Galatians 3:28

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

These passages are core passages of Paul’s message to the church as it grew out of being a sect of Judaism to the worldwide church of today, but I wonder if we have ever really sat down and considered the scope of the categories he raises in these 2 verses.  Who actually is he including in the church, as being one with us?

Jew/Gentile

Addressing issues of ethnicity, ethnic identity, national identity, religion and cultural identity, heritage, whakapapa.

At that time the Jews had deep suspicion of and hostility towards Gentiles. And Gentiles then and later had deep suspicion of Jews.  Just think of the Crusades and pogroms throughout Europe for centuries against the Jews

The warning about ethnic identity which we now experience as racial and cultural identity, speaks to bias against other races even here in NZ – the furore about the Asian invasion, concern about the influx of non-European refugees, the continual bleat about Maori regaining their rights, yet  we are to be one in Christ Jesus

In church there should be no distinction on race, or racial-religious or nationality bases. There should be no place for racial bigotry.

Slave/free

Addressing socio economic, haves and have nots

In church there should be no distinction in rank or social standing; no economic or political status and No place for snobbery

But also the distinction between Free of sin/slave to sin, remembering that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Although the church in NZ is predominantly white middle class in NZ, it should encompass and include both the rich and poor.

Male/female

Addresses Gender, which often relates to power

Women were often second-class citizens in much of the ancient world and in biblical Israel.  They are not so now, so the church needs to consider its gender power bases, its gender focused language and male dominated leadership.

There should be no distinction in gender in church, No place for chauvinism

 

 

Circumcised/Uncircumcised

the Jewish rite of circumcision was performed on a male child on the eighth day of his life. It was a Mosaic rite of inclusion into the religious and cultural Jewish life.

In the modern church, there should be No distinction between those dedicated to Christ as a child or those who come to the Lord later; No religious hierarchy; no recognition of former religious differences

1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commandments is what matters.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.

Barbarian/ Scythian

A barbarian is a human who is perceived to be either uncivilized or primitive. The Scythians were Eurasian nomads, probably mostly using Eastern Iranian languages and were ferocious warriors

These were not the cultured Jew, Greek or Roman but were the unwashed hordes who invaded and dealt to the cultured empires. They were feared because they were different.

Even such a ferocious and uncivilized people as the Scythians were not excluded from the gospel, but they were as welcome as any other, and were entitled to the same privileges as others. No one was excluded because he belonged to the most rude and uncivilized portion of humanity.[1]

In church there should be No differences determined by cultural decorum or lack of it, academic achievement or lack of it.

All of this list of comparisons are the classes, which I believe even today cover all the differences we identify and judge by.

It goes by the pejorative term of Labelling.

Labelling people can be advantageous (as a shortcut to evaluating people every time we meet them) but in this case we are considering the negative connotations.  Labelling that puts people in a box, so we don’t have to think of them on the same terms as we think of ourselves.

Yet we are told not to label

Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

And the reason those labels are harmful is because they are past tense – they are no longer true. What once was, is no longer.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In the book of Acts, a council of elders met in Jerusalem to decide this matter [of Jew Gentile issue and by implication all the other categories listed] and determined that there were certain ethical obligations that fell on Gentiles but they, we, didn’t have to convert to the kosher requirements of the Mosaic Law.

Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: The same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on Him,

In Acts 15 the elders of Jerusalem decided that Gentiles who sought to follow Jesus must also follow a greatly abridged and reduced Torah including keeping a small part of the kosher laws.

They decided we must abstain from the pollutions of idols. This mostly referred to eating meat that had been sacrificed to other gods but Paul would reject that eventually because there were some people who were so poor that that was the only meat they could afford so that commandment would eventually be waived. Which is good, because all sheep meat in NZ is halal killed and our fast food is often cooked by Hindu or Buddhists

The next command was to avoid illicit sexual activity -pornea. Most of you know the word translated as “fornication,” but pornea is a more complicated term that has to do with unsanctioned sexual activity.

And the reason for such a relaxing of the Judaic rules comes from God.  

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.

Because we are all equal in Christ

Ephesians 2:14 For Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

For a Jew to confess himself a Christian, and then refuse to eat with Christians from the Gentiles, or to regard himself as being in any way superior to them in moral worth, is an abomination to the Lord. Similarly, today, the church cannot tolerate hurtful distinctions. All believers are in a sense one person, on body in Christ[2]

The great thing that constitutes the uniqueness of the church is, that Christ is its Saviour, and that all are his friends and followers. Its members lay aside all other distinctions, and are known only as his friends. They are not known as Jews and Gentiles; as of this nation or that; as slaves or freemen, but they are known as Christians; distinguished from all the rest of mankind as the united friends of the Redeemer[3]

We may have other terms to describe people unlike us, but we also need to heed to advice in Colossians and Galatians about how we treat those who love the Lord.

These human categories belong in this world, but they do not become the categories of the life of a believer in Christ. They are not meaningful to him as the new man, who is born of God by the Lord Jesus Christ.[4]

Finally let’s focus on how that works out in church

When we say that Christ has abolished these distinctions, we do not mean that they do not exist, but that they do not matter. They are still there but they no longer create any barriers to fellowship.[5]

One of the evidences of spiritual growth and the renewing of the mind is this willingness to receive and love all who sincerely know Christ and seek to glorify him.[6]



[1]Barnes Notes on the Bible http://biblehub.com/commentaries/colossians/3-11.htm

[2] William Hendriksen Galatians & Ephesians 150

[3] Barnes

[4] Manford George Gutzke Plain Talk on Colossians 62

[5] John Stott The Message of Galatians 100

[6] Warren Wiersbe Colossians, Be Complete 110