Who are we?
The answer to this question will be different for each of us because of the many roles we have in our lives. We could be a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, doctor, dentist, lawyer or any one or more of thousands of roles. There is one answer that all of us who have come to faith have. We are Christians. There are no barriers of class or ethnic segregation. The Christian identity includes all of us, and that is the point Paul is making in Galatians 3:23-29.
Paul specifies the dimensions of the family of God: its height reaches up to God’s throne, its depth reaches down into baptism in Christ, forever loved and accepted in him; it is wide enough to bring natural enemies together; and it is long enough to trace its ancestry back to Abraham. All who accept Christ as their Saviour become members of this family.
This passage is a commentary on the struggle between law and grace. The law teaches people about God and brings us face to face with our sins, but it also keeps us locked up in sin. The law does not provide for salvation from our sins. Even the Old Testament sacrifices could not provide for salvation because they had to be repeated. The animals that were sacrificed had to be perfect in the eyes of the priest. The priest also had to atone for his own sins as well as for the sins of the people. Christ was the perfect, ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He was sinless in nature. All we have to do is believe in him and what he did for us on the cross.
In the Greco-Roman world, a guardian prepared a child for maturity. Once the youth came of age, he didn’t need the guardian any more nor did he have any responsibility to the guardian, although the two of them might remain friends. The same is true for the Old Testament law. The law served as a guardian for us. The law prepared Israel for the coming of Jesus, who was the ultimate fulfillment of the law.
The law’s inability to bring life did not mean that the law was useless. The law was put in charge as our teacher to lead us to Christ. It is like a straight edge to show us how crooked we are-and to highlight our need for a Saviour. It is the code by which our lives and society are kept in an orderly manner. When the law becomes destructive or conflicts with God’s will, we must obey God rather than man. It is our responsibility to teach others about the faith until they claim God’s promise of salvation for themselves. When we receive salvation, it means that we take up Christ’s cross and fulfill his ministry of salvation and reconciliation. When we receive Christ in faith, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and we receive garments of salvation and robes of righteousness.
Following World War II, there were more than two hundred French soldiers with amnesia who returned to Paris. They had been prisoners in Japanese camps and suffered through horrible ordeals of privation and torture. These men had been so psychologically devastated by their imprisonment that they lost the conscious awareness of who they were and where they had lived before the war.
Most of the soldiers’ identities were quickly established from Red Cross records or with the help of fellow prisoners, but after all known efforts were exhausted, there were still thirty-two men whose existence seemed impossible to trace. Not only were there no records of them, but none of the other soldiers knew anything about them. The doctors who were treating these thirty-two men believed that their chance for recovery would be impossible unless they were reconnected with family and friends.
Someone proposed publishing photographs of the men on the front page of newspapers throughout the country. A date, time, and place of meeting would also be given, hoping anyone having information about them would come. The plan was implemented and French newspapers soon published the pictures, adding that the Paris Opera House would open its doors for the potential identification and connection with loved ones.
On the assigned day, a huge crowd gathered inside the opera house to view the veterans. Every seat was taken and people spilled out onto the streets. Finally, in a dramatic entrance, the first of the amnesia victims walked onto the stage of the darkened room and slowly turned around under the glare of the spotlight, giving everyone a full view. Then, according to instruction, he and the other thirty-one soldiers who followed asked the same pleading question: “Does anybody out there know who I am . . . does anybody know who I am?”
Thankfully, many of the men were soon reunited with their families.
This is the same question that all of humanity is asking—“Does anybody out there know who I am?” So what is the answer? For Christians, the answer is clear. We are children of God. Let me explain.
At the time Paul wrote the Letter to the Galatians, only sons could receive an inheritance. Daughters got nothing. In contrast, Paul stated that both men and women who have been adopted into God’s family enjoy all the rights and responsibilities of God’s children-and that includes the right of inheritance. God includes all of us as his sons and daughters. Everyone who believes in Jesus for salvation is part of God’s family; brothers and sisters to one another and co-heirs with Christ.
In addition to being children of God, Paul stated that since we have been baptized we have died to the old ways of law, sin and death. We have risen to a new life in Christ. In this new life, there are no distinctions. Jews and Gentiles are the same. Free men and slaves are the same. Men and women are the same. All divisions have been abolished. All Christians are the same in the eyes of Christ. Since we are all equal, we do not have to observe ancient rituals such as circumcision.
For example, there was a church in the Jesus movement of the 1970s that was growing among the young street kids of the neighbourhood. They had long hair, were dirty and never really wore shoes, but they were just flocking to the church.
One day the church decided to put some new carpeting in their sanctuary. The first time those kids came in, they tracked dirt all over that brand-new carpet. The building committee was furious and demanded that a sign be put up in the church lobby that said, “No dirty feet allowed.”
The next Sunday the chairman of that committee walked into the building for the Sunday service. He was shocked to see that the sign had been removed and the church pastor was on his knees with a bowl of water and a towel washing those kids’ feet right there in the foyer-just like Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. This is what it means to be equal before God. We are to love our neighbours by welcoming people of all backgrounds into fellowship with the body of Christ.
God doesn’t deal with us with a performance/requirement method. We don’t have to do good deeds to earn salvation. God deals with us by means of a promise in response to faith. If we come to him in faith and receive him as our Saviour, we will be blessed with eternal life. Even if life has been hard for us and we are messed up, God still loves us. We can still become children of God.
Being whole in life and having meaning in life are not the result of what we own or don’t own or what we have done or what we have not done. Our lives are complete and have meaning because we are children of God. The only equation that works in our lives is us plus Christ equals wholeness and mercy. God wants us to continually pursue the reign of his kingdom in our lives where we submit to his will. When we do this, we will see new ways to respond.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1627-1628)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 69-76)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Dr. Neil Anderson, “Wholeness and Meaning in Life.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Jack Graham, “What It Means to Love Your Neighbour.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
- Dr. Steven Davey, “Does Anybody Know Who I Am?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Doug Fields, “The Enemies of Patience.” Retrieved from Crossswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Tony Evans, “Daughters of the King.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Jill Carattini, “The Shape of Affection.” Retrieved from www.sliceofinfinity.org
- George Hermanson, “Who Are We?” Retrieved from www.georgehermanson.com/2007/06/who-are-we.html.