Clothed with Christ

The connection between you and your clothes is so close that giving the shirt off your back is a sacrificial and personal gift. In Galatians 3:26–29 Paul tells you that if you have been baptized with Christ, you have clothed yourself with Christ.

You have been united to Christ by your baptism. Your baptism is a sign and seal of your union with Christ. Your baptism is a sign of cleansing. As a sign, it points beyond itself, 1 Peter 3:21,22. The Old Testament covenant sign also symbolized cleansing. Leviticus 26:41 and Jeremiah 4:4 refer to a purifying of the heart. Your baptism is a sign of union. You are baptized into the Trinity, Matthew 28:19. Israel was baptized into Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2. Some thought that being baptized by Paul meant being baptized into Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:13! The heart of the Old Testament covenant was union and fellowship with God, Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33. Baptism is the Bible’s sign of union with Christ, Romans 6:1–3; Colossians 2:11,12; 1 Corinthians 12:13. In our text, you have clothed yourself with (put on) Christ. There is a close connection between you and your clothes. “[B]aptism signifies union with Christ in the virtue of his death and the power of his resurrection, purification from the defilement of sin by the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, and purification from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. The emphasis must be placed, however, upon union with Christ. It is this that is central, and it is this notion that appears more explicitly and pervasively than any other. Hence our view of baptism must be governed by this concept.” (John Murray, Christian Baptism, p. 8). Your baptism is also a seal of God’s faithfulness. Yes, it reflects your trust in Christ, but above all it is God’s mark, God’s guarantee. It is a seal like a king’s authenticating royal seal.

You are united to Christ by faith. It is by faith that you are a child of God, v.26. Don’t trust in your baptism, but in your Savior. His life, death, and resurrection in your place accomplished your salvation. (The Old Testament covenant sign, no less than the New, is a seal of the righteousness of faith, Romans 4:11.) It is only as you belong to Christ that the benefits of salvation are yours. Many in the Galatian churches prided themselves on being Abraham’s children, but their religion was one of trusting in their keeping of the ceremonial law. The religion of American suburbia is a similar works religion. Your baptism, whether administered recently or many years ago, summons you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have not yet confessed Christ as your Lord, consider your responsibility to respond to God’s mark of grace by confessing before men your trust in Christ.

Baptism calls you to be a faithful child of God. Your baptism marks you as a member of Christ’s body. Baptism is important because Christ commanded it, Matthew 28:19. It is not an option. It is associated with his authority, Matthew 28:18. Your baptism is a call to live as a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. Paul’s concept of being “clothed with Christ” has biblical roots, Isaiah 61:10; Matthew 22:11. Clothing can be a mark of authority, whether a Roman toga or a policeman’s uniform. As a baptized Christian, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, you have put on Christ, and you are a citizen in his kingdom. “Paul will argue that in this Son, the sons of God are neither male nor female, all are one in the one Son. The selection of ‘son’ (huios) or ‘sons’ (huioi) serves Paul’s purpose to expose the inviolable, indissoluble filial solidarity of the redeemed with the Redeemer. Just as the Pauline label of the church as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:21–32) does not exclude males, the choice of huios does not eliminate or alienate believing females,who are also the sons of God.” (David B. Gardner, Sons in the Son: The Riches and Reach of Adoption in Christ, p. 53). The false teachers of Galatia boasted of their descent from Abraham. But Paul tells you that the title “Abraham’s child” belongs to you, not them, as you trust in Christ. You, the people set apart by God by the sign of baptism, have a lengthy history. You are part of the church that began in the Old Testament, looking forward to the coming Savior. That church faced trials and struggles in the days of the Apostles and since, but it still continues. You are part of it! You are an heir according to the promise.

God has sealed you as a member of his family. You are a son of God, and thus you are also an heir. You inherit Christ! The promises to Abraham were rich, Genesis 17:4,6,7,8, but they focused in Christ, Galatians 3:16. You have come into your inheritance, v.29. Not only are you Christ’s but Christ is yours! You have been given Jesus Christ, Galatians 4:4, and the Holy Spirit, 4:6, so that you are a son and heir of God the Father, 3:26; 4:7; see Psalm 73:25,26; Lamentations 3:24. Galatians 5:4. “For as many as were baptized into Christ, into fellowship with him, have put on Christ, appropriating Christ, so that now they are in Christ and belong to him (Gal. 3:27–29),walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4, 6ff.; Eph. 5:26), live to God (Rom. 6:11, 13), and indeed carry the life of Christ within themselves (Gal. 2:20). And just as by baptism they entered into communion with Christ, so they also entered into fellowship with his church, which is his body.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 505). As a member of God’s family, as one who is clothed in Christ, what counts is “faith expressing itself in love,” You are cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22–26.

God has set you apart as a citizen of his kingdom. He has adopted you as a member of his family. More than that, he has given you himself. As one who has been clothed with Christ, live to his glory this week and each day of your life until you stand in his presence.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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