You Can't Bring Up Baptism There!
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. (Galatians 3:25-27)
If you’re looking for a book of the Bible to blow apart works righteousness and justification by adherence to the Law, Galatians is the book for you. I love Galatians. In the first three chapters, the Apostle Paul destroys any notion that obedience to the Law adds anything to your standing before God and it gives you no assurance of salvation.
Paul talks at length about how being circumcised is not a basis for confidence in justification or sanctification. This God instituted ceremony does nothing to save or sanctify anyone. He doesn’t say circumcision is bad or wrong, and it’s not. But if it’s put in a place it doesn’t belong, it becomes a deadly false assurance. Paul rejects not only the idea that some work or ceremony gets you started in a right relationship with God, but he also lays to waste any activity of your own getting you anything at all.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Romans 3:3)
With these words, Paul takes both justification and sanctification by works off of the table, calling it “foolishness.”
Sadly, this hasn’t stopped us from setting up our own forms of “circumcision” in the modern church: Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc… All good things that most Christians would never say save you, but certainly they are things many Christians would point to, and at the very least imply, as safe places to find assurance.