Recorded in the above verse of scripture is a statement, made by the Apostle Paul, about certain people. To gain a clear understanding of this statement it is necessary to identify the people to whom the Apostle was referring. They are described as being "in Christ Jesus". The statement applies to people who are "in Christ Jesus", and to such people only. It does not apply to people who are not "in Christ Jesus". What is the meaning of the phrase "in Christ Jesus"?
From a study of the New Testament it can be seen that to be "in Christ Jesus" means to be united to Christ. This is a living spiritual union with Christ. It is illustrated by what Christ said to His disciples "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. Those who are "in Christ Jesus" are members of His mystical body, of whom Paul wrote, "we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" Eph. 5:30. Those who are united to Christ in this way are also united to one another "we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" Rom. 12:5.
The New Testament contains teaching about the consequences of being 'in Adam" and also about the benefits of being 'in Christ". "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" 1 Cor. 15:22. By nature all men and women were "in Adam" and not "in Christ". By nature all men and women were "in the flesh' Rom. 8:9. They were "born of the flesh" Jn. 3:6. To enter the Kingdom of God, those "born of the flesh" need to be "born again" Jn. 3:3, they need to be "born of the Spirit" Jn. 3:6. This new birth is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It is those who have been born again of the Spirit who are "in Christ". They have experienced "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" Tit. 3:5 and "by one Spirit' have been "baptised into one body" 1 Cor. 12:13.
Those who are "in Christ" have a personal relationship with Christ, and a personal experience of Him. Not only are they "in Christ" but Christ is in them. To the "faithful brethren in Christ.... at Colosse" Col. 1:2. Paul wrote "Christ in you, the hope of glory" Col. 1:27, they had "received Christ Jesus the Lord" Col. 2:6. They were the kind of people of whom John wrote "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" Jn. 1:12. Those who are 'in Christ' have a personal faith in Christ. The Galatian Christians who were "all one in Christ Jesus" Gal. 3:28 were "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" Gal. 3:26.
People who are "in Christ" have experienced a complete change in their lives "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God" 2 Cor. 5:17, 18. There has been a dramatic divine intervention in their lives. God has intervened in their lives in creative power. They are "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" Eph. 2:10. It is only people who have undergone such a change who are "in Christ". Dear reader has this happened to you?
To Christians at Rome Paul wrote, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" Rom. 8:1, to whom he also wrote "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his" Rom. 8:9. Those who are "in Christ" are no longer" in the flesh" but "in the Spirit", "the Spirit of God" dwells in them. But those in whom "the Spirit of God" does not dwell, are not "in Christ".
Where the Spirit of God dwells there will be evidence of His presence. In the lives of those who are "in Christ" will be produced "the fruit of the Spirit" which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance" Gal. 5:22, 23. People in whom "the Holy Spirit of God" Eph. 4:30 dwells will have "fruit unto holiness" Rom. 6:22. Multitudes of those who are "in Christ" have experienced an assurance of salvation, confessing "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" Rom. 8:16.
Those who are "in Christ Jesus" are united to Christ. They have been born again, they have faith in Christ, they have received the Lord Jesus Christ, they have been miraculously changed, they are new creatures, they are children of God. In them the Holy Spirit dwells, in their lives the fruit of the Spirit is produced, they are holy people. They are in this blessed position as a result of divine activity. It is of such people, and such people only that the Apostle Paul wrote "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one IN CHRIST JESUS".
It is worthy of note that Paul does not teach here that all who are "in Christ Jesus" should endeavour to be one. He states that all who are "in Christ Jesus" ARE ONE "ye ARE all one in Christ Jesus". Elsewhere, of those who are "in Christ" Paul wrote, "we, being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" Rom. 12:5. This unity remains unbroken even when there are divisions among those who are "in Christ". Among those who were "sanctified in Christ Jesus" at Corinth
1 Cor. 1:2 there were "contentions" 1 Cor. 1:11 and "divisions" 1 Cor. 3:3. Yet Paul could still write of them "we being many are one bread, and one body" 1 Cor. 10:17. Every person who is united to Christ is included in this unity "ye are ALL one in Christ Jesus'.
This wonderful unity does not have to be organised by men. It already exists. It has been brought into existence by Almighty God. No religious organisation can organise this unity; it cannot be produced by man. This unity of all who are "in Christ' is a work of God.
All who are "in Christ" should seek to behave in a way that is consistent with this unity. To those "in Christ" at Corinth Paul wrote "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement' 1 Cor. 1:10.
Those who are not "in Christ Jesus" are excluded from this unity. Men and women who are members of one of the older historical visible churches, or one of the more modern denominational churches, but who are not "in Christ", are not part of this unity, and cannot be until they have been born again of the Spirit, have repented of their sins and have a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The statement "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female" applies to those who are "in Christ Jesus" and no one else. The teaching of the Apostle is that the statement was true of the Galatian Christians because they were "in Christ'. This is the force of the word "for" in the clause "for ye are all one in Christ Jesus". This rules out the possibility of the statement being applicable to anyone who is not "in Christ".
