Session 4 - Neither Male nor Female
for all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor
free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians
- Neither male nor female. (Galatians 3:28)
- Some have said Galatians 3:28 is the most socially explosive
statement in the New Testament. But is it meant to be socially disruptive?
Paul was actually trying to bring unity out of diversity. He believed
that human distinctions and the problems which arise from those distinctions
would dissolve in Christ. Those who would bind the Jewish law on the church
during the middle of the century were dividing the church.
- Few misunderstand the basic meaning, namely that access to God is open
to all through faith in Christ. But does the statement go beyond equal
access to salvation to include roles in the church and in society?
- There are those who argue that all is changed in Christ.
- There are others who argue that value (e.g. Jew versus Greek) is
equal in Christ for all yet roles ordained at creation must be maintained.
- Arguments for the all is changed in Christ or egalitarian approach.
- This passage is a succinct summary of Pauls entire theology.
Galatians 3:28 is Pauls Magna Carta or Declaration
of Independence in Christ. Therefore this passage cannot be subordinated
to other passages. Rather other passages must be interpreted in light
of this passage.
- We presently live during a special time, preparing for the Second
Coming and following the resurrection. God is creating a community
during this time that prefigures and embodies the reconciliation and
healing of the world, returning it to the created harmony before the
Fall. (Romans 15:7 13)
- Man once again will be male and female as God created
him, that is, a relationship of divine unity. (Genesis 1:27)
- The community must be unified. (I Corinthians 1:10)
- This unification comes in large part by righting age old injustices.
(Galatians 1:4, 5:1) Men and women are therefore freed from the slavery
of false stereotypes.
- We must live in community as if the time is near for the coming
of Jesus. (I Corinthians 7:29 31) The new world has already
- Men and women (just as slave and free, circumcised and uncircumcised)
are therefore one in Christ and live in relations of loving mutuality.
(Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:9 11)
- Any compromise of this loving mutuality is made in a spirit of
love so that persons less mature in their faith may grow in their
faith. (I Corinthians 9:19 23)
- From this basic theology, Paul derives his view of the role of women
in the church .
- Subordination of women in the world is parallel to the institution
of slavery. God has opened doors in the church which no person can
- What happens through baptism supercedes every other reality. Though
man will always be male and female, what happens in Christ
transcends even the Law and the order of creation. We are a new creation
one in Christ.
- Men and women, through Christ, are redeemed even in this world
from false stereotypes and discrimination which inhibit a true relationship
with God. The gospel, by its very nature, fuels social change toward
justice and equality.
- The new world has broken into the existing world, a world which
returns humankind to the state before the Fall (the peaceable kingdom,
the kingdom where gender differences are minimal). (Acts 2: 1
- In the new community (the church) old distinctions are transcended.
The church becomes the kingdom of heaven on earth (and perhaps there
will be no gender distinctions in heaven). (Mark 12: 18 27)
- Passages which contradict 3:28 (such as I Corinthians 14:34-35)
should be viewed as temporary expedients (an accommodation to culture)
which look forward to a greater good (just as Onesimus was asked to
return to Philemon [Philemon 12] though in reality slavery eventually
should be abolished).
- Arguments for the male spiritual leadership or keep role and worth
- Galatians 3:28 should not be taken out of context. The conflict
addressed by Paul in this passage related to the tension between justification
of the believer in Christ apart from legal works, not the societal problem
of the relation of men to women.
- The letter is written in response to a heresy in the church related
to binding specific Jewish laws upon the Galatian Christians. (3:1
- The law was a slave guardian and the coming of the Son has freed
us from that slavery. (3:21 25)
- Galatians was therefore written to strongly emphasize our sonship
(we are sons and daughters of God Galatians 3:26) as opposed
to our slavery to the law.
- Galatians emphasizes the replacement of the old law with sonship
in Christ yet it does not replace the created order with a new order.
If we wish to look back, look back to Abraham, not to creation. (3:16
- Galatians 3:28 should not be applied beyond the realm of salvation
- From this basic theology, Paul derives his arguments for the role of
women in the church.
- Equality in Christ does not abolish gender (and gender will not
be abolished in heaven).
