Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #313b

Union with Christ

Galatians 3:26-29

Delivered 02/13/2005

We finished last week by looking at the role of the law as a tutor.

Galatians 3:24-25 (NASB) Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

The tutor in the first century was typically a slave who was in charge of a child from the ages of 6 to 16. "Tutor" in the sense that we use the term today, is not a precise explanation of the Greek word. We use tutor in the sense of a teacher. But in the time this was written it is more the idea of a disciplinarian who was constantly the companion of a child, with the responsibility of bringing the child into adulthood. So the "tutor" had the job of discipline in order to deliver the child over to another realm of life.

The tutor had a responsibility to bring a child to adulthood, so he did whatever it took to curb the tendencies of children and protect from foolish ways. But his job was temporary. When the child reached late adolescence, the tutor's job was finished.

This morning we want to look at verses 26-29 in which union with Christ is the main emphasis of each verse: faith in Christ Jesus (v. 26), baptized into Christ . . . clothed . . . with Christ (v. 27), one in Christ Jesus (v. 28), belong to Christ (v. 29).

Galatians 3:26 (NASB) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Verses 26-29 focus on a different group of people, the Gentiles. This is signaled by the change in pronouns from "we" in verses 23-25 to "you" in a verses 26-29. I believe that the Jewish Christians are included in the "you" of this verse, and they are not at all to be seen separately from the group of all true believers. Paul says, "You are ALL sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."

Under the law, Jews were the children of God, and Gentiles were sinners (see 2:15). But now Gentile Christians are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. This must have been a shocking declaration for a Jew to hear. In Jewish literature, sons of God was a title of highest honor, used only for the members of righteous Israel, destined to inherit the eschatological blessings. But now Gentiles - the rejected, the outsiders, the sinners, those who do not observe the law -are called sons of God. How could a Gentile ever be called a child of God? Paul's answer is clear - through faith in Christ Jesus (v. 26). Since Christ Jesus is the "Son of God" (2:20), all who by faith are in Christ are also sons of God.

Paul begins verse 26 with the word "For" - this word shows that the verse before us is a reason for the statement of the preceding verse. There, Paul claimed that we "are no longer under a tutor," thus, verse 26 shows why we are not under the "tutor" any longer: its task of bringing us to Christ has been accomplished!

With this statement, Paul declares exactly what he means by the function of the law being set aside. It is clear from his argument thus far in Galatians 3:19-25 that the law's purpose was to magnify the problem between man and God by showing the sinfulness of sin so that man would turn from his own effort in establishing righteousness and accept God's effort in Jesus Christ. Thus, the purpose of the Law was to create the "birth pangs" which would produce the "children of God." Once they have been produced, there is no further need for the law.

Its purpose was to bring us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith. We were not justified because we performed up to a certain standard. Therefore, since our justification hinges upon the performance of Jesus Christ and our act of faith in Him as our Substitute, we cannot be unjustified at a later point because of our lack of credible performance as children of God. In other words, since the Law's purpose was to bring us to faith in a Substitute Performer of Righteousness, it does not have the purpose of condemning us after we have come to that new birth. Therefore, what we do as the children of God has no more effect upon our justification than the things we did before we became the children of God. We were not justified by our actions of righteousness, nor are we unjustified by our actions of unrighteousness.

This is Paul's theme in Galatians. Our salvation is by grace through faith alone. We need to keep emphasizing this, because there are many who teach that our salvation is dependant upon our obedience. Let me give you an illustration of this: John Piper, in his teaching on the book of Galatians, writes this (I'm going to read the whole paragraph so as not to take him out of context):

What then is the law? The law is fundamentally a restatement of the Abrahamic covenant applied to a new state in redemptive history. It is not a nullification or a basic alteration. In both covenants the only way to attain blessing from God is to trust him for his grace. And in both covenants final blessing depends on a life of faith not just a single act of faith. Or to put it another way: in both covenants the promise of God's blessing comes by grace through faith and is not earned. But in both covenants the faith which saves taps into God's power in such a way that obedience results. And this obedience is such a necessary extension of saving faith that in both covenants obedience to God is a condition of final salvation. Not legalistic "works of law," but Spirit-empowered "obedience of faith." (Bold emphasis mine DBC). (John Piper, "The Law Does Not Annul the Promise" April 17, 1983; Galatians 3:15-18)