When considering the meaning of the statement certain interpretations can be ruled out immediately. A Jew who came to be "in Christ" did not change his nationality. Such a Jew remained a Jew. Peter was "in Christ" but he was still a Jew cf. Gal. 2:14. Also a Greek who was "in Christ" did not cease to be a Greek. Titus was "in Christ" but he still remained a Greek. Paul wrote "Titus, who was with me, being a Greek" Gal. 2:3.
The Greek word here translated "bond" is DOULOS, which as a substantive means a slave. It is translated "servant" in Paul's description of himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ" Rom, 1:1. Slaves did not cease to be slaves when they came to be "in Chnst". Paul gave instructions for "Servants" who were "in Christ" Eph. 6:5. Paul also gave instructions for "masters" who were "in Christ" Eph. 6:9. Slaves and masters did not leave their respective classes when they came to be "in Christ". Paul gave teaching as to how slaves and masters "in Christ" should behave in the very different classes to which they belonged.
Men did not cease to be men, neither did women cease to be women when they came to be "in Christ". In this life here on earth, even "in Christ" the different roles of men and women are not to be confused.
The same Apostle who wrote Galatians 3:28, also wrote to married women who were "in Christ", "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" Eph. 5:22. To those "in Christ" at Ephesus he also wrote "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church' Eph. 5:23. Being "in Christ" does not remove the obligation of Christian wives to be in subjection to their husbands, accordingly Paul wrote "Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" Eph. 5:24. The degree of happiness enjoyed obeying this Christian teaching will depend very much upon how successful each partner is in observing other Christian teaching about the marriage relationship. The New Testament teaches that husbands should love their wives "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" Eph. 5:25, and that "aged women" should "teach the young women....to love their husbands" and to be "obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed" Tit. 2:3-5.
In the functioning of the local church, men and women should not be assigned roles, which are inconsistent with the Christian teaching about the relationship of husband and wife in marriage. Men, who are appropriately spiritually qualified and motivated, may be appointed to positions of leadership, where others are expected to render to them obedience, in accordance with Christian teaching. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" Heb. 13:17.
The New Testament contains clear teaching about the different roles of men and women in the public worship of the church. Paul, who wrote Galatians 3:28, also wrote "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law" 1 Cor. 14:34, and "it is a shame for women to speak in the church" 1 Cor. 14:35. In the same chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul also wrote, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" 1 Cor. 14:37. Professing Christians are expected to take seriously any 'commandments of the Lord'. Paul practised what he taught for he also wrote "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" 1 Tim. 2:12. A reason which he gave for the practice was that it was in accord with the order which God observed in creation "For Adam was first formed then Eve" 1 Tim. 2:1-3. It is well to remember that Christ Himself chose only men to be apostles.
To be correct, any interpretation of Galatians 3:28 must be in harmony with the teaching of the New Testament as a whole, and any interpretation which is in conflict with the teaching given by the Apostle Paul elsewhere is obviously incorrect.
In the unity which is "in Christ" there is diversity. In 1 Cor. 12:12-27 Paul uses the human body to illustrate this diversity in unity. As there are different members with different functions in one human body, so there is diversity in perfect unity in the mystical body of Christ. All who are "in Christ" are one, yet in this unity some are given gifts, which are not given to others. "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 1 Cor. 12: 28-30. It is God Himself who distributes these gifts.
In this life upon earth, differences of nationality, class or sex are not abolished by the oneness which results from union with Christ; Neither does this oneness confuse the different roles of men and women in marriage, and in the public worship of the church of Christ.
It is God who has revealed in His word that even "in Christ" the different roles which He has assigned to men and women upon earth are to be maintained. To put women in positions of authority and leadership over men in the church of Christ is contrary to apostolic teaching and practice. To conform with Christian teaching contained in the New Testament, positions of authority and leadership over men in the church of Christ upon earth, should be occupied by men only.
In this life upon earth, "in Christ" Jews and Greeks do not change their nationalities, the positions of servants and masters are not confused neither are the different roles of men and women. But "in Christ" Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, men and women are blessed with exactly the same spiritual blessings. All who are "in Christ" without exception, regardless of nationality, class or sex are blessed with "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" Eph. 1:3. Included in these blessings is the privilege of being a priest. Those who are "in Christ" are "a royal priesthood" 1 Pet 2:9. They have been brought into this priesthood by the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom John wrote "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Rev. 1: 5, 6.
Those who are "in Christ Jesus" are "an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ' 1 Pet.
2:5. All such may "by Jesus Christ" "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually Heb. 13:15. This they may do in the church, in their homes, in the open air, or wherever they are at any time of day or night. Those who by the grace of God, by virtue of the atoning work of Christ, and as a result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit are in this most blessed position, do well to copy the example of David, who wrote "I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth" Ps. 34:1.
Llewelyn Jones, Norwich.