Galatians 3:19-29: Children by faith


  • Law
  • Faith


How does one become a child of God? A most simple but a most important question, and one which has been answered a number of different ways. The Liberal answer to this question is, every human being is a child of God; that man is basically good, and therefore they believed in the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. This is a view of our being children of God without taking into account the problem of sin, and God having to judge us for our sin, and having to provide a Saviour in Christ. Inside the church we do not necessarily have one opinion on the matter, there are those who believe that by virtue of baptising infants one can make a child of God, either through a view of baptismal regeneration which makes one a child of God. Or by seeing baptism conferring a legal sonship similar to how Israelites were made children of Abraham through circumcision.

Paul is dealing with this question in his letter to the Galatians. The Galatians were dealing with the problem of the Judaizers. These were Jewish converts to Christianity who believed that faith in Jesus was not enough to be saved, but that one also had to become Jewish. In the OT when someone wanted to become a true worshipper of God, one had to convert to Judaism. One would have to receive circumcision, and submit to the various ceremonial laws of the OT. When Jesus came and died for our sins, and made open a way of salvation for the whole world, this changed, we were to no longer see salvation as becoming part of a particular nation and adopting its culture, but we were given an international way of being the church. We are saved by grace through faith and the OT ceremonial laws are done away with as fulfilled. But these Judaizers were slow to see this; they wanted any Gentile convert to convert to OT Judaism if they converted to Christ, for they saw this as the only way to being a child of God.
Paul writes to the Galatians to tell them that if anyone comes preaching another gospel besides the one they heard at first, may the person who preaches it be cursed, even if they are an angel or an apostle. The first part of the letter stresses Paul’s credentials as an apostle so that the message he has preached to them will not be doubted. He goes into some history about how the apostles had approved his message, and how he even had to correct Peter who acted like a hypocrite and reverted to OT style Judaism among the Gentile believers when Judaizers from Jerusalem visited the church while he was there. From 2:15 Paul sets out to prove that we are saved not by returning to OT laws, but by faith in Christ. That we are children of God not by circumcision or law but by faith. That we receive the promises given to Abraham and become true heirs of Abraham not by any OT practice but through faith in Christ. It is only by faith in Christ that we become sons of God and heirs of the promises to Abraham.

Today is a baptismal service where Matt is obeying the Lord by being baptised. There is a single reference to baptism in Galatians in 3:27, we will be looking at 3:19-29. In this section Paul is contrasting the law and the promise. He is arguing that we receive the promise of salvation, the promise of the Spirit not by law but by faith. We want to jump into the middle of his discussion as he starts describing the purpose of the law in verse 19, and then to look at how over against law we are adopted through faith in Christ not law.