Colossians 2:11-12

Here is the passage in the ESV: “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.”

In Greek: ἐν καὶ περιετμήθητε περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός, ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 12συνταφέντες αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ βαπτισμῷ, ἐν καὶ συνηγέρθητε διὰ τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐνεργείας τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν:

The question for us is this: how connected are circumcision and baptism in this passage? The answer must be “very connected.” For example: the circumcision made without hands is epexegeted by verse 12’s “having been buried with him in baptism.” The circumcision of Christ at the end of verse 11 is also epexegeted by “baptism of Christ.” We know in other portions of Scripture that Jesus viewed His death as a baptism (Mark 10:38, where the present tense forbids us to understand His baptism there as the baptism that He experienced in the Jordan river). We also know that His death can be described as a cutting off (“circumcision”) for the sake of His people. Furthermore, we know that the New Covenant is in fundamental continuity with the Abrahamic Covenant (Galatians 3:7-9). So, in Colossians, Gentiles who have been baptized into Christ have already received the real circumcision. Now, some might attempt to argue that circumcision only has a pointing capacity (to Christ), and that therefore it ends with Christ’s finished work. However, here it is the Gentile (!) who is said to receive the circumcision, that is, that to which circumcision points. The significance, then, of circumcision is ongoing. The significance is that, in Christ’s circumcision, we receive that circumcision by being part of Christ’s body. How do we receive that circumcision? By being buried with Jesus in baptism. So, we receive that to which circumcision points by being baptized. Therefore, there is fundamental continuity between circumcision and baptism. Therefore, if anyone wishes to object to infant baptism, then those same objections have to be levelled against infant circumcision. This is part of John Calvin’s argument for infant baptism, by the way.



  1. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I know you don’t find this surprising, but I don’t agree with you on this point. The circumcision of that I believe is being spoken of here is the same that is spoken of in Jeremiah 4:4 and also in Ezekiel 36:26, which would point to something other than the circumcision of those who were infants. Jeremiah is speaking to circumcised Jews.

    I believe that those who have the circumcision of the Spirit are only believers not their babies. It seems to be continual, first, circumcision of the heart then being buried with Him in baptism. Does not Romans 6 speak of this? And is not Paul speaking to those who are believers in Romans 6 when he says, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” This can’t be referring to infants who are born and still slaves to sin.

    I like the discussion so please don’t take my comments as backlash, as iron sharpens iron, right?

  2. theologian said,

    November 27, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    But even the circumcision of the heart that Jeremiah speaks of is promised to our children…

    And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deu 30:6)

    If infants were not considered part of the Church, then they would not be entitled to the blessings of the Church – discipline, teaching, etc.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    I don’t dispute that the substance of circumcision refers to the heart circumcision. There is in the sacraments always a physical sign that points to the thing signified. However, the one does not have to occur at the same time as another. Credo baptists acknowledge this when they acknowledge that many people are baptized without being regenerated *and without faith*. There are hypocrites in Baptist churches, as in all other denominations. So baptism cannot be tied down so closely to regeneration. By the same token, the thing signified cannot be equated without distinction to the sign. Even if you are correct that what we are referring to here is the thing signified (which I don’t really dispute), that does not mean that the sign is to be taken away from infants. If baptism can come before the thing signified in an adult, then why not a child? The point I am making is not really about the nature of the circumcision referred to in the passage. The point I am making is about the express continuity between circumcision and baptism that is very clear in the passage. The one is even called by the name of the other. Even the OT passages to which you referred are talking about that to which circumcision *pointed.* Physical OT circumcision *always* pointed to the circumcision of the heart. It was a physical sign that pointed to a spiritual reality, just as baptism is a physical sign that points to a spiritual reality. Romans 4, while not mentioning baptism explicitly, has analogies to this point. Romans 4 says that it doesn’t really matter whether faith comes before or after circumcision. Justification happens at the time-point of faith. Therefore, the same is true of baptism. It does not matter whether baptism comes before or after faith. It can happen either way. Justification happens at the time-point of faith. As the WCF says, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    Larry, good point.

