During the Memorial Day observances, I saw a clip of a Jewish lady from Poland meeting an American soldier of WWII who was in the division that liberated her from a concentration camp. She recalled how the soldiers seemed as angels to her, sweeping in on tanks and trucks. They not only liberated her, but they wept over her dismal condition and showered her with food and clothes.

She was full of gratitude because she observed that she was completely helpless and needed outside intervention. Not only that, but her rescuers were compassionated and caring. It is an apt illustration of Christ’s provision for his people. He rescues us, full of compassion, out of a helpless state. The difference is we are culpable for trespasses that put us under the power of sin and the devil.

Our lack of gratitude toward Christ is always connected to a false sense of thinking we have helped earn his favor; that we have deserved rescue in some way. Christ comes with the best of mercies; with wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We were naked and he clothes us with salvation. We must take Christ wholly because we are wholly polluted.

In verse 11, Paul uses the language of circumcision to drive home the point that Christ provides all we need for salvation. There were Jewish people who taught that to be a part of the people of God, you not only needed Christ, but you also must observe some ceremonial laws from the Old Testament, especially circumcision. 

Paul addresses this in his epistle to the Galatians. He teaches that if someone observes circumcision as contributing to their right standing with God, then Christ is of no value to them. If you would be justified by the law, then you are not under grace, says the Apostle. We are apt to think, what is the harm? Circumcision is not a big deal.

But it is a big deal to hold onto deeds as meriting your right standing with God. The Lord Jesus told the Pharisees, who were meticulous in all their religious observations that they were like white-washed tombs, clean on the outside but corrupt on the inside. Pride is insidious, and religious pride leads to destruction of the soul.

Paul says Christ provides all that is necessary: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.” The putting off the body of flesh means the corruption of a sinful heart with the guilt that goes with it. Paul says Christ has given you a new heart.

Therefore if someone tells you that you must have circumcision to be right with God, Paul says to respond to them that you already have been circumcised in the heart, not by man’s hands, but the Spirit of Christ. You are to rest content in Christ’s finished work and make him alone your boast. If he makes me clean, I am clean indeed. 

Paul does not mean Christians don’t have much to do in service to Christ. Indeed, their life is not their own, but belongs to Christ. God requires outward and inward worship. It is only through Christ we can have faith expressing itself in love. We must be poor in spirit, to be pure in heart. It was no trouble for the sinful woman to wash Jesus feet with tears.

Paul also uses the language of baptism in verse 12 to show the sufficiency of Christ for his people: “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.” There is a lot to what Paul is saying, but the heart of it is how closely united the believer is to his Lord.

If you believe in Christ, you are reckoned dead to sin and have new life in Christ: life that will never end. In the early church, those coming to be baptized were asked questions. “Do you believe in Christ?” “I do believe.” “Do you renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil?” “I do renounce them.”

Paul says of all Christians in 2nd Corinthians 5:14: “One died for all, therefore all died.” If this is your confession, then you acknowledge you have died to all boasting of your own righteousness. You acknowledge that Christ has pitied your helpless condition and given you life. He is your life.