The Old Testament is replete with types and shadows that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. One of those Old Testament symbols of the covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was so integral to the Old Covenant that the concept of an uncircumcised Jew was unheard of.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he says that baptism is the spiritual fulfillment of circumcision.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having 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. (Colossians 2:11, 12 ESV)

Now that we are in the New Covenant with Christ, we experience a circumcision that is spiritual and of the heart. And according to Paul, this spiritual circumcision occurs at baptism. Fittingly, the concept of an unbaptized Christian is just as foreign to the New Testament as an uncircumcised Jew was to the Old Testament.

But is this verse in Colossians saying that baptism is what saves us? Well, was Abraham declared righteous before being circumcised or afterwards? According to Romans chapter 4, at what point was Abraham declared righteous?

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:7-10 ESV)

It was Abraham’s faith that caused him to obey the commandment of God and be circumcised, and it would be accurate to say that if Abraham had refused to obey God that he did not have faith. His obedience proved his faith. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we have faith, and that faith is proven, or validated, by our submitting to baptism.

Thus, salvation is by faith, and that faith is shown by our baptism. Righteousness comes by faith, and is not of works. We are saved by faith, not by faith plus a ritual. But that sign of the covenant must not be diminished or disregarded, either. Just as faith without obedience is out of context, obedience without faith is useless as well. But the connection of the old circumcision to baptism is clear. And Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God before he was circumcised. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we believe, and we submit to the sign of our covenant relationship when we are baptized. Failure to do so proves we didn’t really believe in the first place.

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