Baptism: A Response of Faith


For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

One of he most important relationships in the Bible is that of being children of God. On this relationship are based all the benefits God provides in this life as well as in the life to come (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7).

Paul was concerned because some teachers were seeking to mislead the Galatians to rely on the Old Testament law for salvation and sonship. He pointed out that justification does not come through the Law, but through faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:16). The Law did not provide the grace that makes us righteous; if it could, then Jesus died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

Before the Law was given, God had promised to bless all nations through Abraham (Galatians 3:8; see Genesis 12:3; 22:18). The Law did not bring the blessing; rather it cursed everyone under it, because the Law required flawless obedience (Galatians 3:10). This, however, could not nullify God’s promise to bless through Christ, the one seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16,17). The Law, given to help Israel understand that they were transgressors, was to be in force only until the seed, Jesus, would come (Galatians 3:19).

Law systems give standards which, when broken, make people lawbreakers, not righteous people. Only grace, as made possible through Jesus, can make sinners righteous. If a law system could give life, righteousness would have come through the Law, and Jesus would not have needed to die (Galatians 3:21). A law system that is not tempered by grace can only curse those under it, for those under such a system can be righteous only if they never violate the law (Galatians 3:10). None of us can be made righteous by the Law, because we all sin (Galatians 3:21, 22; see Romans 3:23). As lawbreakers, we can be made righteous only by the work of another, Jesus Christ, on whose work we must rely (Galatians 3:22). We cannot rely on our own works based on a strict legal system.

Both Christians and non-Christians must be accountable to some type of law; otherwise, there would be no sinners. “Where there is no law, there also is no violation” (Romans 4:15). WHere there is no violation, there is no need for grace. In the Christian Age we are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). We are also blessed with the grace that has come through Jesus – grace that was not provided by the Law (Galatians 5:4). Through His death, Jesus made grace available for those who lived before Him (Hebrew 9:15) and for the whole world (1 John 2:2), including people of all ages.

The purpose of the Law was to teach the need for Jesus as our Savior so that we, by depending on Him, would come to Him (Galatians 3:24). The Law helps us to understand that we cannot be made righteous through our own righteous acts – only through faith in His work. Now that Jesus has come and made righteousness possible through faith in Him, we are to longer under the “tutor,” the Law (Galatians 3:25).

The Law recognized only Israel as God’s covenant people. Now all – Jews and Gentiles alike – can become God’s children in Christ through faith, when we are baptized (Galatians 3:26,27). Regardless of race, social status, or other physical distinction, as children of God, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).


According to Paul, baptism is the moment when we enter into Christ and become children of God in Christ. By entering into Jesus, we become not only children of God, but also sharers in His nature. “The expression ‘in Christ Jesus’ should therefore be taken as an appositive to the whole statement and should be interpreted in the way that Paul uses the formula elsewhere, that is , implying close communion with Christ an incorporation into his fellowship” Daniel C. Arichea Jr. and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (New York: United Bible Societies, 1976), 83.

John R. W. Stott stated the same idea in a simpler way:

If we would be the sons of God, then we must be “in Christ Jesus… through faith” (verse 26), which is a better rendering that the familiar “by faith in Christ Jesus” [KJV]. It is through the faith that we are in Christ, and through being in Christ that we are sons of God. John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians: Only One Way (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), 99.

Concerning the phrase “in Christ,” James D. Dunn wrote,

Its force is also clear from the context here: “into Christ” explains the “in Christ” of verse 26; it was by being “baptized into Christ” that they had become “in Christ.” … But “into Christ” has more the sense of “into” so as to become “in,” as describing the moment in which and action by means of which their lives and destinies and very identities become bound up with Christ. James D. Dunn, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 9, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, gen. ed. Henry Chadrick (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), 203.

Paul’s use of “faith” in Galatians usually is preceded by the article “the” and should be rendered “the faith” in the objective sense. Thus the phrase “the faith,” as George Duncan pointed out, “has come, even at the early date of the Epistle, to be practically a designation for the new religion, as ‘the Law’ served to designate the old one.” George S. Duncan, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, ed. James Moffatt (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, Hodder and Stoughton, 1955), 120.

Galatians 3:26 is translated, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (RSV); “All of you are God’s children through the faith in Christ” (McCord’s New Testament). A combination of these two translations would give a literal rendering of the verse : “For you are all sons of God in Christ through the faith.”

Through the faith brought to us by Jesus, we can be sons of God in Him. Baptism is the moment when we enter into Christ to become sons of God.


We become children of God and clothed with Jesus because our faith leads us to be baptized. A faith that does not move us to a proper response is not the faith presented in the Bible.

