One of Peter Ruckman’s many unusual teachings that seem to have originated with him is what he terms “spiritual circumcision.” Even though he does not dedicate an entire book or pamphlet to it, he mentions it relatively often. Ruckmanites are known to promote it and defend it vigorously. It essentially consists of teaching that at the moment a person is converted to the Gospel, his soul is literally cut loose of his body. Before explaining any further, we will allow Ruckman to explain his views in his own words:
In a saved man, the Holy Spirit has cut the flesh away from the soul and spirit (see Col. 2:11-13). That body has a spirit connected with it that is different from the new spirit that lives inside of you. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 265)
A sinner dies “in Christ” because he could not possibly “live in sin” (Rom. 6:2) one second after his spiritual circumcision: he was cut loose by a two-edged “LASER” going inside the body and circumcising the flesh from the soul. (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Sep. 2006, p. 15)
The spiritual circumcision of the believer’s SOUL, literally cut loose from the inside of his fleshly body at the time of his new birth. (Ruckman, Peter. The Unknown Bible. Pensacola, FL: Bible Believers Press, 1984, 1996 reprint, p. 132)
So before you were saved your soul was married to your flesh: they were connected. But when you received Christ as Saviour, the Holy Spirit entered your body and cut your dying flesh away from your living soul. Now the body is counted as dead with Christ on the cross. So your soul is no longer married to the flesh; it is no longer under the control of the flesh. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 255)
In Ruckman’s big imagination, the soul was connected to the body before salvation, therefore they were “married!” To consider two things to be married to each other simply because they are regarded as connected is absurd, but Ruckman does this so he can justify applying verses about marriage in vain attempts to bolster his theory. Notice:
When SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION showed up in Colossians 2:11, all of them made Christ the object of the circumcision and spiritualized the passage. He was the subject of Colossians. HE CIRCUMCISED YOU WITH A KNIFE (Heb. 4:12) when you were born of “incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23). YOUR SOUL WAS CUT LOOSE FROM THE INSIDE OF YOUR BODY AT EVERY POINT WHERE IT FORMERLY HAD TOUCHED IT (Col. 2:11–12). To drive this basic, essential “FUNDAMENTAL OF THE FAITH” home (it is the ground for believing in the two natures and the “victorious life,” Rom. 6–8), Paul likens your soul to a married woman whose husband died (Rom. 7:1–4). You are free to remarry. You got “hitched” according to Ephesians 5:30–33. … A saved soul will not lose its bodily shape; it will remain the same while the physical body is conformed to the image of Christ (Phil. 3:20–21 and Rom. 8:29). The unsaved man will lose his bodily shape and, for all practical purposes, cease to be a “man” (Psa. 22; John 3:14; Isa. 34:14; Mark 9:46, 48). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Nov. 2005, p. 9, 12)
In the previous two quotes, Ruckman attempts to apply verses on marriage to his view on spiritual circumcision. However—is it true that “Paul likens your soul to a married woman whose husband died” in Romans 7:1-4? Absolutely not, as the word “soul” does not even show up in the entire chapter in Romans 7!
You will notice in these quotes that the primary passage Ruckman uses (or rather “abuses”) to pretend there is a Biblical basis for his spiritual circumcision teaching is Colossians 2:11 & 13. Ruckman does not exegete the passage, which would refer to “drawing out or extracting” the meaning. As we will demonstrate, he instead imposes his own meaning on the passage, using concepts and terminology that is not included in the proof text, and includes unrelated passages that do not add missing elements to his theory. Some of Ruckman’s failures to properly exegete a passage are so egregious that they could well serve as textbook examples on how not to interpret the Bible.
Let’s look at these two verses:
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Here is the analogy of physical circumcision, which does literally involve cutting, but it is an analogy or word picture only. In the analogy, one circumcision is literal, physical, and would involve cutting, in the other, it is spiritual, described in Col. 2:11 as “made without hands” therefore not physical, no cutting necessary. In physical circumcision, a work is performed “with hands” by others that one is unable to do for himself soon after birth. This results in a physical change. In spiritual circumcision, a spiritual work of regeneration is performed “without hands” by the Holy Spirit that one could not do for himself. This results in a changed heart, also known as circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29).
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
This verse brings up circumcision again as an analogy. Here it is linked with death, because under the law, the uncircumcised were dead in their sin. They were guilty of breaking God’s covenant (Gen. 17:14). Likewise, one who is living in unbelief and sin is under condemnation. In this verse the analogy is not so much in the physical aspect involved in circumcision, but rather the guilty condition they had been under the law before the act, compared to forgiveness thereafter.
There is absolutely nothing in the passage (including verse 12 not covered here) about Christ or the Holy Spirit literally cutting the soul loose from the body. In Col. 2:11-13 you will not find the word “soul,” nor will you find “cut” in any of its various forms. It is a false teaching not found in the Bible.
