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Published Date: October 31, 2007

Published Date: October 31, 2007

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Cover of "Created to Thrive".

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“What Counts is the New Creation”

Mimi wrote in Arise last week that baptism rather than circumcision had, in Christ, become the expression of a covenantal relationship with God and life. She pointed out that “just as Christ rose victoriously over sin, we too rise out of the waters of baptism, symbolizing our rising victorious with Christ over sin.” What I can’t help but notice is how the imagery of circumcision and its newfound irrelevance in the light of baptism ties to the bit of handwritten script posted at the end of the book. In Galatians 6:14-15, Paul writes:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

St. Theodoret writes in reference to this new creation—the movement from death to life which is now possible in Christ— it is “the transformation of all things which will occur after the resurrection of the dead. For then the creation will be freed from sin’s burden and redeemed… baptism is an image of things to come.”

Circumcision, an outward sign performed by hands of men (quite literally), had been for Jews the symbol of distinct privilege and covenantal life with God. It had marked ethnic boundaries, religious affiliation, and obviously, gender. Paul, an ethnically and religiously Jewish male, as well as a Pharisee, has (cf. Philippians 3) plenty of reason to glory in his Jewish-ness—in his worldly distinctions. And yet, what he writes, and in his own hand as if to emphasize it, is that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything.”

What he stresses is that rising victorious with Christ over sin (symbolized in baptism) replaces circumcision as the only distinction symbolic of life with God, the only distinction really worth boasting in. That is, for Paul the symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection renders irrelevant to the new creation all other competing worldly distinctions, whether of ethnicity, economic status, or gender. The cross of Christ had become the final release from sin and death and way unto life with God and indeed new creation that all other symbols had shadowed and followed after.

What matters, then, is the new creation wrought by Christ in his death and resurrection, and our boast in as much, for in that boast is our movement from sin and death to life. To the extent that we realize and actualize that movement towards life, and life in Christ, we realize and actualize that “image of things to come.”

Glory in the symbol of the cross; more than rendering irrelevant to the new creation all of our worldly symbols, it has wrought our life. When put that way, worldly symbols and all of the fuss raised over them fade in light of the cross, as Paul (cf. Galatians 3:26-29) so clearly saw. Glory to Christ our God.