(177)Thesis:The erasure of "distinctions" has only one, very critical, direction: the elimination of any, and every, sense of superiority in the sons of God.
Introduction:In our last study we considered how we are the sons of God. We saw that Paul's concept of becoming a son of God is tied directly to both being baptized into Christ and having Christ clothe us with Himself. The major issue here is the actual, and essential, unity between Christ and all of the individual members of His body. The promises were made to Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Those promises extend to no one except those who are so tied to Christ that they effectively become "Him" in the sense of being completely absorbed into a unity with Him that is complete and inviolable. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit retain a specific, separate, identity, we who are in Christ are yet "ourselves", but, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are an indivisible unity, we who are in Christ are also an indivisible unity with Him. We are in Him and He is in us.
In this study we are going to consider what Paul meant by his next statement as a complete elimination of "distinctions" and why he felt the need to "go there".
I. In What Real Sense Is It True That There Are No Distinctions Between Those "in Christ"?
A. Everywhere in the Bible "distinctions" exist between individuals.
1. Even in Paul's teachings regarding the "Body of Christ" he declares both real and significant "distinctions".
2. Beyond that "Body" reality of many distinctive parts making a unified whole, the Scriptures would have a great amount of their content erased if there was no instructions to distinctly different people regarding how they are to fulfill their roles according to those distinctions.
B. To understand Paul's elimination of "distinctions", we need to understand his "point".
1. The context of the declaration is not difficult.
a. His claim is that he is addressing those who are "sons of God by faith in Christ".
b. His conclusion is that those who are "of Christ" are "heirs according to promise".
c. Thus, he is saying that there are no distinctions in respect to something that has to do with being "sons" and "heirs".
2. Because even the concepts of "sons" and "heirs" are treated in the Bible as matters wherein exist significant distinctions, we must identify the "something" that eliminates all distinctions between the members of Christ.
a. In the text, there is only one "big issue": the question of how one becomes a "son/heir".
b. Because Paul is adamant about the fact that the inheritance is not "by law" and is "by faith", we can see that he is attempting to drive a wedge between "distinctly different methodologies" for obtaining the status of a "son/heir" so that there is only one such method.
3. With this in mind, it becomes rather obvious that what Paul is doing is saying that, when it comes to "faith" the issues of nationality, societal status, or gender are totally out of the picture: they do not exist as "distinctives" that would introduce something besides "faith" into the effectiveness of "faith" as the one and only method by which a person is accepted by God.
II. Why Did Paul Feel a Need to Make This Declaration?
A. Paul sensed a most profound reality in the human heart that is extremely antagonistic to what "faith" is supposed to generate.
1. The overriding concern Paul had in his doctrine of the "single seed of Abraham" to Whom the promises were made was to communicate how it is only by "unity" with Christ that a person can begin to experience the impact of those promises.
2. Thus, the intention of "faith" was to sponsor that "unity" and any/every thing that had the potential to fragment that "unity" had to be excluded.
3. But the human heart is militantly against being reduced to the lowest common denominator so that it cannot point to something within itself that is worthy of exaltation over others.
a. Romans 3:27 clearly reveals Paul's concern: if a man can boast, he will boast, and if he does, disunity is inevitable.
b. Ephesians 2:8-9 also clearly reveals this major concern within God's relational universe: boasting simply has to be eradicated or the unity-objective cannot be achieved.
B. Paul recognized three major "distinctives" that lend themselves to feelings of "superiority".
2. Societal status.
C. At stake are two major issues.
1. The biblical concept of repentance as the doorway to acceptance by God insists upon a middle road between pride and despair.
2. The biblical concept of "Life" within a relational universe demands the absence of competitive disunity (where there is no peace there is no joy and where there is no peace someone has done something unrighteous ... the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy).