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For you are all sons of God of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ
(Galatians 3: 26- 27).
How shall we understand this passage? My view is that we become a child of God when by faith in Jesus we are baptized into Christ. Our faith is in the working of God (Colossians 2:12, 13). But there are other views.
Consider the following: “Might not we understand Galatians 3: 26, 27 as stating the inward reality and its outward symbol or expression? Thus we become children of God by faith (inward reality) in Christ Jesus. We “put on Christ” or are clothed with Christ symbolically and expressively by being baptized (outward expression).” Questions and Answers, page 120, by Edward Fudge.
Of course the passage can be taken that way. Many have. The question is, “Should it be taken that way”? We read a lot about the “inward reality” or the “inward grace” and the “outward expression”, but we don’t read about it in the Scriptures. We read about it in regard to what theologians call the sacraments. We must ask ourselves, “Is this the way the Scriptures depict the matter?” That is what is important.
Since we are talking about becoming a child of God, let us go to those passages that speak about this issue. Let us look at the new birth and regeneration.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1: 12)
This is a crucial passage in understanding how we become a child of God. Please note that God gives those that receive Christ by believing in His name, the right to become children of God. This indicates that they are not at that time considered to be children of God! They believe, but they are not children of God by faith alone! They become children of God by the new birth, being born of water and the Spirit (John 3: 5)! This passage repudiates the “faith alone” position.
Now please don’t misunderstand. Believing is extremely important. But what is it? In the regeneration scheme of things, God begets us when we come to faith. Yes, when we come to faith by the grace of God, God begets us through the word, the seed, by the exercise of his will.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1: 18). KJV
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born (begotton) of God; and everyone that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotton of him (1 John 5: 1) KJV
For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4: 15). KJV
Having been begotten again, not of seed corruptible, but of incorruptible by (the) word living of God and abiding forever. (1 Peter 1: 23) Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, George Ricker Berry PhD
Unfortunately the newer versions obscure the point. Yes, I know that is not how we usually think about this. But Jesus gave us the comparison of birth in the natural realm to help us understand the spiritual realm. In the natural realm we know that a child must be begotten (on the part of the father) and conceived (on the part of the mother) and then, after the gestation period, he is born. We are born again spiritually, after we have been begotten, when we are born of water and the Spirit at baptism. Natural birth is a process; we are not born at conception. Similarly, regeneration is a process. We are not children of God when we believe; we are begotten of God when the word is implanted in our heart, not born again.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God
(John 3: 5)
A natural birth is a coming forth from the womb into a new life. Similarly the spiritual birth is a coming forth from water and the Spirit into a new life in Christ. We become a child of God when we are born again.
When do we come forth from water and the Spirit?
We come forth from the water and the Spirit after we have been immersed in the water and the Spirit. When we are baptized in water, God has promised that he will pour His Spirit out upon us. Since He does so richly and abundantly, we are figuratively (the Spirit is not a physical entity) immersed. When we come forth from this immersion, we are born again; we are children of God,
Is baptism merely an outward expression of what has already taken place by faith?
Let the Apostle Paul answer the question. He says at baptism:
· We are baptized into Christ (Romans 6: 3).
· We are baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6: 4).
· We are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2: 12: 13).
· Our old self is crucified with Him in baptism (Romans 6: 6).
· We are united with Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6: 5).
· We are freed from sin by obedience to the truth (Romans 6: 17, 18).
· We were made alive together with Him (Colossians 2: 13; Romans 6: 4).
Is being in Christ just an outward expression? Is being united with Him in death and the likeness of His resurrection just a symbol? Is being freed from sin of little consequence? Is receiving life a “take it or leave it” event? You get the picture.
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5: 7)
But we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6: 3; Galatians 3:27)!!! There is no other way given in the Scriptures. Baptism does not answer the question of “why?” The “why?” is the work of Christ. We must never loose sight of that truth. The Restoration Movement has been forced to emphasize baptism because of the many misconceptions but we must remember that, God and Christ are our Saviors. Faith (faith which obeys through love) is the conduit, not works. Faith is the “how?” We cannot afford to make obedience the principle and view faith as one of the particulars. Baptism refers to the “when” God works in our lives. By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who becomes to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1Corinthians 1: 30).
Now don’t misunderstand, Mr. Fudge advocates baptism; but if some one else doesn’t, he holds that person should be accepted as a brother, if that person believes. Mr. Fudge is entitled to his opinion, but this seems more than a little strange to me. How can he be a brother if he has not been born into the family of God?
Mr. Fudge seems to be saying that we become a child of God by faith when we believe and then later, if we decide to be baptized, we are placed in Christ. The fallacy of this conclusion is apparent in that we become new creatures in Christ and that life is in the Son (2 Corinthians 5: 17; 1 John 5: 11)
How should we view Galatians 3: 26, 27?
For you all are sons of God through faith (you were begotten of God, and baptism proceeds from faith) in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized (entered by being born again) into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ (have put on His righteousness).
Things to remember:
· The faith which justifies and saves is dead and useless if alone (James 2: 14-26)
· God begets us when we come to faith.
· We become a child of God when we are born of water and the Spirit.
Truth is consistent with itself. When we read and hear ideas such as are advanced by Mr. Fudge, they must pass the consistency test. If they do not, they are not of the truth.
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Last Update 09/26/12