What symbolizes your faith in Christ? What images or experiences remind you of your faith and the commitment you have made to Jesus? God gave Israel circumcision, but he gave Christians baptism; do you ever wonder why?
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)
Paul knew all about circumcision (see Philippians 3 if you don’t know how Paul came to see it) and also is the apostle who talks the most about baptism, so his comparison of the two is a big deal. Paul makes baptism the metaphorical equivalent of circumcision, and he does so in a way that emphasizes the work of Jesus in baptism rather than your own physical actions in being baptized. Since Paul calls it “a circumcision made without hands” it can’t be our doing—even though we are the ones being baptized, it is Christ’s work done by the power of God that Paul concludes is the operative truth of baptism. You were buried with Christ in baptism—which makes the application of the word to mean dipping in the water, immersing, submerging in the water pretty clear…no one buries the body on top of the ground. But even more than the parallel of the metaphor is the insistence that it is “God’s powerful working that raised Jesus from the dead” that raised you up in baptism with Jesus. Such a description makes a powerful image of what baptism is according to Paul. It’s an encounter with the powerful working of God. It’s a burial of that moves to resurrection with Christ. It’s a circumcision that God works on you to put “off the body of the flesh.” It’s a God work that you participate in “through faith.” And that has to be your faith or this whole paragraph means nothing; which is why baptism is for believers, not for those who know nothing. And since it is God who works in you in baptism, it isn’t your accomplishment when you do it, but God’s triumphant victory over the cross and the grave that has become yours through your faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what you enact in baptism and yes, it is a great symbol, but baptism isn’t symbolic, it’s real.
Lord thank you for power that works in us, that buries us with Christ and raises us up with him and gives us that experience of your grace that saves us through our faith in Jesus Christ.