Notice that for Piper, "faith which saves" must result in obedience. And without obedience there is no salvation. So then, salvation must be by faith plus works, which is exactly what the Judiazers were teaching, and Paul was combating in this letter. Piper states, "Obedience to God is a condition of final salvation." My first question to him would be, "What exactly are the works that are required? We would need to know this wouldn't we?" Then my next question would be, "How much obedience is required? Is 80% good enough? Is it 90%? Or maybe 95% obedience?" We know that it's not 100% obedience, because nobody does that, nobody.

How much obedience is enough? Nobody can answer that question. Which means we never know if we are doing enough, which means we never know if we are going to make it to heaven if salvation is based upon our obedience.

Jesus Christ is the only person who ever lived in complete obedience to the Father. All other men have sinned. The only reason that any person can get into heaven is because Jesus Christ's obedience is imputed to their account by faith:

Romans 5:19 (NASB) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

I am righteous because of Christ's obedience that becomes mine by faith!

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Positionally, in my standing before God, I am completely righteous and totally obedient, because I am in Christ! Christ's obedience and righteousness have been imputed to my account. That is my position or standing.

Thus, being a child of God "by faith in Christ Jesus" simply means that when the truth about the Jesus is understood, and that understanding is embraced by accepting it as true and valid, one is a child of God.

Since a person becomes a child of God by simply embracing the Truth about Christ Jesus, why is it that we have so many people teaching about the necessity of being obedient in this area or that? How is it that they can add things to faith?

One way in which people add things to faith is by saying that Paul uses "faith" as a figure of speech known as "metonymy." This figure of speech is one in which a single word becomes an all-encompassing umbrella to refer to the entire gamut of things arranged under it. So, with "faith" as "metonymy," it is possible to include all sorts of other things that are necessary for salvation, such as: repentance, confession, and works of righteousness. And, with "faith" as "metonymy," it is possible to come up with a gospel which requires not only repentance, confession and belief, but also everything which, in the New Testament, is a righteous work (baptism, church attendance, prayer, observance of the Lord's Supper, studying the Word of God, etc., etc.). This goes directly against what Paul is teaching in this letter - faith alone in Christ alone!

Please notice that people become "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." This expels the myth that anyone, no matter what religion or belief system they belong to, can be considered a child of God simply because they were created by God.

We usually hear the argument put this way - God is the Father of all mankind. This could not be further from the truth. God is not the Father of all mankind. He is the Creator of all mankind, but when we start using the term Father in its biblical understanding of God, then a distinction needs to be made. The reason for this is because when God designates Himself Father, it is always in the context of an intimate righteous relationship He has with people. That relationship, since the fall of man, is only available through faith in God and His promises of reconciliation to mankind.

Nowhere in the word of God is the term Father, as it relates to our heavenly Father, meant to include every single human being without exception. In fact, the first time that the designation of Father is used, as it relates to God, is when Moses is about to die. In what is referred to as the song of Moses, he rebukes Israel, the chosen people of God, for being a stiff-necked and rebellious people:

Deuteronomy 32:6 (NASB) "Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.

When the Lord is about to bring the last curse on Pharaoh and Egypt, He makes it clear that Israel, not the Egyptians, share this special relationship with God who is creator of all:

Exodus 4:22-23 (NASB) "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My first-born. 23 "So I said to you, 'Let My son go, that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your first-born."'"

Jesus is making it abundantly clear that whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, unless you embrace Jesus Christ by faith as Lord and Savior, you cannot possibly know God as Father, which means you cannot know God as Savior, which is the only basis for an eternal relationship with our heavenly Father.

When Paul says that we are all sons of God when we put our faith in Christ Jesus, He is echoing the words of John in:

John 1:12-13 (NASB) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John and Paul got their Soteriology from Jesus who taught all of His followers that He was the only way to the Father:

John 14:6 (NASB) Jesus said^ to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

I know that we live in a day when society tells us that there are many ways to God. The message is even gaining a wider audience in the Church as teachers and preachers who want to try and fit in with society teach that Jesus is our "Christ," but God may have other ways, other roads for other people. These teachers and preachers look upon God's Word as merely another book on the shelf and not the infallible Word of God.

