I was reading through St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians earlier this week and noticed something that I had never noticed before...
In Col 2:13 St. Paul tells the Colossians that they were once dead in their sins but now God had made them alive. What I hadn’t noticed was that St. Paul doesn’t say that they were only dead in their sins, but that they were dead in their sins AND the uncircumcision of their flesh. In other words, some part of their spiritual deadness was attributable to the fact that they had not been circumcised.
This actually made me realise that there was more to the sign of circumcision in the Old Covenant than simply the outward sign. If St. Paul says that they were dead in their sins and the uncircumcision of their flesh, then it stands to reason that those who were circumcised in the Old Covenant were actually made alive (or “regenerated”) by their circumcision.
Interestingly, this particular passage is in the context of St. Paul teaching the Colossians that they no longer need to be circumcised in order to be part of God’s covenant people. The reason St. Paul gives is that the circumcision of the flesh is replaced by the spiritual circumcision of the New Covenant (v11) which takes place in our baptism (v12).
So, in St. Paul’s thinking, just as God’s Old Covenant people of Israel were made alive in God by their circumcision, so too we as God’s New Covenant people (the Church, the continuation of Israel) are made alive in Christ through our baptism. And that is why our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus that the new birth takes place by the power of the Holy Spirit in our baptism (Jn 3:5).
This has significant implications for us as Christians then. St. Paul goes on to tell the Colossians that because of this change that God has worked in us, our lives should show it. If we are dead to our sins, we are alive in Christ and so we should live knowing that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. May this be our challenge especially over these last few weeks of Lent. May we give ourselves even more to living for Christ as we strive to live holy lives, and especially as we reach out in love to those around us so that they too can experience the love of Christ.