It is written:
For 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. (Galatians 3:26-29)
When the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the brethren in Galatia, they were being plagued by false teachers who were teaching that Christians must not only serve Christ, but must live under the Law of Moses. They were thereby perverting the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9), and were bringing those who had been freed from the curse of the Law back into slavery to it (Galatians 2:18-29). The entire Old Testament, Paul argues, was designed to be our tutor to prepare us for Christ-and now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the tutor (Galatians 3:24-25). Even Sarah and Hagar serve as foreshadowing of the freedom we enjoy from the Old Testament under Jesus (Galatians 4:21-31). Therefore, those who attempt to be justified by the Law of Moses have fallen from grace, severing themselves from Christ (Galatians 5:4).
In this context, the Apostle discusses how the Old Testament pointed to the promise of God that He would send the promised Seed into the world (Galatians 3). This seed was Christ (Galatians 3:16), and God intended to share the blessings of salvation with both Jews and Gentiles, through the Messiah (Galatians 3:7-18). For this reason, the Law was given-to prepare the people for Christ, to teach them right from wrong (Galatians 3:19) and to show them that they could never be saved by law-keeping since they would therefore need to keep it perfectly (Galatians 3:10-12). Thankfully, Jesus is the One Who kept the Law perfectly and through Him both Jews and Gentiles can be saved (Galatians 3:26-29).
It is here that Paul reminds these Christians of their baptism-and of the many lessons that their baptisms teach them.
First, the baptism under consideration is water baptism. Since water baptism was a well-known rite in Jewish, Christian, and pagan religions of the first century, the word “baptism” would logically refer to baptism in water (unless context demands otherwise). It is worthwhile to remember Ferguson’s words quoted near the beginning of our study on this topic:
“Although the verb “baptize” can have a metaphorical use, the context usually gives a clear indication of this. Without such an indication, the ordinary use of the word at the time in Jewish and Christian circles for the religious immersion of a person in water should be assumed.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 3243 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Ferguson has this in footnote 488:
“Cf. Albrecht Oepke, “βἀπτω, βαπτἰζω (et al.),” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, tr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), Vol. 1, pp. 539-540, that βαπτἰζειν meant technically “to baptize in water” so it was unnecessary to specify the medium. Cf. Gerard-Henry Baudry, Le baptême et ses symboles: Aux sources du salut (Paris: Beauchesne, 2001), p. 5, that “baptize in water” is a pleonasm.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 22259-22265 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Second, this baptism was such that it made the believers into children of God. This is demonstrated by the word “for” beginning verse 27, which is the translation of the Greek preposition gar.
“Verse 26 speaks of becoming sons through faith; verse 27 speaks of being united with Christ through baptism. How are these concepts related? Are they the same thing, or is there just a logical (if not chronological) sequence in view? The answer is that they are not the same, but again are so closely related as cause and effect that they cannot be separated. That is, the sonship in verse 26 is the effect of the union with Christ in verse 27. Verse 26 affirms that we are sons of God through faith, and verse 27 explains how this came about. The key is the word for (Greek, gar) at the beginning of verse 27, which has the force of because. We are sons of God through faith, because we have been baptized into Christ. Union with Christ is the cause or prerequisite of sonship. And since union with Christ is entered into at baptism, then baptism also is a prerequisite of sonship. There is a further significance of this for baptism: that which happens in baptism is the prerequisite of that which is said to happen through faith. We are sons of God through faith, but this sonship is not acquired as soon as we have faith. Rather, it is acquired when this faith leads us into the baptism which unites us with Christ. This should serve as a caution against the common error of equating the Biblical expression “through faith” with the quite different concept “as soon as we have faith.” As an analogy, having ten dollars may be a necessary prerequisite for getting into the ball park and seeing the ball game, but this does not mean that one will see the ball game as soon as he has the ten dollars. He still has to go to the place where the ball game is being played. Likewise, having faith is a necessary prerequisite for sonship and thus heirship, but we still have to go to the place where this sonship is bestowed, which is baptism.” (Jack Cottrell, Baptism: A Biblical Study, 1524-1539 (Kindle Edition); Joplin, Missouri; College Press Publishing Company)
Third, it is through the act of baptism that one enters into Christ. The phrase “in Christ” used in the New Testament usually has reference to being in relationship with Christ in the church. So it is by the Cross that we are reconciled by God in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-16). Salvation is found “in Christ.” We are repeatedly reminded of this in the New Testament.
2 Timothy 2:10-Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Ephesians 1:3-Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Since salvation is “in Christ,” and since baptism is what puts a believer “in Christ,” then baptism is part of God’s plan for salvation.
