Baptism is not Christian circumcision. There’s a lot of loose talk to that effect in Presbyterian circles; but it’s not accurate. The old world rite of circumcision was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism unites us to Christ and therefore makes us participate in the circumcision of Christ. Baptism is not, however, the new world equivalent or fulfillment of circumcision. The death and resurrection of Christ is.
Colossians 2, the only text that comes close to linking circumcision and baptism, actually links circumcision with the cross and resurrection of Christ. According to Colossians 2:8-13,
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by the putting off of 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. And you, who were dead in your tresspasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him. . .
Baptism unites us to Christ so that we can be said to have died and to have risen with him. But the dying and rising of the flesh of Christ is the circumcision of humanity’s flesh.
The bloody rite of circumcision was always directly connected with the promise of the “seed of Abraham” (Gal. 3:16). Abram tried to bring the promised child into the world by the power of his flesh (Gen. 15). That was a miserable failure. Adamic flesh is impotent to bring in the promised Savior of the world. So the flesh had to be cut off and rolled back (Gen. 17). The old, dead flesh had to be rolled back and a new, living flesh had to come forth on the eighth day, the first day of the new week. God was doing something new. After Abe’s circumcision (Gen. 17), he was able to sire the promised child, Isaac (Gen. 18).
The practice of circumcision all those years looked forward to the destruction of the old flesh (the old death nature of humanity) and the advent of a new flesh (a new humanity). Just as the reproach of Egypt was rolled back at Gilgal and the people of Israel were given a new start in the promised land (Josh. 5), so one day the reproach of Adam’s death nature would be rolled back and a new, transfigured humanity would emerge as the future of the world. That’s what happened on the cross and in the tomb of Jesus.
The circumcision done “without hands” was accomplished on the cross of Jesus when “the body of the flesh” was “put off” or rolled back. Paul had already mentioned “the body of his flesh” in reference to the crucifixion in Col. 1:22a. It was done “without hands” because it was an act of God, the necessary first stage of the creation of a new humanity. Once the new glorified humanity of Jesus emerged from the tomb then everything promised in the old world bloody rite of circumcision (and more, of course) was fulfilled. Jesus rose from the dead with a new transfigured humanity on the eighth day, the first day of the new creation.