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Topic 39: “…neither male nor female…”


[Galatians 3:27]  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  [28] For 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.

◆”The division into male and female established in the order of creation is not relevant in reference to Baptism into Christ” (LCMS’ Commission on Theology and Church Relations, “Women in the Church” (Sept. 1985), pg. 26).

◆ “Gal. 3:26-29:  On the basis of the difference between the order of creation and the order of redemption the 1956 study committee report correctly concludes that Gal. 3:26-29 (along with 1 Cor. 12:13 and Col. 3:11) describes human relationships in terms of redemption, and thus it is improper to use the Galatians passage as a basis for supporting the cause of women suffrage” (Lutheran Witness, June 1969, pg 7).

◆ “This text [Galatians 3:28] reveals how believers appear before God, but it does not speak to issues pertaining to order in the church or the specific functions of women in the congregation” (CTCR-WIC, pg. 27).

◆ “ [Galatians 3:28] … does not mean identity of man and woman can be exchanged any more than Greeks can become Jews or vice versa” (CTCR-WIC, pg. 27).

Thesis: Galatians 3:27 and 28 suggest that God’s purpose is the restoration of the original creative intent.

(A)  The lines quoted above from Missouri Synod literature illustrate a basic exegetical bias in working with Galatians 3:28.  Does Paul limit the passage to the “order of redemption” (salvation)?  Does not faith have to do with the nitty-gritty of life (James 2:14-17)?  We can distinguish but not separate salvation and sanctification in the way the Witness writer implies.  “Faith without works is dead.”

(B)  Once again, the Gospel, the Good News which comes through Jesus Christ, does speak to all issues in the church, to orders and ordination and to men and women in ministry and sacradotal office; if it does not, it is a limited Gospel at best!  There is no area of faith and life which the Gospel does not encompass and to which it does not speak!

(C) Galatians 3 deals with current issues and is not just talking about a future way of being.  The baptized “put on Christ” within the present order.  We are called to grow in Christ-likeness now (Ephesians 4:11-16).  The verbs are past tense: this has already happened; we have already been clothed in Christ.

(D) If “the division into male and female established in the order of creation is not relevant in reference to Baptism into Christ,” as the CTCR-WIC maintains, then, by extension of the same logic, the division and separation between Jew and Gentile and slave and free also remain, and the Gospel has no bearing on the concrete reality of these other two issues.  But if “in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female,” then there is no order.

(E) A central point of the letter to the Galatians is that neither Jew nor Gentile because of race or patrimony (or lack of it!) has priority in Christ.  Paul even describes the concrete, historic New Order in which this takes place (Galatians 2:4-21) and castigates the Galatians for being “bewitched” (Galatians 2:1) by a gospel which denies this Christocentric reality now.

(F) Paul specifically singles out three relationships in which God’s Eden-ic intent has been prostituted by making one group unequal to another in the eyes of one.  He works through this Jew-Gentile division in Romans and Galatians.

(G) And most of the Book of Acts details Paul’s effort to break down through the power of the Gospel “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14) between Jew and Gentile, and Paul’s letter to Philemon certainly plants the seeds of renovating the relationships between master and slave and abolishing the institution of slavery (Philemon 16).

(H) None of us would limit access to the pastoral office based on race (Jew and Gentile).

(I) None of us would stand up and support slavery today, even though Paul (Ephesians 6:5) wrote, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters.”

(J) The Gospel does not erase created distinctions, male and female, but it does empower God’s people to work through “sinful divisions.”

(K) “[vs 28]… neither male nor female…”

(1) The Greek actually reads “male and female.  Scholars see this as a clear reference (an identical form is used in the Greek Septuagint) to Genesis 1:27.

(2) Paul uses the words for male and female (arsen kai thelu)instead of husband and wife.  He thus links this passage back to Genesis 1:27.

(3) Such a reference would indicate a reference to God’s original creative intent, equity-with-differences.  The baptized, participating by grace in God’s New Order, reflect God’s original intent.

◆ “ C.S. Lewis makes a similar point in his essay on ‘Priestesses in the Church?’ when he writes, “the point is that unless “equal” means “interchangeable,” equality means nothing for the priesthood of women’ (that is, for women in the pastoral office)” quoted in CTCR-WIC, pg. 26.

