As Paul wrote to a diverse group in churches in Galatia. Multiple cultures, backgrounds, and races could be found in the area and in the churches. The possibility of division crept around every corner. Paul pointed his readers to the unity found in Christ within His explanation that salvation is offered to all who commit their lives to Christ. In chapters 3 and 4, we find at least three common grounds for this diverse group to believers.
- A Common Faith: Prior to Christ, the law served as a divider between Jews and Gentiles. It was not the only divider but certainly was one divider. The law served as a guardian, helping God’s people remain focused on Him. Unfortunately, the focus for many had become keeping the Mosaic law and rituals, and not expressing faith in the God who gave those same laws. Gentiles were required to become Jewish. Now with Christ, all believers share a common faith that is separate from their nationality, social status, or gender. Business books of recent years have emphasized how a shared belief or value impacts the relationship between the customer and company. They point out that businesses forge partnerships because of shared beliefs or values as well even when from different cultures and parts of the world. In effect, these business books are simply recognizing what Paul and others pointed to long ago: a common faith in Christ overcomes cultural, social, and racial divides.
- A Common Experience: Paul pointed to believers being baptized in Christ. This points to two realities. First of all, all believers are changed at conversion. In Romans 6:3-4, Paul elaborated on what it means to be baptized into Christ pointing to our walking in newness of life. In short, we are inwardly transformed at our conversion. This inward transformation includes the indwelling of the Spirit who ushers in our sanctification (the process of us growing toward maturity as a believer). The second reality is our baptism which is an outward declaration of this inward transformation. Baptism is not required for salvation, but it is a marked step of obedience that follows our salvation. How we end up in a river, trough, or pool may be different, but the point is we share the same declaration of our faith through baptism. The story behind our baptisms may be different, but we still ended up under water as a public declaration of our faith in Jesus giving believers a common experience.
- A Common Father: Paul reminded his readers that they were adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus. This adoption did not happen as a result of observing some religious rite, the ability to trace one’s family heritage, or possessing a particular social status. This adoption comes solely through faith in Jesus. His redeeming work on the cross made this adoption possible….period. There is no other way to secure a place in God’s family.
These three realities find their basis in what is required for salvation. Paul had been addressing this question throughout his letter to the Galatians and in this section we see some practical ramifications of salvation being offered through faith in Jesus alone, apart from our works or merit. By accepting God’s gift of salvation, we enter into a new relationship with Him which creates a new relationship with everyone else who has placed faith in Jesus.
How does the gospel bring people together from different cultures, backgrounds, and races?