Galatians 3:26f & The Indiscriminate Nature of the Gospel AND the Foolishness of Social Egalitarianism

Galatians 3:26-29

26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

BACKGROUND

To pick up the stream of thought of that which is going before in Galatians we find the emphasis here on Sonship explained by the earlier teaching that before the advent of Christ the people of God were as children under the tutelage of the ceremonial law (3:24-25). The problem in Galatians is that the Judaizers desired to foist upon Gentile Christians the ceremonial law. The Judaizers were in effect saying that in order to become Christians one had to become cultural Jews observing circumcision and Jewish food laws. St. Paul in Galatians argues a resounding “NO” to the Judaizing idea that the Gentiles had to become cultural Jews in order to be Christian.

Christ has come and so the ceremonial law had served its purpose. The ceremonial law were to the people of God before Christ what braces were to a child with weak legs. Once those legs gain their strength the necessity for the braces end. The ceremonial law had the intent of placarding Christ before Christ came but once Christ had arrived in order to be an aid to faith. However with the arrival of Christ those ceremonial law braces are fulfilled and are no longer needed. The case with the Judaizers in Galatia however is that they were telling these non-Jewish converts they had to put the legal braces back on.

The Holy Spirit argues that with the advent of Christ there is no longer a need for braces. The old age that required the law as a tutor for children has passed and the new age wherein we are no longer children but sons of God has dawned.

This is where St. Paul starts in vs 26. There are all Sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course the Sonship that Paul speaks is a son-ship by Adoption. Jew or Gentile those brought into the family of God are brought in by Adoption. We have passed through the courtroom and have been declared righteous because of the finished work of Jesus Christ wherein as our substitute our sins are owned by Christ as His own and His righteousness is reckoned to our account. Now having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ we now have access to the family room. The court room has an exit that leads to the family room and there we find adoption. We are not treated as the former criminals and sinner that we were but now we have concourse and fellowship with God and all the Saints who are now and who have gone before.

We are adopted. We have all the privileges of family. There is the sense of intimacy, the ability to cry out Abba Father, the confidence that God as our Father will provide, protect, comfort, and discipline, each as in turn we need. We are adopted and because of that we can have confidence of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And the inspired Apostle says that this adoption is through faith in Jesus Christ just as our Justification was through faith in Jesus Christ. Like Justification, this adoption is a forensic / legal category. Our Adoption is not a matter of our emotions or feelings at any given time but it is a matter of being legally true. Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ it is a legal fact that can’t be altered that I / we belong to the family of God. As a legal fact nothing can change that.

Our faith in Jesus Christ holds on to that Adoption just as it holds on to our Justification. Faith in Christ is the key that upon regeneration unlocks all these blessings.

It is interesting that the moment Paul talks about faith in Jesus Christ he immediately turns to Baptism thus joining at the hip again faith and baptism. Faith and Baptism have the closest possible relation. This faith that Paul talks about has as its badge of identity in baptism. Baptism is God’s sign and seal – His token that bespeaks the presence of faith.

So, intimately bound up is Baptism with faith that Paul can say that all of you that have been Baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. This is yet another objective category statement. Being baptized we have legally identified with Christ. Having been identified with Christ there is no need to go back to those ceremonial laws that the Judaizers wanted to press on the Gentiles. There is no need to run back to the ceremonial law for help with salvation. Instead we have but to look to Christ … look to our Baptism which proclaims Christ … remind ourselves of the faith that was given us as a gift of God.

We should mention here… and I mention this as a self-described theonomist that this is one of the dangers of some versions of theonomy. There is such a high regard for God’s law that it becomes a low regard for Christ. Theonomy if not built with guard rails can become a Judaizing error.

Next, with the mentioning of Sons of God we should briefly remind ourselves of the antithesis this implies along with the concept of adoption and baptism.

Either you are Sons of God or you are not. If you are not you are sons of your father the devil and so are Christ haters. It does not matter how civil, how nice, or how polite you are. If you are not Sons of God through faith in Christ God is opposed to you. Opposed to you every single day and with every single breath. This is what the Scriptures teach and this is what our Heidleberg catechism teaches,

God is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as he has declared: Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them (Deut. 27:26).

This is God’s attitude towards all those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ … towards all Christ haters. He is not a neutral God. He is a God who is either all in for His people as His Sons or He is all in as opposed to those who oppose Him. God is angular and will never be made smooth.