  5. November 27, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    The inclusion of children into the covenant by way of a covenantal rite (i.e. circumcision) had been a thorough-going practice in Israel for thousands of years. When Paul says that those who have been baptized have, in principle, been circumcized, he would have also had to make it clear to his audience that he is excluding covenant children. Children were presumed in the covenant, not out of it. Inclusion is the default position. It is left to the Baptist to exegetically prove children of covenant members are no longer to receive the sign of the covenant, not visa versa.

  6. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    I complelely agree that of course baptism does not save and there are even some who say they believe and are baptized but are not. My biggest issue is that in the NT and all here have heard this before so it is nothing new, but I never see in the NT that there is an explicit point from Christ or the apostles that say that circumcision is now baptism. Further, there is nothing in the NT besides believers being baptized. Even in Acts 2:38 the apostles say, “Repent and be baptized.” I know that I am not being exhaustive and that is not my point nor do I expect the same from you guys. For me, it seems as though there are a lot more “jumps to conclusion” with paedo vs credo. We can name verse after verse, and you guys know this and have heard this, but verse after verse of believer’s baptism in the NT yet none for infant. Is this something that will cause me to think that you guys are “crazy” or unsaved? Of course not. I would never go there as that is completely wrong. Baptism doesn’t save but is a representation of what Christ has done on the inside in the form of the outside. Let me ask you this, and I will admit I am asking without much thought, so bear with me. Would you allow an unbelieving adult to come and be baptized in your church, who at the time has no intent of believing? I don’t see the difference between the two, unbelieving infants and unbelieving adults. Again, bear with that question, please.

    Thanks for the discussion

  7. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 4:56 pm


    Let me ask, do you offer the Lord’s Supper in order that it is given in Scripture? Bread then wine?

    Then (guessing your answer is yes) why would you adhere to Scripture that speaks to repent and then be baptized? or all the other references where the people believe and then are baptized.

    Just a thought…

  8. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    Or adult children of new believing parents, and if infant baptism why not infant communion.

    I like your question Seth.

  9. November 27, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    In Act 2:38 it goes on to say “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. For the promise is to you and your children.” The NT doesn’t say infants were baptized, but it doesn’t say they weren’t either. Both are arguments are from silence. And since the mindset of the early Christians (being predominatly) Jewish was to include their children in the covenant, where is the overwhelming evidence from NT authors that covenant children had been removed from their covenant status and the practice was to be reversed? Paul is clear to say we are no longer under law but grace, but since there is no repeal from the OT in the NT regarding covenant children, we should not take it upon ourselves to invent one.

  10. November 27, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    …btw I see a gross inconstancy among paedo-bapist regarding the withholding of communion from baptized members. There is no precdent from Scripture for this practice and I therefore hold to the paedocommunion view.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    I will respond to your excellent queries one at a time. First up, circumcision and baptism: no one says that they are equated. They are not exactly the same thing, since one comes before Christ and is a bloody sign, whereas the latter comes after Christ and is a bloodless sign. All paedo-baptists admit some discontinuity there. But the real question is this: is there discontinuity in the underlying covenant? If not, then what is not said to change must remain the same. The problem here is that credo-baptists assume that if there is no explicit reaffirmation of something in the NT, then it must have been discontinued. Whereas, when covenantal people look at the NT and find no repudiation of the doctrine that the children are part of the covenant, then we assume that the sign has continuity with regard to that aspect.

