By Mike T. Rogacs
Those who have engaged in a study of the word “faith” will know that the word is used in at least two different senses in the New Testament. One sense refers to the state of believing in something or someone. In Col. 2:5 the usage is “your faith,” the individual’s belief. But we take notice that there, along with Gal. 2:16 and Phil. 3:9, the reading is “your faith in Christ,” the individual’s belief in Christ being what He claimed to be.
The second sense of the word “faith” refers to the system of faith or religion of Christ with all its laws, commands, etc. This is often manifested by the phraseology “the faith” (2 Cor. 13:15; 1 Tim. 4:1; 5:8; etc.). Those who have found this distinction to be true often apply the same distinction between the phrases “faith in Christ” and “faith of Christ,” the first referring to the individual’s belief in the Lord, and the second having reference to the system of faith that the Lord gave, the “one faith” of Eph. 4:5.
For our study here, we then raise the following question: Given the afore mentioned distinctions, does Gal. 3:26 therefore teach that “we are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”-that is, are we made children of God through our simple individual belief in Christ? The question is a proper one for study. On the surface, the language lends itself to a definition of salvation by simple belief. The verse is widely used by those who teach that faith alone saves, and that Galatians 3:26 is simply a clarification of the “faith only” interpretation of John 3:16. We submit that Gal. 3:26 does not teach salvation by simple faith (belief). We submit that such a view expounded from this passage is an example of the principle of 2 Peter 3:1617 and a violation of 2 Tim. 2:15. Our conclusion will rest upon the context around Gal. 3:26, which, if studied, will clearly show the intended meaning of verse 26.
Notice the rendition of verse 26 as found in the American Standard Version: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.” Draw your attention to the punctuation supplied. This wording and punctuation better fits the apparent meaning of the inspired writer which in effect could be read: “For ye are all sons of God in Christ Jesus through faith”, with “faith” here NOT referring to simple belief of the individual, but referring to the faith of Christ, the gospel. The distinction we are attempting to show is that Paul is not speaking of simple belief by saying “through faith in Christ,” but that he is saying we are “in Christ” through the faith (of Christ).
We interrupt our train of thought to notice that often brethren, in order to refute “faith only” doctrine have said that the Greek probably should read, “ye are all sons of God through the faith of Christ” and say that “of” was intended instead of “in”. This may be closer to the meaning of the passage than the “faith only people”, but the Greek apparently does say “in Christ” and not “of Christ”. But again, the verse is not saying “faith in Christ” or even “faith of Christ”.
The context immediately preceding verse 26 is discussing that the law of Moses (“the law”) was followed by the new system of religion called “faith” and “the faith” in verse 23, and “faith” in verses 24 and 25. This is the gospel, system, faith, of Jesus Christ replacing the law, the system, of Moses. This discussion of the contrast runs all through chapter three and in fact is the whole foundation of the epistle to the Galatians. What we find in the context of chapter three is, in short, as follows: God gave a promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed in his seed and that, as now is revealed, this promise was to include the justification of the Gentiles and not just the Jews (v. 7). God confirmed through Paul that Moses’ law was a curse unto man and it could not, and was not intended to, justify any man, Jew or Gentile (v. 10, 11). Instead, another system-that of Christ-needed to come before the promise to Abraham could be fulfilled, a fulfillment which would include the blessing of the Gentiles (12-21).
It is then in verse 22 that God’s intentions of the fulfilled promise is revealed. (And as luck would have it, the American Standard Version does not render the whole literal Greek correctly, and the Greek supports the King James Version in the wording of question in our topic.) “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” In other words, the promise of Abraham is now given to all who believe in God and His promise, and it is given BY (through) the faith, the gospel, which Jesus Christ revealed.
The contrast between the old law and the faith of Christ is the topic. And, again, it continues to verse 26. There the purpose is to show that we cannot be children of God in Moses, in Aaron, or in anyone else by the power of the law of Moses or of any other law. But instead, “ye are all the children of God in Christ, by (the) faith.”
It is then that Paul by inspiration goes on to say, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (v. 27). This is the verse that really confirms what Paul was saying in the preceding verse.
So, it all falls into place. The gospel of Jesus Christ does say that we are born again, become children of God, when we are baptized (John 3:1-5; Heb. 10:22; Romans 6:3-8). When we are baptized, it is into Christ, to put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). So, it is factual that by the faith (gospel), we learn how to become children of God in Christ.
No, Gal. 3:26 is not teaching that we become children when we believe in Christ. If anything, the passage is really teaching the necessity of becoming children of God by a definite pattern of salvation found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a pattern which includes faith, repentance, confession, and then baptism into Christ. (John 1:11-12; Rom. 10:10; Acts 2:38; etc.) Could this, the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham given so very long ago (that all could be children in Christ Jesus by the faith of Jesus Christ) be the promise that is “unto you, to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39)? Think on these things.
Truth Magazine XXI: 8, pp. 125-126
February 24, 1977