But the Gospel commands all men everywhere to repent and have faith and be Baptized and so clothe yourself with Christ. God commands…. will you not give up on your life of weariness characterized by a heavy laden-ness that no man should bear and look to Christ and so become a Son of God? God commands you to give up on gnawing on the vile and unseemly ends of your pathetic selfish life and come to Him to have life and life abundantly. Why would you ever rebel against such a life-giving command?

St. Paul then moves on in vs. 28 he demonstrates that regardless of very real distinctions that exist in their lives when it comes to this matter of Sonship – which is the subject at hand – there are no exceptions. Jews, Greeks, Slaves, Freeman, Men and Women are all alike Sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ … all who have clothed themselves with Christ in Baptism are Sons of God. When it comes to the issues of justification and adoption the ground at the Cross is level. Nobody has more status when it comes to being Sons of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

This needed to be said because these Judaizers that the Apostle is contending with had a natural tendency to think of themselves as having a leg up on the Gentiles when it came to this business of being sons of God.

Something we need to realize though is that this text is very specific in the subject matter of which it treats. It is dealing with the issue of how the ground at the Cross is level when it comes to becoming Sons of God. It is not teaching a vapid egalitarianism. We know this if only by the fact that God gave Elders and Pastors to the Church as leaders for the Church. This teaches that there is such a thing as godly hierarchy and that even in the Church. Galatians 3:28 or its parallel passage Colossians 3:11 in no way teaches social egalitarianism.

We pause this morning to give more consideration to Gal. 3:28, if only because this text has become the center of a firestorm in the life of the contemporary Western Church.

In the last few decades, vs. 28 has been appealed to in order to legitimize the understanding that traditional, and heretofore thought to be Biblical role distinctions between men and women, both in the home and in the Church, are invalid, improper, and wrong.

It has been appealed to in such a fashion as to suggest that once people are converted all their creaturely distinctions are destroyed so that in becoming a son of God grace destroys nature. According to this Anabaptist type reasoning, the Church is the one place where enlightenment egalitarianism should be pursued.

Vs. 28 is appealed to as being the text that informs us that as Christians a new social order has dawned that sloughs off the consequences of the fall, which includes the consequence of Male headship in the home and in the Church. Those who make this appeal reason backwards from Galatians 3:28 to suggest that in the creation order and before the fall there was no notion of male headship and it is only with the fall and sin coming into the created order — they reason — that we find male headship. Put concisely, this ‘evangelical’ feminism argues that male headship is a consequence of sin that is reversed in Church and home (and culture where Christ’s rule sways) with the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. Galatians 3:28 is seen as a hermeneutical North star for many in the ‘Evangelical’ feminist camp. This text becomes the healing astringent that all other texts that deal with male and female relationships must be read through since it provides the constant that corrects all the other cultural relative situations with which all other New Testament texts are putatively infected.

We want to note that while this is an interesting and even innovative argument it hopelessly shipwrecks and splinters upon several significant boulders of reality.

First, there is the boulder that up until recently in Church history, no known major Church Theologian outside the Anabaptist camp read Galatians 3:28 in such a way as to suggest that because of the advent of Christ and the arrival of His Kingdom what arrives is this idea of an egalitarian social order that flattens out of all authority (Male and Female), class (Slave and Free), and ethnic (Jew and Gentile) distinctions. What we see then is that the recent hailing of Galatians 3:28 as the text of social egalitarianism is unique and has no historical legs upon which to stand.

Now, we must admit that it is possible that 2000 years of Church history got this text all wrong and further missed the egalitarian New Testament theology that it teaches. Further, we must concede that there may yet be found some Church Theologians in history who read Galatians 3:28 the way that it is being read today. Still, one would think that this lack of clear precedent would cause people to go slow on embracing Galatians 3:28 in a way that no Church Theologian in history, except for the Anabaptists, that we know of has ever embraced it.

Instead, we read from the Fathers quotes like this,

Difference of race or condition or sex is indeed taken away by the unity of faith, but it remains embedded in our mortal interactions, and in the journey of this life the apostles themselves teach that it is to be respected, and they even proposed living in accord with the racial differences between Jews and Greeks as a wholesome rule.