    Second point: are there no examples of baptism besides believers being baptized in the NT? There are such examples. 1 Corinthians 10 is devastating for the credo position: “I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ…Now these things took place as examples for us.” Notice that it didn’t matter what age the fathers were at the time, they were all baptized into Moses, infants and adults. There is a baptism of infants fair and square, and absolutely undeniable. I believe that the household baptisms of the NT also point in this direction. Now, there is no indication that there actually were infants in these households. However, the way that the word “household” is used in the OT carries over into the NT. The principle here is: if there were infants in the household, they were baptized. Are we to suppose that of the five or six clear instances of household baptisms, there were no infants? Even children four and under? In zero instances of the occurrence of the word are infants excluded from the meaning of “household.” Therefore, if there were infants, they were baptized.

    Third point: about Acts 2:38 (and other similar passages that connect repentance and baptism). The word “and” cannot in any way, shape, or form be forced to mean “and then.” The word cannot mean temporal order in every instance. We don’t use it that way in English. We might relate what happened during the day in order of importance, for instance, without implying a temporal order: “I went to see the President at 2 PM, and I went to the store to get eggs at 10 AM. This is perfectly clear and logical. The word “and” simply does not imply temporal order. This is really one of the weakest arguments in the credo position. There are definite ways to express temporal order in Greek. One might say “meta” plus accusative, or “tote.” What I said earlier about the unbelieving person who is baptized holds here. It often happens with an adult that he makes a false profession of faith, and is then baptized, and afterwards is regenerated. Would you baptize such a person again, since his first profession was not genuine? No, you wouldn’t. The creed says “I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” So, if baptism does not always have to follow repentance for baptism to be genuine, then this objection from Acts 2:38 falls to the ground. The Lord’s Supper has quite a different Greek construction, because it explicitly says “After supper, He took the cup.” The word in 1 Cor 11 is “meta” plus infinitival accusative, which means “after.” Such a construction does not exist in any of the phrases “repent and be baptized.” The little Greek word “kai” simply cannot bear such a weight of theology as the credo people put on it.

    Fourth point: the number of verses supporting each position. I have now cited quite a few verses that support the paedo position, and have explained how the supposed “credo” verses do not support that position.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    By the way, the reason why we hold to infant baptism and not infant communion is that Scripture interprets Scripture, and the person must be able to examine himself, according to 1 Cor 11. While an infant might definitely have faith, we must doubt whether the average infant is able to examine himself and discern the body of Christ.

  13. November 27, 2006 at 5:39 pm


    I would commend the OPC’s Majority Report from 1988 regarding the issue of paedocommunion found here:

    There treatment of 1 Cor. 11 is one of the best I’ve come across.

  14. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    What about the Philip and the Eunuch? As he is reading Isaiah and seems to now believe he then asks Philip, “what prevents me in being baptized?”

    I don’t think this one passage covers all but this really seems as though both Philip and the Eunuch are thinking the same, belief and then baptism.

    You have someone not understanding, they are preached Christ, they believe, they are baptized.

  15. November 27, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Seth, your right in what your saying. It isn’t a question of EITHER paedo or credo baptism. Paedobaptist believe BOTH. If someone, like the Eunuch makes a credible profession of faith he is certainly to be baptized. No one denies that. What I’m suggesting is that the covenant promise extends to him “and his children” as Peter told us in Acts 2. And just as he has now receive that sign, his children are holy (1 Cor. 7:14) and should as well.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Yes, David’s point is right. We don’t object in the slightest to the order “repentance and then baptism” in adults. But you cannot procure one single instance where baptism was refused to an infant in the NT on the basis of this supposed order. What would be necessary for your argument to hold water, Seth, is an instance where children are explicitly said to be refused entrance into the covenant because they need to have faith first, and then baptism. With regard to Phillip and the Eunuch, what other order would it have been? It isn’t exactly as if the Eunuch had been baptized as an infant. The first thing of importance in that instance is faith. I am at a loss to understand how that passage is an argument against paedo-baptism.

    David, I think I will start a new post about paedo-communion, since that is really a separate issue. Any connectedness to this issue has already been explored, I think.

  17. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    So if the Eunuch had children…if…and they were grown ups they should be baptized?

