Who’s your Father? (Galatians 3:26-4:7)

“Whose your father?” he asked. 

The child responded, “I am not sure.” 

“But surely you live with a man in your hut.  What’s his name?” the missionary asked. 

“His name is Masapi, but I am not sure if he is my father.” 

 Perplexed, the missionary took the child to Masapi’s hut and that evening he asked his language helper the meaning of the child’s words. 

 “Oh, no one is sure who their father is.  In our culture, you can never be sure who the father is, for you can never be sure which man was in the house, but you always know who the mother is because you can see the child come out of her. That is why children belong to the mother’s side and not the father’s.”

This is a fictitious conversation I had with a man in Africa, about parentage, but the truth of it is ingrained in the final sentence, “You can never be sure who the father is…” Who’s your father?  And are you sure? 

While the words of the language helper may speak volumes about the reality of their world and the fact that promiscuity is rampant, they say very little of the spiritual truth regarding our parentage.  But the words of Galatians make a compelling statement in regard to our position in the Family of God.  Galatians 3:26 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…”  In these few words some giant statements about our paternity are made.  We are Sons of God.  And if we recall from the very first verse of the book, it is God the Father who is behind all the wonderful realities that the Galatians have experienced.  God the Father, and we are his sons this passage says. 
Now ladies and girls, this isn’t a slight on femininity.  Quite the contrary, as we will see in a few more verses, the word proclaims that we all receive the full rights of sons (4:5).  Paul uses the term sons repeatedly because the son in Roman culture and typically Hebrew culture as well, is the one who received the inheritance.  Women and girls didn’t, but men and boys did.  So Paul is using a term to proclaim the highest level of being a child that existed in the culture of the day.  But more on that in a moment. 
The word is proclaiming that we are sons of God, and this by definition means that he is our Father.  He is concerned for us, and we adore him.  He loves us and provides for us, and we receive all we need from him.  He disciplines us and teaches us, and we respond to the discipline, knowing it is for our own good and because of his love that it is given.  But is this an automatic reality for every person on the planet who has ever lived since the time of Christ?  There are some who think so; there are some who appeal to universal salvation.  I can understand why too, it seems like a good thing because we all want a loving, teddy bear God who refuses to condemn anyone but who treats everyone like his beloved grandchild.
But that is not what this passage says.  It says, “You are all sons of God,” HOW?  Through faith in Christ Jesus.  Divine parentage becomes ours through faith in Christ Jesus.  Faith in his superior sacrifice, faith in his ability to redeem us from the curse of the Law.  Faith in his life, death and resurrection as the culminating act that cleanses sins and restores relationship with God.  This faith in Christ is the gateway to becoming a Son of God.  And the gate is the same for everybody.  There isn’t one gate for the Jew and another for the gentile, one for the male and another for the female, one for the slave and another for the master.  There isn’t one gate for the Native American and another for the Asian. There isn’t one gate for the Black and another for the white.  There isn’t one gate for the democrat and another for the conservative.  No, the word says we are ALL, each and every one of us, no exceptions.  We are all sons of God through faith in Christ.
Why is this?  Why is this the case that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female?  Well, the answer is really rather simple.  All who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  This passage is speaking of God’s electing grace.  His specific call of people into his family.  The passage says that all of you who were baptized.  This is a passive verb.  That might not mean a lot if you weren’t very good in English grammar, like me, but it means a whole lot in the context of our passage.  Passive verbs are verbs where the recipient of the action doesn’t do a thing in the process.  The action is done to them.   Let me illustrate this with 2 examples.  One negative and the other positive:
  1. She was hit.  The subject doesn’t do the hitting, she receives the hit.  It happens to her, regardless of her choice in the matter.
  2. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  The men don’t create themselves equal or endow themselves with rights.  These rights are given to them by another.  In effect they are pushed upon them and they can’t get out of them.
Such is the meaning in our passage.  We are all sons of God HOW? Through faith in Christ Jesus WHY?  Because we were baptized into Christ.  Baptism was done to us with no attention paid to anything external that typically divides people – gender, ethnicity or economics.  We had no active part in it.  God in his electing Grace sent his holy spirit upon us and saved us.  We are not talking about water baptism here.  We are talking about true baptism, the baptism that Jesus performs on us.  The water is just a symbol to point to the real thing.  Listen to God’s word regarding baptism:
Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
1Peter 3:20b-21 “In it [the flood] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
1 John 1:7 “the blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin.”
When God baptizes us, when he puts his spirit upon our lives and plucks us from this corrupt, decaying world and gives us faith, then we become God’s children, and even better than that, we become clothed with Christ.  Being baptized and clothed are synonymous realities that happen simultaneously.  Being baptized by God, being saved by God is commensurate with being clothed with Christ.  You can’t be baptized and not clothed, that would leave you naked and ashamed and similarly, you can’t be clothed unless you have been baptized into Christ, that would leave you dirty, a white washed tomb.  Christ’s baptism purifies us, and his clothing dresses us in righteousness.  It has been said that the clothes make the man.  Such is the case here – Paul is saying that when you are baptized and cleansed then you take on the character qualities of Jesus, you are made into a person of substance.
