Having seen that God gave the Mosaic law to Israel to show the depth of sin and thus destroy any hope His people might have for earning their own righteousness (Gal. 3:19–26), we need to briefly address the relation of this idea to positive statements about the Law in passages like Psalm 119:97. If the Law serves to reveal one’s failures, how could anyone say, “Oh how I love your law”?
Knowing that old covenant believers were not bereft of the Holy Spirit helps us answer the question. The new covenant gives a fuller experience of the Spirit than was enjoyed before Jesus came (Acts 1:8), but the Holy Spirit did work under the Mosaic covenant not only to magnify sin but to give His people faith in God’s promise to declare them righteous as well. This same Spirit sanctified sinners long ago, leading them to love the Lord’s holy standards.
Still, we are more blessed today because Jesus has broken down the barriers established in the old covenant, blessing His church with a wider variety of cultures and gifts as our Creator’s intent to redeem people from every nation is realized. We who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Clothed with His righteousness we are united to Him in a way that unites us in spirit and purpose with everyone else who trusts in Jesus — male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile (Zech. 3:1–5; Gal. 3:27–28). Paul is not saying that water baptism in itself brings salvation. Baptism is normally part of one’s public initiation into Christianity, and it is used here as a shorthand way to speak of the spiritual reality behind these events — the union with Christ that occurs by faith alone (Rom. 6:1–4; Gal. 2:15–16). Without faith, baptism does us no good.
Galatians 3:28 is twisted in liberal circles to mean that there must be no role distinctions at all in the church. Such an interpretation is foreign to the context, for as John MacArthur writes, Paul only means that racial, socioeconomic, and gender differences “do not imply spiritual inequality before God” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1,668). The cross relativizes these distinctions. We are Christians, heirs of God’s promise to Abraham, long before we are Americans, Asians, rich, poor, men, women, or anything else.