  18. November 27, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Yes Lane, I threw that in as an “aside”.

  19. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    by the way…good point on the Eunuch passage not an argument for paedo baptism…sometimes I write too quickly.

    Sorry about that, I recant post 14 for that purpose but was just trying to show the significance of the ORDER baptism is shown. per our discussion on Acts 2:38…

  20. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    If the Eunuch had children? That seems just a tad wierd to me. I think that if someone is old enough to make a profession of faith (which occurs sooner or later), they should do that. If the supposed children of the Eunuch (!?) were still under the federal headship of their father, then they should be baptized. If they are their own head of household, then I would say they would need to come to faith. Believe me, Seth, the position is consistent.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    What then is your answer to my thesis that “kai” cannot bear the weight of temporal order?

  22. Seth McBee said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    My answer would be, and I am truly asking, is there ever a place where it commands us to be baptized and then believe? If there is, I have never seen it and would like to know.

    Where I see it in Scripture it is always the person believes and then is baptized.

    And I knew that is a weird, “if the Eunuch had children” thank you for your patience on that one.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    I believe that the good and necessary consequence of 1 Corinthians 10 and the covenant inclusion of infants says just that. We must remember that it is not just what is explicitly said that is binding, but also what can from good and necessary consequence be deduced from Scripture that is binding. What is your answer to my examples of infant baptism in 1 Cor 10 and in the household baptisms?

  24. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    Playing Devils advocate, since GB and I differ on baptism, yet I am not so concerned, that I want to “hide” the tough arguments:

    Baptists take exception with the “good and necessary” argument, at least for infant baptism, yet we utilize it for worship. Does the NT mention instruments? Guitars? Drums?

    I also take exception with alter calls. I am a Baptist myself, but I desipise alter calls. There is not even a “good and necessary consequence” for them.

    Evangelism, where in the NT do the Apostles explain that we evangelize the lost in our services? This could be good and necessary, but not direct. Yet the NT model is gathering together for edification, instruction, and the Lord’s supper.

    Accept Jesus into your heart. Where in the world is that? It’s an affront to the Lordship of Christ. We are to repent and bow the His Lordship. He is inviting us, we are not inviting Him.

    As our debate at has grown, I have seen there are quite a few arguments that are counterbalanced by each side, and therefore are really mute, and cancelled out. For instance, there are Baptists and Presbyterians that have switched sides. Household baptisms can fit both arguments, there are plenty others.

    I think the real issue, as GB said very early on, is continuity vs discontinuity. That issues is also defined by the definitions and paramaters of the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.

    I do not think the debate is won by “good and necessary consequence”, we can build that for false ethics (polythiesm) and damaging doctrines. The debate is not won by history. If history is valid, then we also need to accept for consideration, infant communion which is also a good and necessary consequence, children partook of the passover. Along with baptismal regeneration, and other ancient “differences” (I use that lightly).

    The debate is won by exegesis, as applied to the covenants.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Josh, that the issue is the covenant. Covenant theology is the underlying basis of paedobaptism. Paul K. Jewett’s book recognizes this (that is why the book is the best argument for credobaptism). Unfortunately, this book is out of print. but it will probably always be available at

    There are answers to Jewett’s arguments, especially in the Strawbridge volume.

  26. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    GB: Covenant theology is the underlying basis of paedobaptism.

    Josh: I agree with that statement, but I do not seem to be able to get anyone to admit, Covenental Theology does not stand or fall on that doctrine. It is not the other way around, paedobaptism is the basis of Covenant theology.

    Long before dispensationalism, Baptist’s were Covenental. In fact, I think I prefer the term Covenental Baptist over Reformed Baptist. It distinguishes from Dispensationalism.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    I would never say that Covenant theology stands or falls with paedo-baptism. Covenant is the foundation on which the house is built. The foundation is still there, even if some dispute the house. What I mean is that paedobaptism has no chance without covenant theology.

  28. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm


  29. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:00 pm

    However, I would argue that covenant theology implies paedo-baptism.