Let's move on to our next verse.

Galatians 3:27 (NASB) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

In the only verse mentioning baptism in this Epistle, we find Paul stating that all of the believers in Galatia had been baptized into Christ.

One writer, commenting on this verse, writes: "After the coming of Christ, circumcision is no longer viewed as a significant spiritual act, being superseded by baptism. Paul's emphasis on baptism was a thorn in the side of the Judaizers, but it accurately reflects the change from living under one covenant to another."

A Church of Christ writer commenting on this verse writes, "Baptism is a condition of salvation." And when he says that, he is referring to water baptism.

It should be clear from the context that Paul was not substituting baptism for circumcision in Galatia so that some type of baptismal regeneration could be applied.

Paul is fighting against a works righteousness, not substituting one work for another. It should by obvious that the text before us does not mention being baptized into water. The verse says that the Galatians were "baptized into Christ."

Now, what does "baptized into Christ" and "put on Christ" mean? To answer these questions, let's first find out from the Bible itself the meaning of the verb "to baptize," because many wrong doctrines and practices have resulted from the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of it. The primary meaning of "baptize" is: "to plunge, to dip, to immerse." The word is used in the classics of a smith who dips a piece of hot iron in water, tempering it. It is also used of Greek soldiers placing the points of their swords in a bowl of blood.

In most cases in the Bible, the word "baptized" is simply transliterated from the Greek word baptizo and its noun "baptism" from the Greek word baptismos. Unfortunately, these transliterations do not help us at all in understanding the meaning of the words.

But there are a few instances where the contexts do not allow a direct transliteration into either baptize or baptism. The same Greek verb and noun, for example, are found in:

Mark 7:4 (NASB) and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse [baptizo] themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing [baptismos] of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)

Obviously, they weren't immersing tables in water just before they ate; they washed it. We also read in:

Luke 11:38 (NASB) And when the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed [baptizo] before the meal.

It would not make any sense at all for the Pharisee to marvel that Christ had not first immersed before dinner, would it? So "to baptize" can also simply mean: "to wash."

So we see that there is more than one meaning for the original word "baptize." It can mean to dip or immerse, or it can mean to wash. These are literal meanings, but in any language, there may be literal and metaphorical meanings of a word. For example: If I said to you, "I think my wife is hot." What would I be talking about? I could be talking about the fact that she is hot natured, and she is always warm. I could mean that she has a fever. Or I could be talking about the fact that she is an attractive woman. Without a context, would you know how I was using the word? I could be using "hot" literally for temperature or metaphorically as very attractive.

In exactly the same manner, the word "baptize" has a meaning far removed from anything to do with water. Thinking of water in connection with this passage of the Bible leads to obscurity and error as it does with many passages dealing with baptism.

The word "baptize," used metaphorically, means: "a change of identity or to identify."

1 Corinthians 10:1-2 (NASB) For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

Baptism here means: "initiation into a new relationship, or identification with Moses." It does not mean immersion or washing - the Israelites were never in the sea at all; "...the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land"(Ex. 14:22). It was Pharaoh's soldiers who got wet. They were all united and identified with Moses. Moses was God's appointed leader of Israel. The basic Christian significance for baptism is identification with Christ. We are united to Christ, the Son of God, our leader.

The literal use of the word baptize (to wash, dip or immerse) makes utter nonsense in this passage. Only the metaphorical use (to identify with) can give us any meaning at all.

The early writers distinguished between "real" baptism and "ritual" baptism. Ritual baptism is immersing someone in water. Real baptism is the act of the Holy Spirit placing the believer in the body of Christ, this is identification. In Matthew 3, the prophet John clearly distinguishes between a baptism of "water" and the baptism of "the Holy Spirit."