(4) Lewis misses the point of “equity with differences.”  No, equal does not mean interchangeable.  Equality does ask one to ignore the distinctions; it implies working through the divisions that sinful beings create because of distinctions.

(L) In a footnote CTCR-WIC gives lip-service to this: “As long as the gospel is a living power, differences in this world cannot become the basis for arrogance and oppression.”

(M) “Any claim that there is something about the nature of another human being [emphasis added] as such that renders that person to be of inferior value not only denies the biblical doctrine of creation, but also calls into question what the Scriptures teach about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As a human, Jesus descended from Adam [Note: and Eve!], whom God created (Luke 3:38), and whom all human beings have as progenitor.  To deny the full humanity of any fellow human being is at the same time to compromise the apostolic truth that in Christ ‘the fullness of the deity dwells bodily’ (somatikoos, Col. 2:9), that is, that he truly ‘was made man’ (Nicene Creed)” (CTCR, “Racism and the Church,” February 1994, pgs. 38 and 39).  Since Galatians 3 mentions not only race (Jew and Gentile), but also male and female, would that the CTCR’s theology in “Racism and the Church” were also applied to women in the church.

Thesis: The New Creation is always in the process of “being born.” Consider the following sequence:

(A) Genesis 1: Male and female are created in the image of God.  God is Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, equal in all ways, each deserving equal majesty and honor, none less than the other.  That equity-with-difference” posture is part of the image of humanity, male and female.

(B) Genesis 3:16:  That man “shall rule over you [the woman]” is not God’s ordering of creation, but a result of the fall into sin.  It is a consequence of anyone heeding the subtle and tempting call of Satan, “You will be like God,” setting oneself up as God, determining power and authority or right and wrong.

(C) 2 Corinthians 5:17:  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”  The Gospel changes people and how they relate in structures and relationships.  God inaugurates a New Order.

(D) Galatians 3:28:  Paul, in this Galatians text, describes what the new creation looks like as it finds expression in the church.  The Old Order still operates the way “the Gentiles do” (Mark 10:42).  In Christ, in the Church, the New Creation reigns.  Differences and animosity and separateness between Jew and Gentile are a matter of the past (Ephesians 2:11-22).

(E) The seeds for dissolving the slave-master construct were planted (Philemon), even though it takes yet centuries for these seeds to be nurtured and grown.  In applying Law and Gospel Paul is working with deep-seated social institutions, structures firmly entrenched in culture.  Had the Gospel been fully implemented, for example, in the area of slaves-masters, the machine of Rome would have “crucified Paul” (note the Roman response to Spartacus).  Paul, instead of attacking the demeaning and exploitative institution head on, injects a new motivation (Philemon 16, 21).

(F) White Christians in the American South in the pre-Civil War era wanted to absolutize slavery as it was in that day: but God’s truth goes marching on; no Christian in the 1990s would stand up and support slavery.  The seed Paul planted in the Gospel, “all are justified” and “in Christ there is neither slave or master,” has borne fruit down through the centuries.  In the same manner, in our most faithful postures, we do not tolerate “walls of hostility” “between Jew and Greek,” or Hispanic or Anglo or Black.

(G) And it is taking centuries to address the male-female consequence (Genesis 3:16), even “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11), even in the church. Walking faithfully, then, calls for us not to absolutize male-female relationships, whether in society or in the Church, at a first century point.  In Galatians 3:28, Paul plants this seed as well.  The Gospel changes even all the Old Orders.  In the Church, there is not hierarchy, but servanthood.

(H) Consider the institution of slavery:

  • Paul: injected a Gospel motivation for one living within evil social structures.
  • American Civil War: White Christians in 1860 in the South wanted to absolutize slavery here.
  • Abolition: But God’s truth marches on.
  • 2014: Racism and injustice still rear their ugly heads, but the implementation of Gospel insights and motivations continues.

(I) Point: We do not absolutize male/female relations at a first century point.  Galatians 3:28 is the Gospel insight, motivation, and ideal; we struggle today with the Gospel implementation and practice.