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Published Date: March 24, 2010

Published Date: March 24, 2010

Featured Articles

Featured Articles

Practical Implications

The classic statement repudiating ethno-religious, socioeconomic, and gender discrimination in the church is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It affirms equality in Christ that transcends each of the three major social barriers to privilege. According to Hanz Dieter Betz in his book, Galatians, the ancient world offers no parallel to the verse. This verse explicitly affirms, without any qualification, that these dichotomies do not exist in the body of Christ. Since Paul repeatedly addresses each of these groups in the church, he is clearly not denying their reality. Rather he denies that these dichotomies exist in Christ. Consequently, these distinctions cannot be used to deny privilege or status in the church.

My book, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (described at highlights factors in Galatians 3:28, its context, and its parallel passages that repudiate views that divorce this verse from life in the church.

The entire book of Galatians is a frontal attack against favored status or privileges being granted to Jews over Gentiles. Paul identifies his central concern in Galatians 2:11–13:

“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

In Galatians 3:28, Paul states the core theological argument against this: “There is neither Jew nor Greek…in Christ Jesus.”

This verse is not merely saying that Gentiles, slaves, and women can be saved. Everyone accepted that. Paul clearly intended 3:28 to prohibit excluding Gentiles as a group from any privilege or position in the church. Not only must Jews accept believing Gentiles as members of the community of faith, they must welcome them to table fellowship. They must treat them as equals and must not discriminate against them.

The use of the word, “for” in both Galatians 3:26 and 27 shows that Paul intended to give reasons why believers are no longer under the law (vv. 23–25). This has immense practical implications for life in the church, including freedom from observing dietary and separation laws (2:11–16), from circumcision (5:1–12; 6:12–15), and from observing the Jewish festival calendar (4:10). The barriers in the law separating Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female, are done away in Christ, freeing them all from the bondage of the law. In particular, “there is no male and female” undermines the law’s purity regulations that kept women from full participation in worship.

My book argues that all Paul’s statements about women are congruent with Galatians 3:28’s affirmation that there is no “male and female” dichotomy of privilege in Christ.