Children of Abraham and Heirs of Freedom
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs according to the promise” Galatians 3:29
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, burn under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:4, 5
In one sense, Galatians 3:23-29 brings to close the argument that started with Peter’s breaking off table fellowship with the Gentile believers. As we will remember, this started back in Galatians 2:12 and Paul’s response to Peter was his argument that faith rather than the law justified both Jews and Gentiles. In this way, Jews and Gentiles belong to the same community of faith. Being of the same community of faith the right hand of fellowship should be extended with both parties coming together across a common table even though there had been historical reasons this was not done in the past. His conclusion is that for the Christian, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, male and female. Why would this be? Because God has rescued all from sin in the same manner – through faith in Christ Jesus.
United Through Faith in Christ
Verse 26 begins to take Paul’s argument a giant step forward when it claims that all become “sons and daughters of God, through faith” in Christ Jesus. This is a truly radical idea for the Jewish mind. For the Jew, thinking that children of God were literally descendant of Abraham, those who both had the promise and kept the law. Circumcision was the outward sign of being a son of God. But now Gentiles, Paul claims are sons of God through faith.
Interestingly enough, Paul’s position as outlined in verse 26 also contradicts much of modern teachings of today. We often say and teach that we are all God’s children. Paul refutes this idea and says, He created everybody, but it does not apply the universal fatherhood of God to all humanity. Paul stated that God’s children are those who have faith in Christ. Before you think this couldn’t possibly be the case, John the beloved disciple who said. “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God’; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13; confer with John 3:5, 7; Romans 8:14-17).
So, what is it that causes this transformation from being one of God’s created to being a child of God? Galatians 3:27 ties the rite of baptism “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (NASB). Yet, it is important to recognize that the apostle is not arguing that we become children of God through baptism for this would be the same as substituting baptism for circumcision. Paul clearly makes faith the means of our union with Christ. A Faith that secures the union; while baptism signifies its outward visibility.
Paul, in verses 28 and 29, leads his Galatian readers to the point of the argument that began with the breakdown of table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles way back in Galatians two verse twelve. Paul has based his argument on the fact that all, both Jew and Gentile, are justified by faith alone, without works of the law (verse 16). Paul asserts that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. He then makes the point that if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (verse 28).
Paul in one fell swoop erases for all believers the great social divide, a divide by the way that was never really from God but the act of Satan working through men, for there is no division based on race, rank, and sex in the church. Some have pointed out that this does not mean that distinctions no longer exist, but rather that they no longer matter in the sense that they no longer create barriers to fellowship among believers. For Jews, Paul’s teaching was particularly revolutionary because it reversed the sentiments of the prayer offered daily by Jewish males in which they thank God that He had not made them a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.
Lest we be too quick to judge, this is a prayer I have even heard Christians say as they thumb their noses at non-Christians. Paul’s argument, “is that Gentiles do not have to become Jews to participate fully in the life of the church. Neither do blacks have to become white or females become male for full participation in the life and ministry of the church.
Yet, even in the twenty-first-century church many will find Paul’s teaching just as threatening as did the Judaizers of old. After all, no restriction is implied in Paul’s equalizing of the status of male and female in the Christ than in his equalizing of status of Jew and Gentile, or of slave and free person. If in ordinary life existence in Christ is manifested openly in church fellowship, then if a Gentile may exercise spiritual leadership in church as freely as a Jew, or a slave as freely as citizen, why not a woman as freely as a man? The implications for the church of Paul’s logic are extensive indeed. The social ramifications of salvation by grace do not stop at the frontier between Jew and Gentile.
Paul, in verse 29, returns to the theme of promise that had occupied him in verses 6-9 and 15-18. It was never far from his mind that God promised Abraham that the Gentile (nations) would be blessed through the patriarch (verse 8; Genesis 12:3) and that he had been counted righteous because of his faith rather than his works (Galatians 3:6; Genesis 15:6; confer Romans 4). The true heirs of God’s promise to Abraham, his true descendants, are those who have faith in Christ rather than those who just have a blood relationship.