Galatians 3:26-29 – WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO BE CALLED A CHILD OF GOD?
What a wonderful privilege it is to be a child of the living God! Thank God for His great love by which He allows us to be in His family. In the closing section of Galatians 3, we read about which people have the right to be called God’s children. Let’s call it “sonship in the Christ.” Note the text:
(26) 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.
Let us start by pointing out some matters that are not the basis of sonship. The words of our text come immediately after Paul explained the role of the Law of Moses. For the Jews, it had served as a tutor to bring them to the Christ. Paul makes it clear that now, though, that old law is no longer in force (3:24,25). Thus, the sonship about which Paul writes is not brought about by following the old law.
Sonship is not through physical birth. The Christ is mentioned in each of the four sentences that make up the last four verses of Galatians 3. One becomes a child of God through Jesus, and that involves a spiritual birth, not a physical one (John 3:3,5). When it comes to physical matters, the context of the entire epistle to the Galatians makes it plain that receiving physical circumcision is not a factor in whether or not one is a child of God (cf. “circumcised nor uncircumcised” in Colossians 3:11).
Sonship is not based on one’s ancestry. As our text shows, in the Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (3:28). That, of course, does not mean that no Jew or Greek can be a child of God; it simply means that in God’s Son, there is no distinction based on one’s biological background.
Sonship is not based on one’s social status. Both slave and free could be, and were, admitted into God’s family (3:28).
Sonship is not based on one’s gender. Again, in God’s Son “there is neither male nor female” (3:28). We obviously can detect the difference between females and males, but the point here is that sonship is neither denied nor granted due to one’s gender. Do not confuse the issue in this context. Paul is not discussing the roles that males and females play in the Christ. He is not declaring that they are equal in having the right to take leadership roles in the work and worship of God’s people. No, Paul is addressing the question of “Who has the right to be called a child of God?” In that matter, brothers and sisters are equal, having come into the Christ in the same manner and being entitled to equal spiritual blessings in Him (Ephesians 1:3).
Well, if being God’s child is not predicated on any of those matters listed above, then upon what is it based? Sonship is based on location and relationship. Those who are in God’s family “are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Thus, all of God’s children are in the Christ (which is the same as being in His church, 1 Timothy 3:15). The in-the-Christ people are the same as those who are identified as “Christ’s” (3:29). Again, sonship and faithful service is about location and relationship. Now let us go back a bit in our text.
Sonship comes about through Jesus: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:26). There is no way to bypass Him and be a child of God. As we consider “faith” in this verse, there are two aspects to it. First, in the Greek text, “faith” is preceded by an article, making it “the faith” – that is the system of faith, or gospel (1:23). So, sonship comes about via the gospel (and not the old law; 3:24,25). Second, there is the personal element of faith – a person must respond to the message of “the faith” with his own personal faith in Jesus as the Christ (Acts 16:31).
When does one’s personal faith get him into the Christ, that is, make him a child of God? “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). Scriptural immersion is the transition – it takes one from being in the darkness that is outside of the Christ and puts him into God’s Son. Since all spiritual blessings, including redemption, are in the Christ (Ephesians 1:3,7), then no one outside of Him is in God’s spiritual family. Again, the only way door into Him is via baptism.
Those who “are Christ’s” (3:29) were bought with a price – the blood of the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18,19). Being in the Christ, they are Abraham’s spiritual seed and heirs to the promise, the promise that all families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed (3:16; Genesis 12:3; 22:18).
Let us never take for granted the privilege of being God’s children. God help us to appreciate all of the efforts made by the Godhead and humans, too, to bring about our redemption. And may we conduct ourselves in God’s family in such a way that others can see just how much that family means to us.
— Roger D. Campbell