"Equality in the Body of Christ" Page 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
“You are all one in Christ Jesus”—what a tremendous claim! The Law created differences and distinctions not only between individuals and nations, but between various kinds of foods and animals. Jesus Christ came not to divide, but to unite.
This must have been glorious news for the Galatian Christians, because in their society slaves were considered to be only pieces of property; women were kept confined and were disrespected; and Gentiles were constantly sneered at by the Jews. The Pharisees would pray every morning, “I thank thee, God, that I am a Jew, not a Gentile; a man, not a woman; and a freeman, and not a slave.” Yet all three distinctions are removed “in Christ.”
One’s racial heritage is not the last word for a Christian; “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” One’s social status, including even imprisonment, is not the last word. One’s sex is not the last word; the Christian cause does not rest upon gender, but upon character: “There is neither male nor female.” Paul deals with these profound problems on the deepest basis: “You are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the man who grasps these matters “in Christ” is on the way to freedom. This does not mean that our race, political status, or sex is changed at conversion; but it does mean that these things are of no value or handicap when it comes to our spiritual relationship with God through Christ. The Law perpetuated these distinctions, but God in His grace has declared all men to be on the same level, so that He might have mercy on all men.
Where Christ is present there is unity and equality in diversity. The Greeks divided all people into two classes, Greeks and barbarians, and the Jews called all others “goyim.” Even a proselyte could never be the Jew he might have been if he had been a blood descendent of Abraham. If he happened to be a slave, his religious duties as a Jew must not interfere with his service to his Jewish master. The wife was the property of her husband, and her status ranked with slaves and children. When the foreigner, the proselyte, the wife and the slave stood in an inferior relationship to God under the Law, it made real spiritual unity hard to achieve, if not impossible. Paul understood that if these differences existed in the Church, the missionary initiative would suffer a serious handicap. Yet he was not a radical who advocated an immediate violent revolution. The Jew, when he became a Christian did not need to become a Greek, nor the Greek a Jew. The slave could continue to serve his master, and both “male” and “female” retained their distinctive role in the ongoing stream of life. Nevertheless Paul’s concept of equality and unity in Christ was an emerging revolution, the consequences of which are still being worked out. Wherever His gospel is preached, men become uncomfortable with the age-old equation, “foreigner equals inferior;” with the absurdity of man’s ancient thanksgiving that he had of “not being a woman;” and with the violation of democracy and brotherhood involved in Aristotle’s definition of a slave as “an animated implement.” No consistent Gentile Christian could participate in such a program or repeat the slanders that incited it; and no consistent Jewish Christian could view the Gentiles as special sinners and dogs who should be excluded from the kingdom of God. Women had to be considered as partners in the gospel ministry, and master and slave faced each other as man to man in Christ.
This statement by Paul sums up the conviction that in Christ human problems have a way of resolving and dissolving themselves. Just as Christ is the eternal Presence, the living personal God, so is He the Son of man. He is infinitely more than the greatest Jew or the first Christian. If you want to see what man can be (man’s potential) look at Jesus. All colors and races meet in Him, as the rivers meet in the sea.
Everything going on today in our nation seems to involve race. Our nation appears to be split along racial lines. But this verse says that is not the way God wants it to be. In the body of believers “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” In Christ there are no racial lines. Any man in Christ is my brother, and I don’t care about the color of his skin. It’s the color of his heart that interests me. There are a lot of white people walking around with black hearts, my friend, and they are not my brothers. It is only in Christ Jesus that we are made one.
29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The Law could never make us heirs of God. God made the promise to “Abraham’s seed” (singular, Gal. 3.16), and that seed is Christ. If we are “in Christ” by faith, then we too are “Abraham’s seed,” spiritually speaking. This means we are heirs of the spiritual blessings God promised to Abraham. That does not mean that the material and national blessings promised to Israel are set aside, but that Christians today are enriched spiritually because of God’s promise to Abraham.
Surely there is someone who would ask, “How can we be Abraham’s descendants, since we are NOT Jews?” Let me explain it. We can be Abraham’s descendents because Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith. Abraham brought a little sheep to sacrifice, which looked forward to the coming of the Son of God, the supreme sacrifice. In my day, Christ has already come, and I can look back in history and say, “Two thousand years ago the Son of God came to earth and died on a cross for me, so that I might have life, and I trust Him.” If I am in Christ, and you are in Christ, then we belong to Abraham’s seed, and we are heirs according to the promise. Isn’t this wonderful!
Inheritance of God’s kingdom was not dependent upon blood relationship with Abraham. All who are ready to claim the new freedom offered through Christ were assured of participation in the legacy. But this gift of God’s grace was required to be shared with all men, and the more it was shared, the more there was to share. The inclusiveness of grace meant the end of the law, with its attendant racial prejudice and religious imperialism.