St. Augustine on Galatians 3:28

Regarding our eternal salvation, it is true that one must not distinguish between man and woman, or between king and a shepherd, or between a German and a Frenchman. Regarding policy, however, we have what St. Paul declares here; for our, Lord Jesus Christ did not come to mix up nature, or to abolish what belongs to the preservation of decency and peace among us….Regarding the kingdom of God (which is spiritual) there is no distinction or difference between man and woman, servant and master, poor and rich, great and small. Nevertheless, there does have to be some order among us, and Jesus Christ did not mean to eliminate it, as some flighty and scatterbrained dreamers [believe].”

John Calvin (Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Second, there is the boulder of the rest of the New Testament Scripture. If it were the case that the Kingdom of Christ eliminates the idea of gender roles, class roles, and ethnic roles we would expect to find a consistent testimony to that end in the NT record, and yet quite to the contrary we find the opposite testimony. The New Testament retains distinction between male and female in Godly homes in passages like I Cor. 11:1-16, 14:34, I Tim. 2:11-14, Ephesians 5:22f, and I Pt. 3:1f. The New Testament retains distinctions between Jew and Gentile in passages like Romans 9-11 where the discussion centers on how Israel will be saved vis-à-vis the Gentiles and retains distinctions between nations that are inferior in some way from other nations (Titus 1:12). The New Testament retains distinctions between Slave and Free in passages like Philemon, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:1, and I Timothy 6:1-2. There is simply no way that a fair-minded person can read the New Testament and conclude that it teaches some kind of social egalitarianism. Everywhere on the New Testament pages is the reality of gender, ethnic, and class distinctions and not in the sense that these distinctions are automatically evil.

Third, there is the boulder of the whole context of Galatians 3. From what we have seen as we have together worked through Galatians 3 the labor of the Apostle in this book is in no way connected to the issue of gender, labor or ethnic roles. Rather the issue in Galatians is how it is that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to become Christians. The issue is the freedom that the Gentiles have in Christ quite apart from the desire of the Judaizers to foist upon the Galatians Jewish old Testament covenantal boundary markers that are obsolete because of the finished work of Christ. Galatians speaks up the completely gracious character of God’s salvation. To suddenly come upon vs. 28 and insist that it is the interpretive key that unlocks the revolutionary egalitarian nature of the Kingdom of God is to do egregious violence to the whole text of Galatians. Interpretively, such action is hermeneutical manslaughter.

Context is central in this matter. If I walk into a closed room and see and a 55 year old man hugging and kissing an 18 year old I need context in order to understand what is happening. It may be the case that this is a pervert that is forcing himself upon some young lady in which case I have need to come to her rescue. It may be the case that this is a May — December Marriage in which case I may need to tell them to get a room. And it may be the case that he is her grandfather and he is trying to console her over some kind of loss in which case I should shut the door and mind my own business. Context means everything.

What egalitarians do with Galatians 3:28 in order to support the idea that with the advent of the Gospel role distinctions are eliminated is the same as happening upon a May December Marriage and concluding that the gentlemen needs to be hauled off to jail. ‘Evangelical’ feminists in appealing to Galatians 3:28 in order to support their agenda are contextually challenged. Context means everything and the context of Galatians 3:28 has nothing to do with the elimination of gender, class, or ethnic distinctions that continue to exist in the Kingdom.

John Piper offers here that ,

The context of Galatians 3:28 makes abundantly clear the sense in which men and women are equal in Christ: they are equally justified by faith (v. 24), equally free from the bondage of legalism (v. 25), equally children of God (v. 26), equally clothed with Christ (v. 27), equally possessed by Christ (v. 29), and equally heirs of the promises to Abraham (v. 29).

I would only add that the same is true of Masters and Slaves and Jews and Gentiles.

Galatians 3:28 does nothing to overturn the Historical and Biblical categories that maintain social differences between different people. Now, to be sure Galatians 3:28 does eliminate things like hatred of the brethren that are different from us, precisely because we are all in Christ and are all children of God. The historical hatred of Jew for Gentile, the historical maltreatment of Master over slave, the historical abuse of men upon women was never God’s design but with the advent of Christ and with the bringing in of all these different relationships into the Church the former animosity between these groups is vanquished. BUT saying that former animosity is vanquished and saying that all are now equal in role is to say very different things.

