Gal. 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” “A sinner,” says Thomas Boston, is instated into the covenant of grace by Faith, or believing on Jesus Christ. Faith is the hand wherewith one taketh hold of the covenant, signs it for himself and closeth the bargain for his own salvation. Believing on Christ is the appointed means of entering sinners into the covenant of grace.” Words could not be plainer. Faith (so we are here told) originates the peculiar relationship to God, which is the distinguishing privilege of those who are interested in the Covenant of Grace. In support of this the above text is often advanced. We reply,
Israel Atkinson contends that by Faith we are to understand, not the act of believing, but that divine arrangement in which favour is accorded to sinners on the principle of Faith as opposed to works; in other words that the term Faith is here (as in verses 23, 24, and 25) used objectively. This suits the context, in which the apostle is contending that salvation is wholly through sovereign grace, irrespective of human merit.
It is, however, more generally held, that by our being God’s children by Faith is meant, that by Faith we obtain an experimental acquaintance with the fact. “Not that Faith makes any the children of God, or puts them into such a relation; for that is the act and deed of God who has predestinated us to the adoption of children, and secured the blessing for us in the covenant of grace: Christ, by redemption, has made way for our reception and our enjoyment of it; and the Spirit, as a consequence of our ancient adoption bears witness to it. Faith, however, receives it, as it does all the blessings of grace made ready to its hand; and so we become evidently and manifestly the children of God by Faith in Christ Jesus.”—Dr. Gill.
Thus Faith does not make, but manifest our relation to God as His children, and hence the rich promise of the gospel, i.e., that we shall share the filial love of God—is “given to those that believe” (verse 22).
“Though we are sons and heirs of God
Before our souls believe;
’Tis only Faith that can of this
An evidence receive.
“Thus we are called His children, by
Believing in His Son;
And more than this, are justified,
By what His hands have done.”