What does Colossians 2:11 mean?
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,
NIV: In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
NASB: and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ,
CSB: You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ,
NLT: When you came to Christ, you were 'circumcised,' but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision — the cutting away of your sinful nature.
KJV: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
NKJV: In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Verse Commentary:
Circumcision was of great importance to Jews, serving as a covenantal sign since the time of Abraham (Genesis 17). Moses faced a serious problem over not circumcising his own sons (Exodus 4:24–26). Jewish male infants were circumcised on the eighth day according to the Mosaic law, and Jesus mentioned circumcision being performed on the Sabbath so as to keep the law (John 7:22). Because circumcision was so important, that term is often used as a short-hand for the entire Law.

However, once Jesus came according to prophecy, He became the fulfillment of the law. Paul wrote, "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God" (1 Corinthians 7:19). Circumcision remained a controversy for the very early church, though the apostles clearly taught that such rituals were not necessary for Christians (Acts 11:1–18). Here, Paul notes that what circumcision does, physically, faith in Christ does, spiritually. In other words, what matters is knowing Christ, not physical circumcision.
Verse Context:
Colossians 2:6–15 describes Christ's superiority in defeating sin. This is shown in stark contrast to the failure of the unbelieving world. Paul encourages the Colossians not to be tricked by deceptive arguments. This passage also explains the drastic nature of salvation. Those who put their faith in Christ are ''spiritually'' circumcised and are identified with God through their faith. This act of forgiveness by God frees us from the eternal penalty of sin, restores our relationship, and defeats the evil forces fighting against us.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, Paul warns Christians not to be taken in by deceptive arguments. These claims are attractive, but are merely tricks: they sound true, but they are not. Arguing for self-denial, legalism, visions, and other practices only looks good to observers. None of these are the real source of spiritual growth. Paul emphasizes the way Christ accomplished everything we need to be justified before God. As a result, there is no reason for believers to pursue these false, shallow ''shadows.'' We have the real substance: Jesus, so we should follow Him.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduced Christ as supreme over all of creation. Chapter 2 refines this argument by showing how the salvation offered through Jesus is superior to false, alternative systems. Paul specifically refutes several ideas, such as legalism, asceticism (self-denial), and mysticism. These are not how God intends us to grow, spiritually. Later chapters will contrast these false, external attempts with the true, inner spiritual growth which comes only by faith in Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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