HOUSMAIL HM#112 - ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS -- (Gal 3:28-29)                                                 18 Nov 2003

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise ." (Gal 3:28-29)

Since the advent of the "Women's Liberation Movement" in the latter half of the 20th century, there have been many changes in our western society culture, designed to pacify and accommodate the powerful political force of the women voters who are sympathetic to its goals. Women are being elected to Parliament, and Political Party Leadership roles, in increasing numbers. Laws have been introduced to prevent "discrimination" and enforce "equal opportunity" in the work force. In many cases it has actually worked to create a form of reverse discrimination against men, as employers struggled to meet legally required "targets" for increasing the visible numbers of women executives.

As might be expected this same sort of thinking quickly invaded the Church, and many have taken up the struggle to "legalise" the ordination of women to senior leadership positions as bishops, elders, pastors, and teachers. A couple of generations ago this would have been virtually unthinkable and impossible -- but today it is already an accomplished fact in many denominations, as one after the other has become infected with this unfortunate "Kings New Clothes Syndrome".

One of the main Scriptures called to support the claims of the Women's Ordination Movement, is the passage from Galatians quoted above.

However, as we shall see, using it this way is actually a serious misuse of the passage which lifts it out of its proper context, and sets the Apostle Paul in contradiction against himself, when compared with his other teaching in 1 Tim 2!

In the Jewish society of Paul's day, " racism " was alive and well. There were visible class distinctions in operation, based on wealth and pedigree, and membership of this or that Jewish sect. Women were not «equal» to men. The poor were not equal to the upper class rich. Greeks and Romans were not equal to Jews. And the Samaritans were called "dogs"! And of course similar reverse attitudes were strong in Roman and Greek cultures.

Amongst Jews, inheritance of the family estate favored the eldest son. He got a «double portion» of everything. i.e. Twice as much as his siblings. (Gen 21:17) But much like our own society, family feuds could develop about who got how much. And there could be situations where fathers and mothers had different "favorites" and disagreed about who should get the inheritance. e.g. Isaac and Rachel with Esau and Jacob. (Gen 27)

And again, just like our own society, there would almost certainly have been situations where the favorite child got the lot, and the others got nothing. (These cases seem to appear regularly in our 21st century press, when family members sue to claim a bigger share of the parental estate from other beneficiaries of the will!)

Racial tensions between Jews and Gentils had already left their mark at Paul's home church in Antioch. These tensions had been brought into the Church at Antioch, by Jewish Christian visitors from Jerusalem, who had refused to eat with Gentile Christians. (Gal 2:11-14) Even Peter and Barnabas were swayed to withdraw from the Gentile Christians, to join with the «circumcision party». (Gal 2:11-14) Paul moved quickly to rebuke Peter!

Now we learn from Gal 1:5-8; 2:1-10, that «false believers» were preaching a false Gospel, amongst the Galatian Churches, which insisted that circumcision was neccessary for salvation. Paul moved quickly again, using VERY strong language to reject that!

Chapter 3 of Galatians must be read against this background .

In the Gospel which he describes in Gal 3 it is baptism and " putting on Christ " which leads to inheritance of the promises -- NOT Circumcision.

Paul's main point is equality of privilege for all believers to receive a full and rightful share in the inheritance of the Kingdom promises to Abraham. He is reassuring the Galatian Christians that the REAL Gospel has no room at all for any of those carnally motivated racial and class prejudices, and inequality of «inheritance rights», which were rampant in the unbelieving Jewish and Gentile worlds around them.

BUT ....... let us read carefully here ......

He is not saying that everyone has the same gift of the Holy Spirit. That would contradict 1 Cor 12;27-31. Nor is He saying that all Jews and Gentiles, or all slaves and freemen, or all males and females, have equal rights or qualifications for any particular service in the Church! That would contradict 1 Cor 12:6-8. Nor is he saying that women may or should become bishops or elders or deacons. That would contradict 1 Tim 3:1-13. And especially in this context, nor is he saying anything even remotely like that women may, or should, teach men! That would contradict 2 Tim 2:8-15.

The real truth about those things must be gleaned

from the other Scriptures quoted!

When we read those other Scriptures with prayerful attention to detail, we shall discover that there are many areas in which God has assigned different roles in the Church for men and women.

THAT "difference" does NOT make them unequal!

Paul's Epistle to the Galatians cannot be used to justify contradicting, or explaining away, Paul's very clear directions in 1 Tim 2:1, 8-15.

Not all have the same gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12:27-30) Not all have the qualifications for eldership. (1 Tim 3:1-7) And not all are teachers. (James 3:1)

It should be obvious that no woman can ever be the husband of one wife! And neither can any man bear children. That isn't a matter of equality! It is simply that God created men and women different, for different roles! And in other areas in the Church, there are also clear differences in roles between men and women. Don't listen to "teachers" who want to change that. Trust God instead !

Those of us who have to listen regularly to preaching by men who do not have the "gift" already know that not all men are called to preach, and that many of them do not recognise their limitations. That can cause problems for the Church when men aspire to roles to which they are not called by God, and not enabled! (The pride of life in action!)

In the case of women, we should know from what the Scriptures tell us, that they are NOT called by God and NOT enabled by the Spirit for roles which are expressly forbidden! (Same pride of life problem!)

For those who are learning to simply trust God's word as their guide to life, it will already be obvious that His greatest blessings flow from doing things exactly as he says in His word!

When God gave Moses the plans for that first OT tabernacle he said : "See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you". (Heb 8:5 RSV)

How much more shall we pay careful attention to build the NEW TEMPLE according to the plans we have been given in the NT!

Being different in roles is a far cry from being unequal in status and privilege.

While we are here, it is worth noting that Jesus refused to involve himself in family feuds about «inheritances».

"And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me". (Luke 12:13)

Instead he accused the complainant of COVETEOUSNESS! As Jesus sees it, you can be consumed by "coveteousness" about what is rightfully and "legally" yours !

Beware lest those who consider they have a right to teach, or even a "call from God" to teach, and who insist on pressuring others to agree, just might be charged by Jesus with the same sort of coveteusness. If covetousness doesn't quite fit, another name for it might be "seeking the top seats at the feast". (Luke 14:10-12)

Whichever way you look at it, it is recognisably a part of the lust called "the pride of life", (1 John 2:16) which will pass away with the rest of this world.

Regardless of what you call it, those who are willing to lobby for support from others, to win the "right" to teach, or exercise any other particular role in the Church, through the majority democratic votes of family and friends, are actually proving that they are not yet ready to teach "in the name of Jesus"! That is a far cry from the example he set! And when they react angrily and express discontent or frustration with those who reject their claims, they are even further from that example.

We must NOT make the terrible mistake of confusing the meanings of "EQUAL VALUE" and "EQUAL ROLES". They are NOT the same thing!

When God created Eve, her role was designated as "helper". That is not partiality on God's part. It is NOT partiality to create two people of equal value, but for different roles. It is not partiality on God's part to creat Adam for the leadership role, and Eve for the helper role, in their "one Flesh relationship"!

Yes, Sisters are our equals. Yes, our roles differ. But our status in Christ does not!