"Equality in the Body of Christ" Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
The Law could never give a believer the nature of a son of God. Christ can do that. Only faith in Christ can make us sons of God.
November 3, 2013
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Chapter III.B.2.a: Equality in the Body of Christ (3:26-29)
Galatians 3.26-29 (KJV)
26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul is going to show in this passage and in the first part of Chapter 4 some of the benefits that come to us by trusting Christ that we could never receive under Law. The Law could never give a believer the nature of a son of God. Christ can do that. Only faith in Christ can make us sons of God.
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
With the arrival of Jesus Christ, the nation of Israel moved out of childhood and into adulthood. The long period of preparation was over. While there was a certain amount of glory to the Law, there was a greater glory in the gracious salvation of God as found in Christ. The Law could reveal, and to a certain extent it could control behavior, but the Law could not do for the sinner what Jesus Christ can do.
To begin with, the Law could never justify the guilty sinner. “I will NOT justify the wicked,” said the Lord (Ex. 23.7); yet Paul says that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4.5). King Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, reminded God to condemn the wicked and justify the righteous (1 Kings 8.32); and this was a proper request in light of the holiness of God. The trouble is that nobody was righteous! It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that the sinner is justified—declared righteous—before God.
Furthermore, the Law could never give a person oneness with God; it separated man from God. We find this kind of separation associated with the tabernacle where there was a fence around the tabernacle and a veil between the holy place and the holy of holies. The Law functioned as a method, suggestion, help or guide toward an understanding of moral principles; it was never intended to save anyone. The moral law summed up in the Ten Commandments, is not primarily a set of rules for conduct; in it are eternal principles that are forever true and valid. They are like spokes in a wheel in which Christ is the hub. The Law could not impart life, but it could lead men to Christ in whom is “abundant life.” In that way the Law was not the enemy but the minister and servant of grace.
While God is the father of all people in a general sense because He created them, only faith in Christ can make us His children, the legitimate “sons of God.” I use the word legitimate for emphasis, because the only sons God has are legitimate sons. You are made a true son of God by faith in Christ, and that is all it takes. Not faith plus something equals salvation, but faith plus nothing makes you a son of God. Nothing else can make you a son of God. “For you are all sons of God.” How? “Through faith in Christ Jesus.” On the other hand, unbelievers are the children of Satan—“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, THOU CHILD OF THE DEVIL, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (John 13.9, 10).
An individual Israelite under the Law in the Old Testament was never a son, only a servant. God called the nation “Israel my son” (see Ex. 4.22), but the individual in that corporate nation was never called a son. He was called a servant of Jehovah. For example, Moses was on very intimate terms with God; yet God said of him, “Moses My SERVANT is dead” (Jos. 1.2). That was his epitaph. Also, although David was a man after God’s own heart, God calls him, “David my SERVANT” (see 1 Kings 11.38).
My friend, even if you kept the Law, which you could not do, your righteousness would still be inferior to the righteousness of God. Sonship requires His righteousness, you see, the New Testament definitely tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become CHILDREN OF GOD, to those who believe in His name” (John 1.12). We are given the power (Greek, exousian, meaning, “the authority, the right”) to become the sons of God by doing no more and no less than simply trusting Him. A Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, religious to his fingertips (he had a God given religion, although it had gone to seed), followed the Law meticulously, yet he was NOT a son of God. Jesus said to him, “Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'” (John 3.7). I want to be dogmatic and very clear—neither your prayers, or your fundamental separation, your gifts, nor your baptism will ever make you a son of God. Only faith in Christ can make you a son of God.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
I hope you realize that this verse is not a reference to water baptism. Water baptism is ritual baptism, and I believe it is something that every believer is commanded to do. Also, I believe the mode of baptism should be by immersion, because immersion more accurately depicts real baptism, which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit places you in the body of believers. Paul says, “For by one Spirit we were ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12.13). This means that we are identified, we are in reality and truth put into the body of believers, the Church. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” God sees you in Christ. Therefore, He sees you as perfect!
This is important, so I will say it again, “Faith in Jesus baptizes us ‘into Christ.’” This baptism of the Spirit identifies the believer with Christ and makes him part of His body—“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. FOR BY ONE SPIRIT WE WERE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12.12-14). Water baptism is an outer picture of this inner work of the Holy Spirit—“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, THAT THESE SHOULD NOT BE BAPTIZED WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days” (Acts 10.44-48).
The phrase “put on Christ” evokes the image of one changing garments. The believer has laid aside the dirty garments of sin—“But we are all like an unclean thing, AND ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE LIKE FILTHY RAGS . . .” (Isa. 64.6)—and, by faith, received the robes of righteousness in Christ (see Col. 3.8-15). It means to clothe oneself with His character, to be like Him, especially in our conduct before others. But to the Galatians, this idea of “changing clothes” would have an additional meaning. When the Roman child came of age, he took off the childhood garments, and put on the toga of the adult citizen. The believer in Christ is not just a “child of God;” he is also a “son of God” (see verse 26, where “sons” ought to be translated “adult sons”). The believer has an adult status before God—so why go back to the childhood of the Law.