  30. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    I disagree :-) but that does not suprise you does it :-)

  31. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Not exactly. ;-)

  32. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    I have to say that it is great to debate these points with brothers who won’t blow their top off when disagreement comes. We just keep hammering away at what the Bible is saying, and it does not appear (I hope I am right in assuming) that anyone is offended. I love it.

  33. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Good, I have evaluated my comments at times wondering if I was offending Theologian or you. I actually make a very conscience attempt and sometimes reword my comments. Sometime I sound accusational when I am not intending to.

    It never leaves my thinking that it is an inhouse debate. Brothers first, disagreement second.

  34. Josh said,

    November 27, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    To quote my Australian buddy, and RTS alumni, “It is jolly fun”

  35. theologian said,

    November 27, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    “Where I see it in Scripture it is always the person believes and then is baptized.”

    I would say that there is Scripture that shows folks being baptized before they receive the Holy Spirit…

    Acts 8:14-17
    Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

  36. Seth McBee said,

    November 28, 2006 at 12:17 am


    I don’t think you are really going to defend this part of Scripture unless you believe also in a second baptism of the Spirit. They first believed and then to show that the Samaritans were truly a part of the kingdom God waited to give them the Spirit so the apostles would truly know that even the “evil” Samaritans were going to be allowed in the kingdom. Same happens in Acts 10:44-46 and also Acts 19:1-7 (as far as the different aspects of the people receiving the Spirit.)

    You would also have to take that the apostles were taking the Lord’s Supper wrongly in John 13 since they hadn’t received the Spirit either.

    good try though, swing and a miss like some of mine earlier…lol

    and I do as well, Lane, love talking this kind of stuff with men that won’t get angry over theology, it really does strengthen our knowledge together. when I was younger, and didn’t know the thoughts of paedo-baptizers I had strong words for them, so this is something that has helped me through the years, being able to talk openly with those with different convictions,

    Praise God that He builds His church and we don’t.

  37. November 28, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    Here are some commonalities that have been given between paedo and credo baptist positions. Important note: the credobaptist that worked on this with the paedobaptist was Mark Dever (so it is a fairly accurate rendition of commonalities):

    a) Neither paedo nor credo reject the notion that Christians should be baptized

    b) Baptism is a subject of great importance

    c) The NT contains clear commands for baptism

    d) The NT commands/examples of baptism do not rule out infant baptism

    e) God’s Word alone should settle the question of how Christians should be baptized, at this point we also cannot ignore Christian History

    f) The NT contains no explicit/specific commands for Infant Baptism OR for Believers only Baptism

    g) Christ appointed Baptism to be a permanent value in his Church

    h) Baptism is a rite of initiation and the Lord’s Supper is a rite of continuance

    i) Many of the arguments for Infant baptism prior to Reformation Era, assumed Salvific baptism

    j) Infant Baptism was widely practiced by the late 2nd Century AD

    k) There are some who are baptized who are not in fact saved

    l) There are some who are not baptized who are, in fact, saved

    m) There is are regular temptation of the visible church to trust in outward appearances

    n) God can create faith in a child before that faith is evident

    o) Texts that urge ‘Believe and be baptized’ or ‘household baptism’ texts do not by themselves offer conclusive evidence for either side

    p) The covenant with Abraham is an administration of the Covenant of Grace

    q) Children of believers enjoy special privileges and have special obligations

  38. Seth McBee said,

    November 28, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    good points andrew…

  39. greenbaggins said,

    November 28, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    You will pardon me for not jumping in earlier today. I was away from the office. I see that a practical tome has been written on various posts while I was away. Anyway, I did very much like that set of similarities, Andrew.

    My question for the credo-baptists then is this: what is the difference between dedication and baptism? Many baptists dedicate their babies to the Lord, and (what I presume they are saying) say that they will bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In effect, they are saying that those children are part of the church. These are precisely the same things that paedo-baptists say when they baptize their children. What is the difference?

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