Third, it is in baptism that we “put on” Christ. The Greek here is tied to the idea of putting on a garment, and is actually drawn from the Old Testament Scriptures.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah described the joy of the Christian Age with these words:
Isaiah 61:10- I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
God is the One Who clothes us with the garments of salvation, when we are baptized into Christ Jesus. The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 4:22-25) is applied to the believer as he is baptized into the Lord.
Again, the Prophet Zechariah writes:
Zechariah 3:1-5-Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. 4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.
Here, Satan is shown as the great accuser of our brethren. Because of our sins, we are condemned before God-and Satan is there to accuse us! However, notice what the Lord does for His people. He graciously takes away the filthy garments and provides clean clothes for them. All of this is tied directly to the work of the Angel of the Lord, an Old Testament designation for the preincarnate Christ.
This gracious gift, the Lord provides for those who are baptized into Him.
Fourth, both the faith and repentance of the Galatians are shown in this passage before they were baptized. They were baptized with the understanding of Who Jesus is-the Christ, the Messiah of the Lord. This term also denoted the authority of the Lord, and these we see an implication of their reactance as well as their faith. This is also shown in the declaration of the Apostle to the Galatians (cf. Galatians 5:7, 16-17, 24).
Fifth, this text reminds us of the fact that when we are baptized into Christ, we become part of the Israel of God. Paul did not believe in the premillennialism that is so common in our day and age, which claims that the Jewish people are the chosen people of God because of their physical lineage and descent. No, the Apostle is clear that only those who are followers of Christ are part of God’s Israel today!
Galatians 3:7-Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
Wohlberg has this excellent observation:
“According to Paul, there are two Israels. The proof? The Jewish apostle wrote, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). In this chapter, we will discover that there is an “Israel after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 10:18) and an “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), composed of both Jews and Gentiles who have personal faith in Jesus Christ, God’s true Messiah. Paul wrote, “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7). Paul’s argument is that because Abraham was a man of faith, only those who have faith are his spiritual children. We might call this the concept of “faith lineage.” This truth is like a key that can open a lock in our heads. Once the lock is open we can understand the shocking principle of two Israels. John the Baptist understood and boldly preached “faith lineage.” When a group of tricky Pharisees and Sadducees came to question John’s right to baptize, the wilderness prophet astonished them by shouting, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10). Those Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t have real faith like Abraham did, yet they claimed to be his children. John the Baptist exposed this delusion. “Don’t think that!” he thundered. John then laid the “ax” to the root of the trees by saying that if they didn’t bear “good fruit” through faith in God like Abraham did, they would be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (verse 10). Clearly natural lineage alone is not enough. Without faith and a spiritual connection with the Almighty, those Jews were doomed. Jesus Christ taught the same truth. A certain group of Jewish people once said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). They also claimed to be Abraham’s children, but they lacked true faith. By saying, “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus denied their claim. Christ continued, “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father” (John 8:40-41). “We have one Father—God,” they countered. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me…You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it’” (John 8:41-42,44). What an atomic text! Jesus was talking to some Jewish people who claimed to be Israelites, the children of Abraham, yet they were only following God outwardly, not in heart. Jesus said they weren’t really Abraham’s children at all because they lacked true faith and were following lies. Their lineage actually went back to satan, the first liar….Jesus Christ also taught “faith lineage” in John chapter 1. A spiritually-minded Jew named Nathanael was wondering whether Jesus of Nazareth was really his Messiah. Retiring to a favorite spot under a fig tree, he prayed about the matter. Soon a friend introduced him to the Savior. When Jesus saw Nathanael, He joyfully declared, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47) Nathanael had a natural lineage that went back to Abraham. Yet he had more. In his spiritual life, he had gained victories over guile, which means deception. When Jesus discerned Nathanael’s spiritual lineage to Abraham and Jacob, He called him “an Israelite indeed.” Just as Jacob himself had become a spiritual Israel, even so had Nathanael become “an Israelite indeed.” He was part of God’s true spiritual Israel. Just as there are two Israels, even so are there two kinds of Jews. There are Jewish people in the flesh and Jewish people in the Spirit. In words of warning to certain Jews who were breaking the Ten Commandments, Paul wrote, “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God…. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man [a Gentile] keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?