The Family of Faith
What makes a person a child of God? Paul’s Jewish readers would have answered by saying that circumcision and keeping the Old Testament Law had secured their place in God’s family. But Jesus Christ had put the Law into second place: only faith in Jesus would bring people into His family. That meant that Gentiles (non-Jews) could be welcomed by God as equals with Jewish-background believers; but Jews who refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah would now be excluded from God’s family.
Circumcision was no longer the mark of belonging to God; baptism was the sign of repentance and faith. New believers made a voluntary choice to submit to baptism; they would not have done so for social reasons (their culture did not allow the Christian faith to be practised publically) so therefore it was a true sign of their faith in Jesus. They had ‘clothed themselves with Christ’: this was a reference to the tradition of a young man being given a special toga (ceremonial Roman costume) to make the transition from boyhood into the full family rights of being an adult in the family.
It is the most wonderful privilege to be a child of God. We do not deserve it; we cannot earn it or pay for it. And once we are in the family our position or status is no less or more than anybody else’s, when we come through Jesus Christ. Paul’s message to the Galatians is for us as well: do not go back to trying to earn your place in God’s family, just put your trust in Jesus Christ. We are called to serve because we believe in Him, wearing His uniform. It is the family business of the sons of God, who like the Galatians, have been freely welcomed by the Father.
© Dr Paul Adams