A Commentary by John Stott
Galatians 3:25-29. 2). What we are in Christ.
Verse 5: *But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian*. Paul’s adversative phrase ‘but now’ underlines that what we are is quite different from what we were. We are no longer ‘under the law’ in the sense that we are condemned and imprisoned by it. Now we are ‘in Christ’ (verse 26), united to Him by faith, and so have been accepted by God for Christ’s sake, in spite of our grievous law-breaking.
The last four verses of Galatians 3 are full of Jesus Christ. Verse 26: ‘*In Christ Jesus* you are all sons of God, through faith.’ Verse 27: ‘For as many of you as were baptized *unto Christ* have *put on Christ*.’ The New English Bible translates ‘put on Christ as a garment.’ The reference may be to the *toga virilis*, which a boy would put on when he had entered into manhood, a sign that he had grown up. Verse 28b: ‘You are all one *in Christ Jesus*.’ Verse 29: ‘If you are *Christ’s* (i.e. ‘if you belong to Christ’, NEB), then you are Abraham’s offspring.’ This, then, is what a Christian is. He is ‘in Christ’, he has been ‘baptized into Christ’, he has ‘put on Christ’ and he ‘belongs to Christ’. Paul now unfolds three results of being thus united to Christ.
a). In Christ we are sons of God (verses 26, 27).
God is no longer our judge, who through the law has condemned and imprisoned us. God is no longer our Tutor, who through the law restrains and chastises us. God is now our Father, who in Christ has accepted and forgiven us. We no longer fear Him, dreading the punishment we deserve; we love Him, with deep filial devotion. We are neither prisoners, awaiting the final execution of our sentence, nor children, minors, under the restraint of a tutor, but sons of God and heirs of His glorious kingdom, enjoying the status and privileges of grown-up sons (which is the only sense in which the New Testament would allow the modern fashion that man has ‘come of age’).
This sonship of God is ‘in Christ’; it is not in ourselves. The doctrine of God as a universal Father was not taught by Christ nor by His apostles. God is indeed the universal Creator, having brought all things into existence, and the universal King, ruling and sustaining all that He has made. But He is the Father only of our Lord Jesus Christ and of those whom He adopts into His family through Christ. If we would be the sons of God, then we must be ‘in Christ Jesus… through faith’ (verse 26), which is a better rendering than the familiar ‘by faith in Christ Jesus’ (AV). It is through faith that we are in Christ, and through being in Christ that we are sons of God.
Our baptism sets forth visibly this union with Christ. Verse 27: *as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ*. This cannot possibly mean that the act of baptism itself unites a person to Christ, that the mere administration of water makes him a child of God. We must give Paul credit for a consistent theology. This whole Epistle is devoted to the theme that we are justified through faith, not circumcision. It is inconceivable that Paul should now substitute baptism for circumcision and teach that we are in Christ by baptism! The apostle clearly makes *faith* the means of our union with Christ. He mentions faith five times in this paragraph, but baptism only once. Faith secures the union; baptism signifies it outwardly and visibly. Thus in Christ, by faith inwardly (verse 26) and baptism outwardly (verse 27), we are all sons of God.
Tomorrow: Galatians 3:28. b). In Christ we are all one.