Which Gospel? The Gospel of Baptism (Paul), Part 2

Clothed with Christ

(Gal 3:26-29) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul finally says outright what he suggests elsewhere — we are baptized “into Christ.” This places us in his body — the church-universal. In a sense, we are clothed with Christ because we’ve wrapped ourselves in Jesus!

There are many consequences of this that Paul works out in Galatians. It makes us all sons (not children, sons). Therefore, we are heirs of God’s promise to Abraham (only sons inherited in those days). Indeed, we become heirs of the new Jerusalem and new earth promised in Rev 21.

We become Abraham’s seed.

(Gen 22:17-18) I will surely bless you and make your [seed] as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your [seed] will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your [seed] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Now ponder this one: through Abraham’s seed — US — will all nations on earth be blessed. WE are the ones who are supposed to bring blessings to all nations.

One of the ways we bless others is, as Jesus did, by turning people from their wicked ways —

(Acts 3:25-26) “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Now, I’ve never heard this taught. I just realized that as I’m typing this. WE are the blessing. We normally think that we are blessed. We receive the blessing. It’s true, but the point is that we bless others (which is, of course, a blessing to us).

Therefore, baptism teaches us to be a part of God’s mission to bless all nations. We participate in that mission.

Of course, another lesson, which we’ve seen before, is that baptism teaches unity of all believers — but now Paul adds gender to the equation. It’s not surprising. After all, he’s teaching against circumcision, which was an exclusively male rite — symbolic of being a part of the covenant.

Paul says, no, God no longer gives a mark of his people for men only. We are all sons because we are all a part of Jesus — the Son. Therefore, we are all adopted into God’s family and enjoy the blessings and privileges of that family. We all inherit the new earth.

Finally, as is so often the case, the NIV mistranslates v. 28. Paul really says,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, no “male and female,” for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is a truly astounding verse, as Paul contradicts Gen 1:27, which declares that God makes mankind, in his image, male and female. Now, Paul says, the created order of things has ended.

The language is eschatological, if not apocalyptic, as Paul is speaking of our “inheritance,” which is the new earth and new Jerusalem.

(Gal 4:26) But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Paul refers to our true inheritance, the true Promised Land, in heaven that will come to earth with God at the End. And at the time, things will be even better than in the Garden of Eden. After all, evil existed in Eden and man disobeyed and fell from Eden. We’ll never fall from the garden of Paradise.

Hence, baptism teaches us that we are going to a better place — even better than the Garden of Eden. And we are going by grace.

One baptism

(Eph 4:3-6) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The fact that there is but one baptism teaches us that we are to be one — within each congregation and in the church-universal.

And, I must add, in the church-community. Paul would never have countenanced 5 churches in one town that spend their energies fussing and fighting with each other, even if they were perfectly united internally. He’d have been furious indeed at our having white and black churches. The idea that it’s somehow sufficient to be united within our congregations and not within our cities is completely, utterly contrary to the doctrine of baptism.

I mean, how can the Churches of Christ claim to have gotten baptism right while we insist on being divided from other baptized believers?

“Unity of the Spirit” is something we “keep.” It’s not something we one day accomplish. It’s a gift of God that we have today. If we aren’t united, it’s because we don’t recognize what we’ve been given.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to Which Gospel? The Gospel of Baptism (Paul), Part 2

  1. Nick Gill says:

    I deeply appreciate your point about how baptism points to something BETTER than Eden.

    The Bible begins with God's people dwelling in a garden where God visits.

    The Bible ends with God's people dwelling in a garden-city where God dwells.

    The Bible is a story of God's purposes moving ever-forward! Eden was the staging area out of which humanity would reflect God's unique image and exercise loving dominion in partnership with the Almighty.

    Revelation 21-22 hint at more than just the ending of one story (the redemption of humanity) but the beginning of a sequel.

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