When you are baptized, you put on faith, hope and love.  You put on the Armor of God.  You begin wearing light and the fruit of the Spirit.  And my favorite is you put on a new self.  Listen to this wonderful selection of verses about all the things that can be put on, all because we are baptized into Christ and made members of his body.
1Thes 5:8 – Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Eph 6:11, 13ff – Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Put on the full armor of God, to that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand…Belt of truth…breastplate of righteousness…gospel of peace…shield of faith…helmet of salvation…sword of the Spirit…prayer
Col 3:12,14 – Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…and over all these put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity
Eph 4:24 – …put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
At home I have a flight suit.  For the longest time, I would go home after work, dressed a lot like I am today and then I would start some house project – painting, demolition, etc.  I would try my best not to get dirty, but inevitably I destroyed countless pairs of pants and a number of shirts.  Then I got this old military jumpsuit from my father and started putting it on before I started working.  I clothed myself in attire appropriate to my profession.  Such is the case with the baptism of Christ.  Where we once were lost and engaged in all sorts of evil, scheming, deceitful, selfish plans, that is taken off and we are now clothed in attire appropriate to our new status as God’s children.  We are clothed with love, righteousness, purity and joy along with a host of other things we already read about.  All because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  All because of faith in Christ, a faith given by God.
This all happens through faith because God chooses us, cleanses us and wraps us in the cloth of Christ.  This is what it means to be a child of God.  This is what it means to be a son.  We are clothed in the robes of kings, robes that never touch the dirt and filth of the sin.  Robes that remain spotless and pure.  Robes that change the kind of activities we are engaged in.
And the wonder of it all is that it is the same for every person.  Jew, Greek, Asian, Latin, American, Russian, Chinese, or First nations, or whatever other ethnicity – God calls and gives faith and saves men, women and children.  Whether, slave, or free, business owner, employee, rich or poor, white collar or craftsman or tradesmen, homeless or landed – God calls and gives faith, he makes all heirs of his goodness, recipients of his blessing, partakers in the life-giving spirit of Christ.  Even the distinction between male and female means nothing, neither one, nor the other is favored in the divine economy.  God calls people and elevates them to the same position in his family- equal heirs of everything at his disposal. 
So if you are wondering this morning, “Are these promises for me. Is this really true?”  The answer is a resounding “Yes.  Yes these promises are for you.”  You can be a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom; you are acceptable, holy and righteous when you believe in Christ.  When you have faith in the gift of God given for the life of the world.  You, too, are his child through faith.  Anyone can be an heir of the promise to be justified by faith (Gal 3:8); anyone can be an heir of the promise of the Holy Spirit living in them (Gal 3:14).  Anyone can be an heir of the promise to be free from being a prisoner of sin (Gal 3:32) and born again by God’s supernatural spirit (4:28) through faith.
Who’s your father?  If you believe in Christ as the sole way, truth and life, the single mediator between God and humanity, and the perfect sacrifice for all your sinful and evil thoughts, actions and beliefs, then God is your father and you are his child.  You can be assured of it, the Scriptures proclaim it.  But if you don’t believe that, if you don’t believe you are sinful, or if you believe that you can attain God’s blessing by your actions, or if you believe that there are a multiplicity of ways to God, then God is not your father and you are not his child.  The word clearly proclaims, You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
So on this Baptism Sunday, when the Church has historically rehearsed the story of the death and resurrection of Christ – do you believe?  Do you have faith in Christ?  Has Christ called you?  Has Christ baptized you?  Has Christ transformed you and clothed you with robes washed in the blood of the lamb?  If so, then you know whom your father is.  If not, but you sense the Spirit nudging you now, then believe, believe in the one God has sent.  This is the whole Work of the Father, to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29)– Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the spotless lamb, the perfect sacrifice, the redeemer of nations, the caller of humanity.  Who’s your father?  Believe that Christ is who says he is, and God is your father.  Who is your father?  Believe that Christ is the only righteousness that matters, and God is your father.  Who is your father?  Believe that Christ is your only way to the Father, and God is your Father.  Who is your father? Believe in Christ and you are his child today.  Believe that God sent his son, Jesus, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (Gal 4:5), and you are his Child, entitled to the entire estate of the Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  People of God, be encouraged, the estate of God is yours, you have the full rights of sons all through faith in Christ Jesus.  Can I hear an Amen!  

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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