Picking up from the previous article in Galatians 3, the illustration of children (who were temporarily under the care of a guardian) continues, as the Galatians are described as “children of God through faith”.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29 NIV
Note that having been “baptized into Christ” results in being clothed with Christ. The Lookout (see reference below) says, “In Roman society when a child came of age, they gave that child a special toga to indicate maturity (John Valvoord, Biblical Knowledge Commentary).” Being clothed in that particular way was a special symbol that was visible to others.
Today, we might think about industries and professions that require uniforms, where people may dress alike. Yet, even in these cases, we can often still see many differences from individual to individual. Even in similar attire, we see special things about people in these roles, ranging from visible evidence of their heritage, to their choices about how they present themselves, to unique attributes of their personality.
On the other hand, when we are clothed with Christ, Jesus should be the main thing that people see: Not merely the relatively minor differences among ourselves…and definitely not our achievements against the law. However, God still created each of us uniquely, and even those who are following Jesus with all their heart demonstrate different aspects of God’s creativity in how He made each of them.
Verse 29 may cause us to reflect on verses 6-9, where Abraham was credited with righteousness through his faith, long before the law of Moses was given to the people. When righteousness (or justification) comes through faith, without needing to go through the Law of Moses, there’s no need to limit it to the Jewish people. Children of Abraham – sharing his faith, even if they don’t share his DNA – can be justified, regardless of one’s ethnicity, social status, or gender.
Remember, when we are clothed with Christ, we don’t lose who God made us to be – unique and special – but those differences aren’t the most important thing about us anymore. In that light, we may quote verse 28 in isolation, emphasizing unity. A commentary (IVP) says, “This radical affirmation of unity and equality in Christ is a deliberate rejection of the attitude expressed by the synagogue prayer in which the worshiper thanks God for not making him a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”
Having said that, while I think that unity is important in God’s kingdom, don’t overlook what unites us: Christ Jesus. We aren’t unified because we try really hard to get along with others in the family of God. We are united in that we all need, love, and serve Jesus, having accepted His gift of salvation. Unity with each other is the result – not the cause – of sharing a family name and participating in God’s purpose for us (both as individuals and as a community).
Also, this verse isn’t necessarily only saying that everyone can come to Jesus (although you certainly can, no matter your past or present circumstances), which I think is sometimes how this passage is used. Even more than that, the context indicates to me that faith in Jesus means that He is – or, at least, He should be – in focus when people see us, and it contrasts this faith (that highlights Jesus) with being “locked up” under the law:
- Gentiles don’t have to become Jewish in order to be made right with God, nor do Jewish people need to give up their heritage.
- Slaves don’t have to become free to be saved, nor do they or their masters need to enslave themselves to other people in the church (especially when false teachers aren’t teaching the truth of Jesus).
- Men or women aren’t somehow expected to live more like Christ than the other. All of us should put on Christ and show His love, His mercy and grace, and His truth to others.
So, let’s enjoy the diversity of people who are welcome in the Kingdom of God (including us!), but let’s also use that as a reminder that we must not fall into the trap of trying to get right with God through what we do. Like Abraham, we are saved by faith – not our accomplishments.
As a result, let’s focus on being clothed with Christ, showing Him to the rest of the world who doesn’t yet know Him, and marking our membership in His family with that shared garment, while still being a unique member of that family, as God has created each of us.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 15, 2021
- The Lookout, August 15, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.IVP New Testament Commentary Series, via BibleGateway.com.