Conservative Christians Need to Stop Throwing Galatians 3:28 out the Window
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:27-29)
The Christian never needs to fear that Holy Scripture might make Christians or even God Himself “look bad.” We’ve all wrestled with this, right? Those Old Testament passages where the Lord instructs Israel to go in and totally wipe out a pagan town – men, women and children. I don’t completely understand such verses either, but in the end I believe the Bible is God’s Word and I trust that He always acts in perfect wisdom and justice. I also know that He does not give such instructions to His church today.
Conservative Christians, Christians like myself who believe that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God still find ourselves tempted to steer clear of certain passages in Scripture because they seem to be favorite ammunition for professing Christians who deny the inerrancy of Scripture and often tend toward acceptance of things like homosexuality by claiming that sections like Romans one are just the prejudices of the Apostle Paul. We reject any such notion.
Another verse that I think we need to confess being uncomfortable with sometimes is Galatians 3:28, quoted in context above. This verse, particularly the “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” statement has frequently been cited by people who are so radical in their theology and application of gender that we would not even call them Christians. Others cite the statement to support their belief that women as well as men can be pastors and elders (a debate we are not going to get into here:).
But all of Scripture is God’s Word. It is harmful to steer clear of any of it. God has given His Word to us for our good and this passage is no exception. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. There it is. Paul is not talking here about roles of men and women in the church. He is talking about the equal inheritance and standing in the kingdom of God as opposed to the IN-equalities suffered here in this present life. He is saying that if a person is in Christ, if that person is born again, then he OR she no matter their gender or social standing or nationality has an equal share in Christ, an equal inheritance in Christ’s kingdom, and are equally the offspring (seed) of Abraham and thus heirs of all God promised to Abraham. Namely, salvation, justification, regeneration, forgiveness, adoption, sealing, eternal life, and perhaps best of all – the New Heavens and New Earth.
And because the kingdom of God is “now but not yet,” these things are true now in the church. They will be fully and completely realized in the New Creation (a son of God may still be a slave in this present world) but are nevertheless here now. A slave for instance receives baptism and the Lord’s table right alongside his master in the church.
“There is no male or female” does not mean that genders are obliterated in the body of Christ. Certainly not now and in my opinion I don’t think they will be done away with in the New Creation either, though marriage will be non-existent. That’s my opinion I say. I think I will still be recognizable as Jeff and you will be recognizable as you. We know and see only in part now. Then we will understand it all.
But do you see then that what Paul is saying here about men and women in the church, in the body of Christ, is a wonderful thing!! It means that in the visible churches on this earth, the equal inheritance of EVERY Christian ought to be visible to the world. That is to say, there is not to be any caste system or social class structure in the Church of Jesus Christ. So that, for example, no matter what you happen to conclude about men or women holding certain offices in the church or not, your practice and the practice of your church MUST reflect that fact that men AND women, parents AND children, masters AND slaves, black/yellow/red AND white are all one in Christ Jesus, heirs according to the promise, the offspring of Abraham. ALL who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, who have been justified before God by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, are fellow heirs. And thus,
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1Peter 3:7)
WHATEVER else this verse means, it certainly means that wives and husbands, men and women, are equal heirs in the kingdom of God. Any man who rejects that fact and treats his wife or other women as some kind of secondary citizen in the kingdom need not expect God to hear any of his prayers.
And this brings us down to this point. Conservative, professedly Bible-believing Christians, to the degree that they are in doctrine or practice denying the equality of every Christian, are preaching a false, deficient gospel to the world. And it is growing increasingly plain I think that while Christians have made considerable progress in regard to sinful racial castes in the church (still a long way to go here too), or in respect to masters and slaves (how often though do the wealthy and powerful receive preference over the poor though?), when it comes to the equal inheritance and standing of women along with men before Christ, my conclusion is that many, many churches have failed to obey Galatians 3:28.
This failure has numbers of results — all negative of course since it is disobedience to God’s Word — but certainly the one we deal with the most here at ACFJ is the enablement of male abusers in the church and the promotion of the suffering of their victims. Behind all the boys’ club climate, the patriarchal practice, the oppressive teachings on marriage and divorce, you will always find a mindset that denies Paul’s words that male and female are one in Christ Jesus, Abraham’s offspring, and heirs of all the blessings God promised Abraham in the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that denial is sin. Serious, serious sin.