Perhaps you remember your high school or college graduation ceremony. You march across the stage in your cap and gown to receive your hard earned diploma. The ceremony represents a person’s move from one stage in life into a new, fuller, more mature life. And the cap and gown an outward representation of that change of life. However at the end of the ceremony the cap is thrown into the air and the gown discarded. Do we remember the next day that we are supposed to be and act as adults? Paul gives us a much more powerful image of what it means to be a Christian. It isn’t about outward show or playing “dress-up”, but about our true identity. He reminds us of the new identity we received when we gave ourselves to Christ in baptism.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27)
Paul is not simply pointing to an outward symbol or show we are participating in; we are, in fact, different people. We carry the image of Christ with us. We are “immersed” in the person and character of Jesus Himself. We should disappear into Him and He should be more visible.
Again, let me quote from David Guzik’s commentary: “Here, using the picture of baptism, Paul illustrates what it means to have faith in Christ Jesus. He doesn’t say we were baptized into water, but baptized into Christ. Just as in water baptism a person is immersed in water, so when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, we are immersed in Jesus…Another way of expressing our immersion in Jesus is to say that we have put on Christ. In the original language, the phrase has the idea of putting on a suit of clothes. So we “clothe ourselves” with Jesus as our identity. The stress here is on our identity in Jesus through faith. We aren’t simply associated with Jesus; we are identified in Him.”
In the original Greek this verse is in the past tense; it is a statement of completed fact. So we have already “put on Christ.” Being in Christ is simply who I am, not what I do. It is a matter of identity. I have already put on Christ – and continue to do so. I am already immersed in Christ and continue to be immersed throughout my day.
How do I live “putting on Christ?” When I consider that my mouth is His mouth, I would be more careful in how I speak. If I consider that my eyes are His eyes, I would rethink the things I look at and how I look at them. If I consider that my hands are His hands, I would be more respectful of the things I do – how I work and how I play. Is this meant to make me feel guilty? No. Let’s also consider that my mouth can now speak blessing, life, peace and comfort to others. Consider that I can see others as He sees them, with compassion and grace. Consider that my hands can touch a person to bring healing. That is the wonder of putting on Christ. It’s not something I need to conjure up or pray myself up, but instead it is an awareness of His constant presence, power and provision with me and that I am able to bring Jesus into any situation I may face.