Friday, July 24, 2009

Galatians 3:26-29

V26-29 – 26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul has shown that circumcision is irrelevant regarding whether or not one is a child of Abraham. Here, he now refers to adoption; we are not only children of Abraham by sharing in the faith of Abraham, but we are also children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, and we have therefore obtained freedom from the law. This truth is revealed by baptism, which depicts our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Calvin says that Paul “employs the metaphor of a garment, when he says that the Galatians have put on Christ [or, “clothed yourselves with Christ”], but he means that they are so closely united to Him, that, in the presence of God, they bear the name and character of Christ, and are viewed in Him rather than in themselves.” This union is literally vital (He lives in us) and representative (He died and lives for us); His righteousness is our covering, and we are new creations in Him. Quite uniquely, there is no human distinction when it comes to the salvific union with Christ. No matter who or what you are, as v29 amazingly states, “If you belong to Christ (as His slave, bought with a price), then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according (not to the law, but) to the promise.” Amen!

We must note here that Paul has not been stressing justification by faith alone only to contradict himself here by making water baptism (v27) a requirement to justification. It is certainly possible to be saved apart from baptism, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus; and it is certainly possible to be baptized yet unsaved (Acts 8:16). What matters is faith. Nevertheless, baptism is a source of contention in the church, primarily due not to whether or not it is important and even essential, but rather to differences regarding the theology behind preferred methods (sprinkling or immersion) and age at which the rite is performed (infant or believer). Paul does not get into that here, and so we won’t either; but before moving on, notice what Calvin says: “The argument that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture, as well as experience, appear to confute this statement? I answer, it is customary with Paul to treat of the sacraments in two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom the mere symbol awakens pride, he then proclaims loudly the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he then views them in connection with the truth – which they represent. In this case, he makes no boast of any false splendor as belonging to the sacraments, but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, agreeably to the Divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.”

Vincent Cheung paraphrases this passage, saying, “When it comes to justification, and when it comes to being the children of Abraham and the sons of God, it does not matter whether you are Jew or non-Jew, slave or free, male or female. Before you come to Christ, one is not more disadvantaged than the other, for all are condemned according to the divine standard. When you come to Christ, one is not more welcomed than the other, for all must come through the faith that God gives. After you have come to Christ, one is not more privileged than the other, for all are sons of God in Him.”

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