…For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:17,25-26,28-29). Did you catch that? Someone who is “called a Jew” because he is a physical descendant of Abraham, and yet who lives as a lawbreaker, is “not a Jew.” His “circumcision has become uncircumcision.” To God, he is a Gentile. And the believing Gentile, who through faith keeps “the righteous requirements of the law,” his uncircumcision is “counted as circumcision.” To God, he is a Jew. Thus John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and Paul all agree—natural lineage is not enough. Whether or not someone is “an Israelite indeed” depends upon one’s faith and spiritual character. Paul summarized, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Anyone today can become one of these “Jews,” no matter who their earthly parents are. These concepts of “faith lineage,” Jews being counted as Gentiles, and visa versa, lead us to one of the biggest issues facing the prophecy-minded Christian world. This issue is at the core of prophetic interpretation. In it, we are faced with two options. One is the truth, the other a lie. One leads to Heaven and the other, possibly, to hell….Paul deals with this explosive issue in Romans 9:2-8. His words require careful thought. Sorrowfully, Paul wrote about his Jewish “countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” (verses 2-4). God did make promises to Israel in the Old Testament. Yet what if some Jews do not have true faith in Him? Can God fulfill His promises to an unbelieving Israel after the flesh? If not, has His Word failed? Paul’s answer to these important questions is vital: “Not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (verse 6). Notice that the truth of two Israels is Paul’s assurance that God’s Word will not fail. Look carefully: “They are not all Israel [the Israel of God] who are of Israel [of the Jewish nation].” Thus a Jew can be of the Jewish nation, and yet not be part of the Israel of God. Now here’s the explosive question: To which Israel will God fulfill His promises? Paul continues, “Nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’” (verse 7). Since not all physical descendants of Abraham are automatically God’s true children, therefore His promises are for those “in Isaac.” Abraham had two sons. The first was Ishmael, who was born after the flesh. The second was Isaac, who was born when Abraham had faith in God’s promise (see Genesis 16:1-3,15; 21:1-3; Romans 4:18-21). In Galatians 4:22-31, Paul shockingly reveals that Ishmael represents unbelieving Jews, while Isaac represents Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ! “Now we, brethren [as believers in Christ], as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). The “children of promise” are those who “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Therefore, the Israel that is “in Isaac” is the Israel of God in the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes, “That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:8, emphasis added). “Counted as the seed” means that, although some may be Gentiles, they’re in. Here is an eight-point summary of Paul’s rather detailed reasoning: God made promises to Abraham and his seed (Galatians 3:16). Abraham’s seed would continue “in Isaac” (Romans 9:7). Isaac was born when Abraham had faith in God’s promise (Romans 4:19-21). Isaac represents everyone who believes in Jesus and who receives the promise of the Holy Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:14; 4:22-28) All who have faith in Jesus Christ—Jews or Gentiles—“are counted as the seed” (Galatians 3:14; Romans 9:8; 10:12). This seed is “the Israel of God” in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16,29; 6:14-16). God will fulfill His promises to this Israel (Galatians 3:29; 4:28; 6:14-16). Thus God’s promises to Israel have not been made of “no effect,” even though some Jewish people don’t believe in their own Messiah (Romans 9:6-8). Here we have the answer to the issue that means so much in prophetic interpretation. The Bible is clear. God will fulfill His Old Testament promises to those “in Isaac,” that is, to any human being who follows Abraham’s example and who becomes part of His Israel in the Spirit through faith in the Messiah. Thus the issue is not race, bloodline, genealogy, or ethnicity, but personal faith—a faith available to all (see Romans 10:12). Those who are only “the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:8). We should not expect God to fulfill His promises to unbelieving Israelites of the flesh (or to lips-only Christians of the flesh for that matter), unless, of course, they individually become true believers in the Messiah….In the next three verses, Paul refers to Israel’s apostasy in the days of Elijah. God told His prophet, “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (verse 4). In Elijah’s time there were also two Israels. One followed Baal, the other followed God. Then Paul made this pointed application. “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (verse 5). Just as in Elijah’s time there was a faithful remnant of Israel, even so in Paul’s time there was also a faithful remnant of believing Jews, who, like himself, had been saved by grace. Based on the context of Romans 11:1-5, it is this faithful remnant of Israel, made up of Jews like Paul, which God has certainly not “cast away.” Soon we will see this exact issue in the Book of Revelation. As in the days of Elijah, we are now in the midst of a terrible apostasy. Yet today God has His “seven thousand” who have not “bowed the knee to Baal.” They are His faithful remnant, His Israel in the Holy Spirit, who rely on God’s power instead of their flesh. Like Elijah, they will be on the side of Jesus Christ and His truth at Armageddon.” (Steve Wohlberg, End Time Delusion: The Rapture, The Antichrist, Israel, And The End Of The World, 146-157 (Kindle Edition); Shippensburg, PA; Treasure House)
This blessing encompasses all baptized believers, no matter their nationality, gender, social status, or sin.
Finally, it needs to be reiterated that the Galatians had apparently misunderstood many of these truths. Perhaps their relationship to the Judaizers of the day had clouded their perception. It is also likely that some knew the truth but had forgotten it or were willfully ignorant of it (like Peter, James, John, and Barnabas mentioned here in Galatians 2:1-14). Nevertheless, they were still acknowledged as Christians, children of God, part of the true Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).
What powerful lessons this passage teaches us about baptism!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.