The teaching of Jesus is called “the faith” because it requires faith in its adherents – a faith that is the motivating force which stirs us to actions. Our actions are rewarded because of our faith that motivated the actions. Actions without faith are valueless (Hebrews 11:6), and faith without action is valueless (James 2:24). God’s illustration of pleasing faith, the faith which He rewarded because of resulting action, is given in Hebrews 11. The following were pleasing to God because their faith caused them to respond to the will of God:

Abel offered his sacrifice (v. 4).

Enoch, who walked with God (see Genesis 5:24), was taken up (v. 5).

Noah prepared an ark (v. 7).

Abraham obeyed and went out as God commanded (v. 8).

Sarah conceived (v. 11).

Abraham offered Isaac (v. 17).

Joseph gave orders concerning his bones (v.22).

Moses’ parents hid him (v. 23).

Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (v. 24).

Moses left Egypt (v.27).

Moses kept the Passover (v. 28).

The people of Israel marched through the sea (v. 29).

Israel marched around the walls of Jericho (v.30).

Rahab hid the spies (v.31).

These examples of obedient faith are evidence that God accepts only faith that moves us to act obediently, relying on His Word. We obey by faith because we believe that God will reward us according to what He has promised (Romans 4:20,21). The blessings God gives us are accomplished through His work; they are not achieved though the work which He requires of us as an expression of our faith.

People who teach that baptism is unnecessary base their doctrine of “faith only” on Paul’s writings. However, this shows a lack of understanding of Paul’s teaching and makes Paul contradict the words of Jesus and the New Testament. Jesus taught that the ones who enter the kingdom are those who “do” the Father’s will (Matthew 7:21). He said that people are blessed because they hear God’s Word and “observe” it (Luke 11:28). Further, He encouraged people to “work… for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). He also said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

James taught “that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Peter taught that our souls are purified through “obedience to the truth” (1 Peter 1:22). John wrote that “we know that we have come to know Him” and “know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3-5; 3:24) if we keep His commandments.

The “faith only” theory also makes Paul contradict himself, for he wrote that eternal life is given “to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7). He further said, “You became obedient form the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18); “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b). We read in Hebrews 5:9 that Jesus is “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”


Christians are not under a tutor, “for” (the Greek word gar means “by way of explanation” In Galatians 3 “for” is the connective word between verses 25 and 26 and between verses 26 and 27.) we are sons of God by the faith. The implication here is that under the Christian Age we are not children who need to be led by the hand of a guardian (Gk.: paidagogos in vv. 24, 25). “In Paul’s time the ‘pedagogue’ was a slave employed in Greek and Roman families whose job was to supervise a minor child (ages six through sixteen) both within and outside the home.” Arichea and Nida, 81.

F.F. Bruce explained the “pedagogue” as

… the personal slave-attendant wo accompanied the free-born boy wherever he went, from the time he left his nurse’s care. It was his duty to … take him to school, … wait for him there, … then take him home and test his memory by making him recite the lesson he had learned. During the boy’s minority the paidagogos imposed a necessary restraint on his liberty until, with his coming of age, he could be trusted to use his liberty responsibly. F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 182.

The tutor, then, was the household slave whose custodial duties ended after taking a child to the teacher.

In the same way, the Law served as the “pedagogue,” a household slave, to bring us to Jesus. Since Jesus has come, we are no longer in need of the Law as our guardian. We can now enjoy the blessings and freedom of sons (Galatians 4:6,7), having become children of God in Christ through the faith (Galatians 3:26, 27).

By becoming children we are to have the family likeness of Christ through the faith “for” (by way of explanation) by being baptized into Christ we become clothed with Jesus. That is, we take on His nature (Galatians 3:26, 27). Paul was saying that, by means of being baptized, we become God’s children and take on God’s nature of their parents. When we respond to the faith, baptism achieves these results.


When we become children of God, we take on the likeness of God’s family found in the nature of Jesus.

In order to understand more fully the transformation that should take place in baptism, we should comprehend the meaning of “sons of God.” The term “sons of God” includes the ideas of (1) origin, (2) relationship, and (3) nature.

We are sons of God, first, because of our spiritual origin. Being spiritually born of God is what makes us His sons. As those who are born of parent are their children, even so those who are born of God are His children. If we experience the new birth mentioned by Jesus (John 3:3-5; see 1 Peter 1:3, 23), we are God;s children because we have been born of God (John 1:13).

Second, we are God’s sons, His children, because we have become spiritually related to God. Peter used “son” in this sense by calling Mark his son (1 Peter 5:13), meaning that Mark was spiritually related to him as a younger spiritual son.

Third, we are God’s sons because, by being spiritually born again, we take on His nature, the nature of the one by whom we have been born. In 1 John we learn that if we are born of God, we do not practice sin (3:9; 5:18). We love and know God (4:7), believe in Jesus (5:1), overcome the world (5:4), and keep ourselves so that the evil one does not touch us (5:18).

The word huioi, translated “sons” or “children” (KJV), can contain the idea of having the nature of the one to whom we are sons or children. “Son” is used in this sense in the following passages:

“Son of hell”
(Matthew 23:15).

