Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
~ Galatians 3:23-29
Saving faith is a gift of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. We know that God does not hear the prayer of the unrighteous (Proverbs 15:29; 28:9; John 9:31) which kind of refutes the idea of a “sinner’s prayer” providing salvation to someone, and we also know that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). We also know that no one seeks after God on their own (Romans 3:10-13), and that the an unrepentant sinner can’t even understand the things of God without His direct intervention (1 Corinthians 2:14), and that it’s God who has to call sinners to repentance, not men or by our own works (John 6:44). The biggest point here is that it’s impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6) as we must first believe that God exists and then have such a strong faith that we reject control of our lives and trust in Him alone for our salvation, as well as every other aspect of our lives.
All of that stated, if we have no faith in God to save us, we are damned under the curse of the law. Before Jesus came, the repentant Jew would trust in the promises of God and keep the civil and ceremonial laws. They had faith in God and not the law to save them. The law was merely a guardian, keeping us under control and acting as a watchful instructor who reminded us when we strayed that God’s standard was very high and that we should trust that God would provide a Savior for us.
Now that God’s chosen Savior has arrived, however, we are free from the curse of the law – we need that old guardian no more. In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” This statement defines the separation from believers under the old covenant and those under the new – we are no longer slaves to the old system of sacrifices, special offerings, etc but are adopted by God as sons and daughters through faith. How do you know this? It’s not necessarily your baptism that does this, but the baptism is a symbol of what you’ve already experienced in your life when you rejected the control of your former life (baptism symbolism: going under the water) and you are now reborn anew to live in Christ and He to live through you (baptism symbolism: rising from the water).
Now that we are a new creation, new people under a new covenant, serving an eternal King, what does that mean for us? We are all equals. How can we, who have been plucked from death and restored to new life, hold our own experience over anyone else’s? We can’t! Am I “more saved” than the person next to me? No! That’s absurd! Was I more deserving of salvation? The point of the gospel is that no one is deserving of salvation. Paul openly sought to see those who follow Christ murdered for the sake of religion, and now He is a shining example of God’s grace and mercy as he is used by God mightily to bring salvation to the Gentiles. Are you better than he? God doesn’t choose us based on our own merits, but by His own will and at His own time. There is no one who does good, no one who is righteous, and no one who pleases God. It is therefore God’s right to choose His own people from those who hate Him, to transform their lives, and to set them in a place of honor, along with everyone else who trusts in God alone for their salvation. That’s why he makes the claim here that there is no longer any distinction between anyone who is in Christ Jesus – all are equal before the throne of God.
Then he finishes with a startling claim (one that my dispensational brothers may have trouble with) – if we are in Christ, we are then the recipients of the covenant that God made with Abraham – and we are heirs along with Abraham’s *spiritual* descendants – and part of the true Israel. See the line here? Are you a genetic Jew? I know I’m not, but I am part of the true Israel, redeemed by God and set apart by faith in Christ Jesus. Is this replacement theology? I’d say not. Instead I see it as a continuation of God’s chosen people through the ages, consisting of everyone who, like Abraham, trusted in the living God alone for their salvation.