Matthew 3:11 (NASB) "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The very moment we believed on Christ as our Savior, we were baptized by the Holy Spirit, placed into the Body of Christ. By being members of the Body of Christ, everything that is true of the Head is true of each member of His Body:

1 Corinthians 12:13 (NASB) For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

When we believed the gospel, the Holy Spirit put us into the body of Christ - union. This is not physical, but a spiritual identification. As we were united to Adam, so we are now united to Christ, and it is the Spirit who unites us to Christ. I am in Christ and Christ is in me - union.

In Matthew 20:22-23 the Lord Jesus refers to a "baptism" with which He was to be "baptized" that has nothing to do with water. 1 Peter 3:21 - Peter refers to a baptism which is not "the removal of dirt from the flesh." Over 25% of the uses of the word group in the New Testament do not refer to immersion into water. Therefore, to automatically think "water" when one reads "baptize" or "baptism" is to reveal a deeply ingrained theological prejudice which comes from somewhere other than the Holy Scriptures.

From a careful look at all of the references to "baptism" in the New Testament, we can determine that there are certain passages which are dealing with baptism into water, and certain other passages which are dealing with baptism into something other than water. And it seems to me that In every place that the baptism refers to a baptism into water, the context itself establishes that it is water that is meant. For example, Matthew 3:6 says "...they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River..." Here the phrase "in the Jordan river" clearly marks the baptism as a "water baptism." On the other hand, in those places where the baptism is clearly not a water baptism, it is again the context itself which establishes that it is not water that is being considered. For example, 1 Corinthians 10:2 says "...all were baptized into Moses..." This implies that a baptism into a person is not by water in the New Testament. So, "baptism into Christ," in Galatians 3:27, cannot have, as its effective means, water.

"Have clothed yourselves with Christ" - here Paul makes baptism into Christ the equivalent of being clothed with Christ. Being "clothed with Christ" or "clothed with the Spirit of God" is a theme that runs throughout God's Word. When Gideon faced the overwhelming forces of the Midianites and the Amalekites, we read:

Judges 6:34 (NASB) So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.

"Came upon" is the Hebrew word labash, which literally means: "to put on a garment or clothe oneself, or another." Indicating that Gideon was clothed with the Holy Spirit as a divine coat of armor. That is the concept Paul uses here. The believer who identifies himself with Jesus Christ through faith is divinely clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ requires that we deliberately lay aside any and all confidence that we have in what we have done, can do, or will do, and take up the faith that Jesus Christ has, Himself, done everything necessary to produce an absolute standing before God for us in righteousness. If we attempt to salvage any of our self-respect by adding at least something, no matter how great or small, to His work, we are not accepting His work as complete. And, if we do not accept His work as complete, we have not accepted His gospel.

There is only one gospel. It is either that you must "hear, believe, repent, be baptized, join the church, and live a life of obedience"; or that you must cast aside all of your confidence in your abilities and accomplishments and call upon Christ to save you by His complete work. But it is not both!

So, as we continue with our text, Paul, now having made the case that righteousness doesn't come from the law but through faith in Christ, moves to the next logical conclusion: this righteousness is made available to everyone, not just the Jew, which is what the Judaizers were contending.

Galatians 3:28 (NASB) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The whole problem among the Galatian Christians is that some wanted to still observe the dividing line between Jew and Greek. Paul writes, "In Jesus Christ that line is done away with. When we are in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek." Paul makes this same point in:

Ephesians 2:13-16 (NASB) But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

In Christ Jew and Gentile are one. Since this is true, then there is no reason to compel Gentiles to become Jews. Jewishness is not superior. God is no respecter of person. In Christ, all believers stand on the same ground.

Does this verse teach that being "in Christ Jesus" eliminates the cultural, social, and sexual distinctions that exist between people? No! But there are those who claim that because there is neither male nor female in Christ, women, as well as men, can be preachers and elders of a church, and they can teach men the Bible. Such an interpretation of this verse is contrary to the word of God.

There are still distinctions on the basis of factors such as sex and status in life, both in society at large and in the church. Women are prohibited from public speaking and leadership in the church (1 Cor. 14:34):

1 Timothy 2:11-13 (NASB) Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

Wives are still to be subject to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24), slaves are still to be subject to their masters (Eph. 6:5-8), and children are to still obey their parents (Eph. 6:1-3). The important thing to realize is that these distinctions have nothing to do with one's spiritual standing.