“Sons of Thunder”
(Mark 3:17).

“Man [Gk.: huios, meaning “son”] of peace”
(Luke 10:6).

“Sons of this age”
(Luke 16:8; 20:34).

“Sons of light”
(Luke 16:8; John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).

“Sons of the resurrection”
(Luke 20:36).

“Son of perdition”
(John 17:12).

“Son of Encouragement”
(Acts 4:36).

“Son of the devil”
(Acts 13:10; see also John 8:44).

“Sons of disobedience”
(Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).

“Sons of day”
(1 Thessalonians 5:5).

“Son of destruction”
(2 Thessalonians 2:3).

In each of these cases, “son[s] of” means having that very nature. We are God’s children because, having been born of Him, we have our spiritual origin from Him, are spiritually related to Him, and have the family characteristics of His nature.


The idea of having the nature of God because we are “sons of God” is also contained in the expression “clothed… with Christ” (Galatians 3:27), which is also translated “put on Christ” (KJV). One authority gave this definition:

The expression “to put on” when used figuratively means “to take on the character or standing” of the person referred to, or “to become as” the person referred to. To put on Christ is to become as Christ, to take upon oneself his character, his standing before God (as God’s Son). Arichea and Nida, 84.

Herman N. Ridderbos commented:

Just as a garment which one puts on (or has put on: the passive translation, too, has some proponents) quite envelopes the person wearing it, and identifies his appearance and his life, so the person baptized in Christ is quite entirely taken up in Christ and in the salvation brought by Him. Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), 148.

George S. Duncan stated,

The wearer becomes in a subtle way identified with what he puts on. … Thus, when a man is baptized, he becomes so thoroughly identified with Christ that is no longer he who lives, it is Christ who lives in him. No matter what that person was before, in Christ he is a new creature.

In the same way our appearance takes on the nature of our physical clothing, so also we are to take on the characteristics of Christ by being clothed with Him. This takes place not because of the outward ritual of baptism alone, but because of an inner spiritual involvement in the act in which we have put off our “old self with its evil practices, knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:9, 10).

Baptism is Faith in Action

Baptism is not a work which, in itself, removes sins; rather, it is based on faith in the work of Jesus. It is a response of faith that is rewarded because of the faith in God’s working that motivated the act.

What would have happened if Israel had marched around the walls of Jericho because God commanded it but did not have faith the walls would fall? Surely they would not have fallen because of a lack of faith in what God promised to do. This would not have happened because of unbelief even though they obeyed God by the act.

If a person is baptized to obey God but does not have faith Jesus will remove his sins, he will not be forgiven, not because he did not act but because he did not have faith. Even if the act is done to obey God, it is not based on faith in what God has promised to do. The act is right but is devoid of the faith that is necessary to make the act acceptable.

God rewards us with salvation and sonship when our faith in what Jesus has done and said moves us to baptism. He does not reward us based not he value of baptism itself, but saves us because of the faith that motivates us to action. Baptism is not an end in itself; rather, it is an act based on faith in Jesus which results in a new life.


Baptism and Oneness

The expression “you are all sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) was used by Paul to affirm that all of the Galatians had the same nature and were in the same family. As brothers in Christ, they possessed the same spiritual family characteristics, regardless of background, social status, or race. After stating that all who are baptized enter Christ, Paul said that all in Christ are one (Galatians 3:27, 28). Baptism makes us all sons of God and in this way unites us. It does not make us unrelated as brothers and sisters or put us into many different religious bodies, but rather into the same family: the one body (1 Corinthians 12:13), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), which is His church (Colossians 1:18).

Many different baptisms are practiced today, putting people into many different churches. The one baptism of the New Testament admits us into only one body (Ephesians 4:4, 5). The one baptism does not create half-brothers and half-sisters, but rather produces brothers and sisters, children of God, who should be identical in nature. They are in the same family, united together as one in Christ. Baptism is meant as a uniting act instead of a source of division.

We Belong to Christ

All of us who belong to Jesus because we have been baptized into Him are spiritual offspring of Abraham and heirs of the blessing God promised through a descendant of Abraham, Jesus (3:29). Even as food that enters into us becomes a part of us and belongs to us, so also those who enter Christ become spiritually a part of Him and belong to Him. We enter this relationship by being baptized into Him. If we have not been baptized, we are out of Jesus – we are not clothed with Him and do not belong to Him.


Baptism is a requirement of God as an act of faith in Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice. When we accept baptism, we express confidence in Jesus’ blood to wash away our sins and to change our lives. A sincere heart-response in baptism by the person who understands its meaning will result in his having a new life (Romans 6:4) that is created in “the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). He will be transformed into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), a child of God clothed with the nature of Jesus (Galatians 3:26, 27). Baptism must be more than a response to a ritual; it should transform us into children of God who are clothed with Jesus.

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