by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2 May 27, 2012 Dayton, Texas
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.
I. Erasing Distinctions.
A. What did Paul intend to communicate by the declaration that "distinctions" no longer exist?
1. Identifying the specific realm wherein no distinctions exist.
a. In the larger context, the Bible is filled with the reality of distinctions and with instructions on how to function for those in their distinct "identities" (the list is almost endless: kings in distinction from subjects; masters in distinction from servants; fathers in distinction from children; husbands in distinction from wives; elders in distinction from the immature; apostles in distinction from every other "gifted" person; etc., etc.).
b. Thus, there has to be a careful identification of the specific "setting" in which "no distinctions" exist.
c. Paul is not ambiguous: the "realm" of no distinctions is that one identified as "in Christ", and further outlined by the final phrase, "heirs according to promise". At the heart of the issue is God's erasure of any, and all, distinctions when it comes to what happens to those who "believe" ("you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus"). "Sons", not "daughters". In other words "sons of God", who are such because they are "in Christ Jesus" by baptism by the Spirit, is not a phrase that needs to see "gender" distinctions ("male" vs. "female"), "societal" distinctions ("slave" vs. "free"), or "national" distinctions ("Jew" vs. "Greek").
2. Identifying the backdrop against which Paul declares the erasure of distinctions.
a. Clearly, the difference between the Galatians and their antagonists as Jews is one of the issues of "backdrop": God has not limited His promise to Abraham's Seed to certain "nations". God's historical preference for Israel (Deuteronomy 14:2) was never intended to limit the promise according to "national" identity (Genesis 17:4/Revelation 5:9).
b. Just as clearly, Paul would not have inserted "bond/free" and "male/female" into his erasure if there were no "problems" with "exclusiveness" along those lines within the realms of Galatian perception.
1) The groups "devolve" from "nations" to "gender" by way of "societal divisions". Even my choice of the word "devolve" involves a certain idea that some "status" issues are "better" than others. What makes "nations" superior to "gender"?
2) What is at stake? The idea that certain "types" are more/less likely to be participants in God's blessing (Jews over non-Jews; servants over free men; men over women). The unexpected might well be the "servants over free men" category until you look at the makeup of the Church ("...not many wise ... not many mighty ... not many noble..." 1 Corinthians1:26). In such a setting, "neither slave nor free" makes a lot of sense in that order.
3) The bottom line is that "repentance" is "at stake" since "pride" and "despair" are the two opponents to repentance. But, it is clear from Paul's larger thought-flow that he is particularly focused upon the "pride" issues involved in using "law" as the means to justification. With fallen human beings, there almost always is some form of "I am superior to you" in the theology of God's grant of inheritance blessing to human beings. "I am saved because I...". Even, God forbid, in the biblical concept of divine election, men who consider themselves "the elect of God" often walk in a kind of sickening arrogance in spite of the fact that they have nothing, and did nothing, to be included in that elect band of the blessed.
4) When it comes to acceptance by God, there are no "categories" of "more" or "less" likely.
B. What was Paul's "point"?
1. His "point" was one: the only "distinctive" with regard to God's willingness to share the inheritance of Christ is "faith". One absolutely must "believe" in Christ Jesus as the single "Seed" of Abraham and Heir of the Promises in order to share in the impact of those promises in any good sense. "Unbelief" completely eliminates participation.
2. Thus, it was not his "point" to attempt to serve the feminist agenda of late human history by making the roles of males and females the same. Nor was it his agenda to erase the structure of the local church by erasing the roles of "elders" as leaders of the body. Nor was it his agenda to have his words twisted by those who are discontented with their lot and station in this life so they might be able to exalt themselves to some status that would "satisfy" them.