Paul is not attempting to create the illusion of a uni-culture, uni-social, uni-sex society. Instead, he is merely attempting to show that all human beings come to justification before God by the exact same method: faith apart from works. The Jew does not come by faith plus works. The Gentile does not come by faith in the midst of libertinism. The enslaved do not come by faith plus loyal servitude. The free do not come by faith plus being a kind master. The men do not come by faith plus loyal headship. The women do not come by faith plus loyal submission. All come by faith alone, or they don't come at all.

In the first century, the Rabbis quoted a morning prayer that was popular among many Jews of that day. In that prayer, the Jewish man would thank God that he was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Paul takes each of these categories and shows them to be equal in Jesus.

Gentiles, slaves, and women did not enjoy the same access to God in Israel's formal worship as did Jews, free men, and males. They could trust God for their personal salvation, however. The priests in Israel had to be Jews, free, and males. Now in the church, every Christian is a priest (1 Pet.2:9-10).

Galatians 3:28 says nothing explicitly whatsoever about how male/female relationships should be conducted in daily life. Even the feminists acknowledge that the context of Galatians 3 is theological, not practical. Paul is here making a theological statement about the fundamental equality of both men and women in their standing before God. Thus any ideas about how this truth should work itself out in social relationships cannot be drawn from Galatians 3:28.

The Jew who believes is saved. The Greek who believes is saved. The slave who believes is saved. The free man who believes is saved. The man who believes is saved. The woman who believes is saved.

Let me add one more category to the list in 3:28. All, regardless of their peripheral doctrinal beliefs, who believe in Christ Jesus are His children. To say otherwise is to make salvation impossible, for to say otherwise is to say that salvation depends upon purity of doctrine in every facet of Biblical revelation. And, that is to say that salvation depends upon knowing every revealed facet of God perfectly before one can be saved.

There are those in the partial preterist camp who say that preterists are not saved, because of their eschatological beliefs. This is adding to the gospel. In Christ there is neither futurist nor preterist in terms of how we are saved. Correct eschatology is not a condition of eternal life. And all futurists should be glad of that! Just kidding!

Galatians 3:29 (NASB) And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

With this verse, Paul winds up a major segment of his argument in the book of Galatians. Since the beginning of chapter three we have seen that his point was that the Galatians were saved by faith apart from human performance. His proof of that truth was first tied to the historical experience of salvation by the Galatians (3:1-5). Then, he appealed to the historical record of the experience of justification by Abraham, who "BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Galatians 3:6). It is because the strength of his argument rests upon the fact that salvation is tied to the Abrahamic covenant that Paul now returns to the issue of whether his readers are "Abraham's offspring."

In verse seven of this chapter, Paul had written, "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham." The importance of this linkage he gave in verse nine: "So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer." (The blessing promised is resurrection life) The promise was made "to Abraham and his seed." One has to be of the seed of Abraham to be able to receive resurrection life. If we are not of the seed of Abraham, we cannot be saved.

The entire point of Genesis 15 is that Abraham had no ability to alter his wife's barren state by any means. Instead, his "faith" was simply a decision to take the promise of God at face value: "your seed shall be as the stars of heaven." It was Abraham's faith in this specific promise which brought him to be "accounted" as "righteous."

Abraham's offspring are identified by their faith:

John 6:47 (NASB) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

At issue is Jesus' ability to give life to those who have no ability in themselves to do anything (including conjuring up the "faith" - see John 6:44 and 65) to bring themselves to spiritual life. Therefore, those who are like Abraham in faith simply take the promise at face value. And, as they do, God imparts to them His righteousness forever.

Believer, please get this: Only those who belong to Christ are Abraham's descendants. Abraham's only descendants are those of faith:

Romans 4:13 (NASB) For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

If you are an heir, you have a legal right to an inheritance. Since we are now members of God's family, we have a right to all that God has promised to his children.

Our text this morning enables us to answer the most basic of all human questions, "Who am I?" The answer being, "In Christ I am a son of God." And as God's children, we should live in such a way as to honor and bring glory to our Father.

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