Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Reading from Homer (detail), 1885
The Early Epistles—
After faith came,
Baptized into Christ—
B: efore faith came, we were imprisoned under law, confined until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. 25 but now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus; 27 for as many of you has were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is no male and female — for you are all one in Christ.
29 And if you are of Christ, then you are the seed of Abraham, and heirs in accordance with the promise.
|(3:23) Before faith came— faith here, perhaps, as a principle but more likely used in an objective sense, the gospel. Compare: “Now preacheth the faith’ 91:23).
imprisoned— restrained, held under custody so as to make escape impossible. A military word used of a city under siege. Compare: “Kept the city of Damascus with a garrison” (2 Cor. 11:32).
confined (Present participle)— an adverbial participle denoting the same action as the verb (imprisoned) but from a different viewpoint. The tense suggests a continual confinement; every attempt to escape was thwarted.
(3:24) So (hoste)— used here to introduce an inference drawn from the previous sentence.
guardian (paidagogos)— “Schoolmaster” (KJV) is misleading; the paidagogos was not the child’s teacher at school, but a slave who supervised the child’s behavior and protected him from harm. A mother writes in the papyri, “Let it be the care both of you and your attendant (paidagogos) that you go to a suitable teacher” (Moulton-Milligan).
until Christ came— (taken directly from the RSV). “The historical succession of one period of revelation upon another and the displacement of the law by Christ” (Burton).
(3:25, 26) we are . . . you are— the change in pronouns is probably more fore emphasis than to distinguish between Jew and Gentile. Compare the interchange of pronouns in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 6: “Ye are all sons of light . . we are not of the night . . . let us not sleep.”
no longer— “temporal, contrastingt he two periods of time” (Burton).
(3:27) baptized into Christ— into a sphere or relationship brought about at baptism. The language is forceful: at baptism we become “sons of God” (3:26); we “put on Christ” (3:27), and we become “of Christ” (3:29). The explanation, “baptized with reference to Christ’ (Meyer, Robertson) seems weak and overlooks the accompanying phrases found here. Compare an identical construction: “baptized into Christ . . . baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).
put on Christ— literally “to clothe oneself with Christ so as to become like him.” The thought is not that of simply putting on a garment, but rather that of assuming a character or quality. The idiom is quite common; “Clothed with shame” (Job 8:22); “I have put on righteousness and it clothed me” (Job 29:4). Compare: “Have taken on the character of Christ” (Moffatt).
Faith brought more than change; faith brought revolution. The law had confined, but faith broke that confinement; the law ha acted as legal guardian over a child, but faith made us into the sons of God.
All distinctions are erased, all barriers removed, all differences made obsolete — faith triumphed by making all one in Christ. Now heirs of the promise of God made to Abraham, now baptized into Christ, now clothed with his character — faith has come and with it, the dawning of a new era.
Questions for Further Study
- The words, before faith and after faith, imply a change in how God now deals with us. Could you explain further?
- What was the responsibility of a child’s guardian (paidagogos)?
- Does faith without baptism make us sons of God? or is there a sense in which baptism is a part of faith?
- What does it mean to put on Christ? Can others see Christ in us?
- What does it mean to be one in Christ? How must this affect my views and treatment of others who like myself are in Christ?