine work of God that brings the dead soul to life. God's work of regeneration comes before we have faith, brings us to faith and repentance, and then and only then are we to be water baptized.


Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder


[1] Genesis 17:12-13

[2] Romans 6:6, 7:24, Phil. 3:21, Col.3:5

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[4] Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27

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