God made a covenant with Abraham promising to create a nation from his son Isaac and to bless nations through his descendant, namely Jesus, the Christ. Abraham agreed to obey and serve God in return. God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness and to “seal the deal” he commanded Abraham to be circumcised (Genesis 17:11). It was a physical reminder to Abraham of God’s promise to him and that he belonged to God.
Jewish religious leaders during Jesus’ life time thought the fact that they were circumcised meant they were righteous. They confused faith and works like so many of us do. Colossians 2:11 clarifies that God has removed our sins from us.
Water baptism symbolizes God’s covenant with us and our commitment to him (Colossians 2:12). When we were rebellious, he created in us a new heart. He has disarmed the power that sin and Satan had over us so that we can now daily choose that which is righteous. (Colossians 2:8-15).
As circumcision was to Abraham, our good works are to us, a sign of the covenant between us and God.