With the advent of Christ and the presence of His Kingdom what the leaven of the Gospel works through home, church, and culture is not the elimination and flattening out of the richness of the varied social tapestry that constitutes life but rather the putting right of the social tapestry that was rent by the fall. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ what we should expect to find is neither a gender blender society, nor a society where labor and capital distinctions are gathered up into some kind of socialistic nirvana, nor a society where ethnic or racial distinctions are effaced. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate the restoration of true masculinity and femininity is on display in marriages where incredibly intelligent wives eagerly submit to incredibly humble husbands, who are in a haste to love their wives sacrificially. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate a renewed harmony of interests between Master and Slave where each realizes that their own interests are best served by looking out for the interest of the other. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate the different nations (ethnos) being brought into the Kingdom so that on that last day they will enter into the new Jerusalem nation by nation so that what is heard is the beautiful harmony of a multi-part Choir where every still distinct tribe, tongue and nation render praise unto the King of Kings. The extension of the Kingdom of Christ does not result in a situation where all the ‘colors bleed into one.’ That is a socialistic humanistic vision. The extension of the Kingdom of Christ results in the old Puritan notion of the ‘harmony of interests.’

Returning to our boulders we must mention one last boulder that the ship of hermeneutical feminism crashes against as it seeks to twist Galatians 3:28 to its end. The last boulder is that the reading that ‘Evangelical’ Feminism is trying to use for Galatians 3:28 proves too much. If it really is the case that social order distinctions are eliminated in Christ, including that of maleness and femaleness then the Church has little room left to oppose homosexuality in the Church. If Galatians 3:28 teaches that there is no longer male or female in Christ, and if that means that traditional distinctions between men and women no longer exist because of Christ’s Kingdom, then how can we maintain that sexual distinctions are an exception? More then that if the presence of Christ’s Kingdom provides the kind of egalitarianism that these hermeneutical wizards insist upon then where is the room for parental authority over children? If children are equal to parents because they are all in Christ then on what basis can parents require obedience? If that reductio sounds stupid it is supposed to. The only reason that otherwise normal people no longer find the reasoning of ‘Evangelical’ feminists to be equally stupid when it comes to their egalitarian appeals is because we have slowly been conditioned to accept it. In this culture and in the Western Church I may have to live with it but I don’t accept it.

There remain functional differences between gender, labor and ethnic categories. We all are ontologically human but functionally speaking there remains God honoring differences. We all have the same value before God, all being made in God’s image, but just as in a choir both the mezzo Soprano and the Alto are ontologically human, they remain functionally separated. Both of their functions are needed for a good choir and are to be esteemed in their place. A good choir doesn’t get better by making every one sing the same bland part. The same kind of thing is true when it comes to the insipid blandness that is being reached for in terms of male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile by the egalitarians among us.

Now returning to Galatians 3:28 we may ask ourselves why the Apostle chooses the three couplets of ‘male – female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile?

Of course we can’t say authoritatively because the text doesn’t authoritatively say but we perhaps can make a pretty good guess. The answer may be very much in keeping with the context that is going on here.

In vs. 29 the Church is reminded that they are ‘heirs according to the promise.’ Now in order to be an heir their must be an inheritance and quite obviously that inheritance is all the blessings that we have in Christ Jesus. In choosing the couplets that he chooses the Holy Spirit may be intimating the superior character of the new and better covenant as opposed to the old and worse covenant. Under the Old Testament law, Greeks, slaves, and females could not inherit land and property directly. These were restricted in the life of the old covenant. However in the New and better covenant the anti-type inheritance has come to which the inheritance of land and property in the OT was only a type, and it comes in such a way that people from every tribe, tongue, nation, class, gender, and economic strata can directly inherit. The inheritance cocoon that was the Old covenant produces a butterfly inheritance that is beyond and above what anybody in the Old covenant could have anticipated. No boundaries are erected to the inheritance of salvation. All may inherit. All may become sons of God.

And the effect of the fullness of that inheritance coming to more and more people including the renewal that is part of it is not an ugly egalitarianism where all distinction and diversity is crushed. That can only be some kind of Unitarian vision where the singleness and unitary character of God produces a bland and unitary character of culture. No, the Trinitarian Christian vision is that the effect of the inheritance coming to more and more people makes for a renewal where people in their different God honoring roles and places work increasingly together to advance the Glory of God by honoring God in the places and roles to which they have been placed and called.