- The letter to the Galatians has nothing to say about roles in the
church. The letter is about our faith relationship with God through
Christ and whether we impose the Jewish law upon that relationship.
- None of the New Testament writings abolish the traditional role
of men and women in Greco-Roman (or Jewish) society.
- Paul (and Christ for that matter) was not interested in social
reform, but rather spiritual salvation. The letter (and the gospels)
was not written to inspire social change. The Kingdom is not of this
- Distinction in role does not equate with lesser or greater value.
Submission does not equate with inferiority. Both male and female
are natural heirs in Christ (3:26)
- Scripture cannot contradict scripture and therefore there is no
conflict between Galatians 3:28 and I Corinthians 12 - 14. We are,
both male and female, the royal priesthood yet there are different
roles and service within the priesthood. (I Corinthians 12:5)
- The context of Galatians 3:28 as it relates to the role of women in the
- Paul is perhaps speaking in Galatians to two audiences, both
of whom have not put Christ first: those who profess to be in Christ
but still deficient because of their adherence to the law (1:7, 5:4);
and those who believe themselves superior in understanding (5:16
- The audience which binds the law he addresses directly but the
other perhaps indirectly.
- In other words, the structure of Galatians is similar to Romans.
The bulk of both letters is directed toward freedom in Christ. Yet
the latter portion of the letters is directed toward the loving application
of that freedom in Christ.
- Paul insists on the superiority of Christ in all things (justification
by faith rather than works of the law).
- With Christ there is a new creation (the law has passed away). It is
not just faith vs. law, it is Christ vs. anything else.
- Paul and the Galatians are interested in binding together the community
of believers. For Paul, unity comes through being in Christ and from the
love of Christ which sums up the law of Christ. (5:14, 15) For some Galatians,
however, unity has become equated with circumcision. (5:2 4) For
others, freedom had become equated with giving oneself over to ones
sinful nature (5:19 21).
- Being in Christ and living in loving unity means attention is addressed
to the works of the flesh versus the fruits of the spirit. (5:16
- These fruits manifest themselves in relationship (such as the relationship
between men and women).
- The message of 3:28 as it relates to the role of women in the church.
- The core message of 3:28 is the superiority of Christ. All
interpretations must be considered in light of this message.
- Pauls message does not specifically address roles. Rather he
focuses upon worth of and respect for one another, upon the community
in Christ, upon the fruits of the spirit which manifest themselves in
- The three examples of polar groups he addresses (Jews and Greeks, slaves
and free, males and females) are three groups where society has set distinctions
and conflict abounds. The three groups each have within them the potential
for oppression and a power struggle. In Christ that power struggle is
- There does not appear to be any Biblical evidence that gender differences
will be abolished in the Kingdom of God, neither here nor in the hereafter.
Can any one of us imagine maintaining our identity without a gender identity?
Our bodies will be resurrected. (I Corinthians 15:35 49)
- At the same time, Paul emphasizes that conflicts about male vs. female
should never divide the church. We are free and our current conflicts
originate do not derive from freedom in Christ which manifests itself
in love for one another..
- Paul may be saying that groups which are in conflict within the Christian
community must treat one another as equally valuable. In other words,
social expediency must give way to unity and equality in Christ. (Galatians
2: 11 14) If we err, we should err toward love, peace, patience,
- Equal value, on the other hand, does not necessarily correspond to
role relationships. In fact, Paul provides little guidance in Galatians
regarding the role of women compared to men in the church.
- The elimination of unnecessary barriers and unnecessary distinctions
and reconciliation of conflict can promote unity in Christ (Pauls
major concern for the Galatians).
- Therefore, if the church takes this passage seriously we should find
a way to abolish conflicts about gender.
- Hailey JF: Neither Male and Female (Gal. 3:28), in Osburn CD
(ed.): Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity. Volume 1. Joplin, Mo., College
Press, 1993 pp. 131 166.
- Smith FL: Male Spiritual Leadership. Nashville, Tennessee, 21st Century
Christian, 1998. Pp. 205 - 218
- Johnson, SL: Role distinctions in the church: Galatians 3:28, in Piper
J, Grudem W (eds): Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to
Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway Books, 1991, pp 154