The Bible makes it plain that circumcision in the spiritual sense applies to the heart (although “uncircumcised” ears and lips are mentioned once and twice respectively). Circumcision of the heart is brought up in some way at least nine times in the Scriptures (Deut. 10:16; Deut. 30:6; Lev. 26:41; Jer. 4:4; Jer. 9:26; Eze. 44:7; Eze. 44:9; Acts 7:51; Rom. 2:29).
We looked to see what Ruckman has to say about the nine verses that have to do with circumcision of the heart. That he seemed evasive is evident by noting that of the nine, we only found him dealing with one between his reference Bible and his commentaries. His reference Bible did not elaborate at all on circumcision of the heart. His Old Testament commentaries did not cover the books the references involved, and for the New Testament, he only dealt with circumcision of the heart in Rom. 2:29. For the passage in Romans, Ruckman was all focused on trying to convince his readers that circumcision of the heart in the Old Testament is different than in the New, because otherwise it would ruin his unbiblical view that Old Testament saints were saved by works. His main arguments:
Back in Romans 2:29, Paul speaks of the “circumcision … of the heart.” What is not made clear in Romans, but is in Colossians 2, is that, in the New Testament, the inner circumcision is the result of your position in Christ, and that can never be changed. Romans 2 from verse 17 to verse 29, though it can be applied in the New Testament doctrinal sense, is technically describing an Old Testament situation. The “circumcision … of the heart” in Romans 2:29 is like that of Deuteronomy 10:16; it is an act of the will. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, pp. 97-98)
The difference between the “circumcision … of the heart” in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:16, Rom. 2:29) and “the circumcision of Christ” is a result of the New Birth and is therefore not an act of the will (John 1:13). Since it is dependent upon your position in Christ, a position which cannot be changed (Rom. 8:38-39), and not upon keeping the Law, “the circumcision of Christ” is permanent. Your standing in the New Testament may be different from your state. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 99)
In the following quotations, you can observe how Ruckman uses his spiritual circumcision to give a unique explanation for the doctrine of sin involving the believer:
Every Christian was “cut loose” from his sins by spiritual circumcision (Col. 2:11) when the Holy Spirit cut his soul loose from his body inside. So even though in the flesh of a Christian there “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18), yet inside that same body of flesh is “the new man” (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24) who is sinless (Rom. 7:17; 1 John 3:9). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. June 2009, p. 12)
If you are saved in this age, the Holy Spirit does not come in contact with your flesh (Rom. 7:17–18; Col. 2:11–13), you have been cut loose (Col. 2:11) … Fortunately, the New Birth produces a spiritual circumcision which cuts off your soul from your flesh. Thus, the real “YOU” is not responsible for fleshy sins (Rom. 7:15–18), although since YOU (the fleshy you) commit them as “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19–21), you will certainly reap them—IN THE FLESH. (Ruckman, Peter. The Death of Biblical Doctrine. 2007, p. 71)
As can be discerned from the last two quotes, Ruckman seems to have come up with his spiritual circumcision teaching as a way to provide his own interpretation for passages such as 1 John 3:6, 9 that appear to teach that a Christian cannot sin. As to these passages, we believe the answer is rather simple. A believer has two natures. Even Ruckman recognizes this, although he apparently does not apply this Biblical concept consistently because of his spiritual circumcision heresy. The Bible sometimes refers to the old nature as the “old man” (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22 and Col. 3:9), and the new or spiritual nature as the “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Many references to the flesh versus the spirit in the Scriptures involve the same Biblical concept. Our old nature is what is responsible for sin in the believer. The new nature does not sin. When the Bible says in certain terms in 1 Jn. 3 that believers do not sin, it is meant to refer to the new nature, not the old nature, which we are still cursed with until we receive a heavenly body.
It is admitted that Ruckman at times makes valid observations when dealing with the false teachings of others. Observe the following, which we will then use to put his spiritual circumcision to the test:
What does Galatians 3:27 say about water baptism? Nothing. What does Romans 6:3-4 say about water baptism? Nothing. In those two instances, the Campbellite had to read the word water where there wasn’t a drop around. “Where the scriptures are silent, we add words to get our own private interpretation.” (Ruckman, Peter. Soulwinning. Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 2018, p. 98)
Now let’s apply Ruckman’s excellent observation above to this concise sentence of his:
YOUR SOUL WAS CUT LOOSE FROM THE INSIDE OF YOUR BODY AT EVERY POINT WHERE IT FORMERLY HAD TOUCHED IT (Col. 2:11–12). (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Nov. 2005, p. 9)
Notice how Ruckman’s own teachings directed at others totally undermine his own, when we apply it to his false teaching:
What does Colossians 2:11 say about cutting the soul from the body? Nothing. What does Col. 2:12 say about the soul touching the body previous to salvation? Nothing. In those two instances, the Ruckmanite had to read the words soul, cut and touch where it wasn’t around. “Where the scriptures are silent, we add words to get our own private interpretation.”
Ruckman’s own teaching when applied to himself rules out his own heresies! Ruckman is quick to pull out accepted hermeneutical principles to use against cults and others he disagrees with, but refuses to apply those same principles to his own teachings. And he has plenty of followers who are willing to look the other way or quickly seek to change the subject when confronted. Christian, beware!