25 AUGUST 365 Days with Calvin

Putting on Christ

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27

suggested further reading: Romans 6:1–14

Paul explains in a few words what it means to be united or made one with the Son of God. He uses the metaphor of putting on a garment in saying that the Galatians have put on Christ; meaning that these believers are so closely united with Christ that in the presence of God they so bear the name and character of Christ that they are viewed in him rather than in themselves. This metaphor of taking on garments occurs frequently in Scripture.

The argument that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak, however; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all people? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture as well as experience appear to confute this statement?

I answer this objection by saying it is customary for Paul to treat the sacraments from two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom a mere symbol awakens pride, he loudly proclaims the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol. He also denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence in this symbol. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God but the corruption of wicked men.

On the other hand, he addresses believers who make proper use of the symbols by viewing them in connection with the truth that they represent. In this case, Paul makes no boast of any false splendor that comes from the sacraments but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, in agreement with the divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

for meditation: Living as one who has put on Christ by faith is one of the Christian’s greatest privileges. By the Spirit’s grace, how can you put into practice today that you have put on Christ? How can the sacraments assist you in this task?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 256). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

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