One in Christ

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29, NRSV)

Paul has abruptly changed to the second person plural to show that his readers should take personally the following verses. The apostle takes the honorific phrase, "sons (children) of God," from the Jews who would only get this title at the Last Judgment directly from God, and bestows this status on Gentiles who believe now.

"Clothed … with Christ" recalls the tradition of being baptized naked and being wrapped in a robe (usually white, signifying purity) upon emerging from the water. Therefore Paul is evoking an image of the believer being covered in Christ, becoming blemish-free, as sacrifices were supposed to be. As "sons of God," the believer can now stand before God pure and blameless.

Paul then contrasts statuses in race, class, and gender claiming that the new, pure, creature of baptism can no longer be characterized by them as Christ has set them aside. Baptism has washed away all the old statuses and made all like Himself. Being one, then, there can be no distinctions. In the Greco-Roman world, this would have been an extremely radical concept, yet quite comforting to those who were in the oppressed statuses (Greek, slave, women).

Finally, Paul says that "if you belong to Christ" – that is have faith in / of Him – then the believer is Abraham's descendant and, therefore, an heir to the covenant given to Abraham. While Paul uses the word "if," it is not conditional, but temporal, based on believing.

Some commentators view these verses as additions to the preceding arguments; indeed some gloss over this section as though it weren't there. I, however, see these verses as the ultimate goal, the "punch line," Paul has striven toward in his carefully crafted treatment of the Law. The Judaizers have no basis for denigrating the Gentiles for not observing the requirements of the Jewish Law. Both Jew and Gentile are equal; both are heirs to the blessing of the Spirit. To return to the "ways of the flesh" (3:3) is contrary to the covenant God made with Abraham, and, by inheritance, to the believer.

If Paul were here in Western culture today, what statuses might he contrast? I have my list; I'd love to hear yours.


Lord, you have made us in your image. Help us all to see each other as you see us. Amen.