Friday, March 18, 2016

Baptism: Spiritual Circumcision and Resurrection

This Sunday we have multiple baptisms.  In view of that event, I am offering some patristic commentary referencing baptismal texts.

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.  (Col 2:11-12)

See how near he is come to the thing.  He says, “In the putting” quite away, not putting off merely.  “The body of sins.”  He means, “the old life.”  He is continually adverting to this in different ways, as he said above, “Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and reconciled us who were alienated,” that we should be “holy and without blemish.” (Col. 1:13, 21.)  No longer, he says, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit.  It circumcises not a part, but the whole man.  It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins.  When and where?  In Baptism.  And what he calls circumcision, he again calls burial.  Observe how he again passes on to the subject of righteous doings; “of the sins,” he says, “of the flesh,” the things they had done in the flesh.  He speaks of a greater thing than circumcision, for they did not merely cast away that of which they were circumcised, but they destroyed it, they annihilated it.

John Chrysostom, Homily on Colossians, VI

Through baptism comes the stripping away and circumcision of sins.… Those being baptized in the blood of Christ confess that they share in His death through baptism and that following this they enjoy the resurrection.  Resurrection is used here in a twofold sense, the one spiritual and the other physical.  All persons will rise through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Those, however, who have not been baptized in Christ but have died without faith will share in the general resurrection. However they will not enjoy the promise of redemption.… As many as were baptized into Christ, these have freely benefited before the general resurrection from the spiritual resurrection, for they have already risen from the death of sins.  Thus, Paul also says: “in whom you were raised,” not “in whom you will be raised.”

Severian of Gabala, Pauline Commentary

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