One With Other Christians
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (3:28)
Paul focused on the existing, well-defined distinctions of his society that drew sharp lines and set up high walls of separation between people. The essence of those distinctions was the idea that some people—namely Jews, free men, and males in general—were better than, more valuable than, more significant than others. The gospel destroys all such proud thinking. The person who becomes one with Christ also becomes one with every other believer. There are no distinctions among those who belong to Christ. In spiritual matters, there is to be made no racial, social, or sexual discrimination—neither Jew nor Greek, … slave nor free man, … male nor female.
It is not, of course, that among Christians there is no such thing as a Jew, Gentile, slave, free person, man, or woman. There are obvious racial, social, and sexual differences among people. Paul, however, was speaking of spiritual differences—differences in standing before the Lord, spiritual value, privilege, and worthiness. Consequently, prejudice based on race, social status, sex, or any other such superficial and temporary differences has no place in the fellowship of Christ’s church. All believers, without exception, are all one in Christ Jesus. All spiritual blessings, resources, and promises are equally given to all who believe unto salvation (cf. Rom. 10:12).
It was only with great difficulty that Peter finally learned that there are no racial distinctions in Christ, “that God is not one to show partiality” among Jew or Greek, “but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). Among the five prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch was “Simeon, who was called Niger,” which means black (Acts 13:1). Paul’s beloved son in the faith was Timothy, whose father was Gentile and whose mother and grandmother were Jewish (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5).
Likewise there are no distinctions according to social or economic status. Paul told the Christian slave to be obedient to his master, “as to Christ,” and he told the Christian master, a free man, to “give up threatening, knowing that” the Master of both “is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (Eph. 6:5, 9).
James warned, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?… If you show partiality, you are committing sin” (James 2:1–4, 9). The oneness of the Body of Christ focuses on common spiritual life and privilege, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:3–7).
Nor are there spiritual distinctions according to sex. There is neither male nor female. In recognizing believing women as the full spiritual equals of believing men, Christianity elevated women to a status they had never known before in the ancient world. In matters of rule in the home and in the church God has established the headship of men. But in the dimension of spiritual possessions and privilege there is absolutely no difference.
28 This verse has often been made to carry the weight of questions regarding economic injustice or the role of women in the church. As valid as such questions are, Paul’s point here has to do with redemptive identity in Christ as a result of faith in contrast to the observance of law. It is doubtful that Paul’s words here can therefore be made specifically to address such questions.
28 On the basis of a comparison with the parallel structures in 1 Cor. 12:12f. and Col. 3:9–11, this verse has been judged, probably rightly, to be “a fragment of an early Christian baptismal liturgy.” Those who through baptism have entered into union with Christ “are all one in Christ Jesus” (AV, NASB, NIV), in whom the racial, social and sexual distinctions which obtained before are covered up, as it were, by the same garment—Christ.
The three antitheses, which represent the most far-reaching distinctions of ancient society, seem to have been deliberately chosen with an eye to the threefold privilege for which a pious male Jew daily thanked God: that he was not made a Gentile, a slave or a woman—categories of people debarred from certain religious privileges. It is noteworthy that in the third antithesis the words used are not the customary terms for man and woman but the more technical terms denoting male and female,40 thus indicating that what is in view is the general relationship between the sexes and not the specific relationship between husband and wife. The statement that there is no “male and female” in Christ does not mean, as was believed in later Gnosticism, that in the new era mankind is restored to the pristine androgynous state; nor does it mean that all male-female distinctions have been obliterated in Christ, any more than that there is no racial difference between the Christian Jew and the Christian Gentile.
“In Christ Jesus” emphasizes that Paul views the elimination of these antitheses from the standpoint of redemption in Christ, while the context clearly shows that the primary emphasis of the verse is on unity in Christ rather than on equality. The masculine gender of “one” suggests that the meaning here is that all who are in Christ form a corporate unity (NEB “one person”; cf. RV “one man”); it is this sense which provides the necessary transition from the thought of Christ as the “issue” (v. 16) to that of believers as the “issue” (v. 29) of Abraham. If the notion of equality in Christ is also involved, it is only secondary and has regard to incorporation into this “one person” and membership in the community.44
3:28 / Being clothed with Christ results in a new self-perception. The implication of this statement is that to regard oneself or others primarily in ethnic (Jew or Greek), social (slave or free), or gender (male and female) terms is to use categories inappropriate to the present, for after the coming of faith, those who believe are “sons of God,” “clothed with Christ,” and “in Christ.” For those Galatians “in Christ,” the law, which maintains ethnic boundary lines and delineates social and gender distinctions, has no relevance. Paul makes statements similar to Galatians 3:28 in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11. These two other letters were written from and to circumstances different from those in Galatia, which suggests that this statement was an early and widely used description of the faith.
Only Galatians 3:28 contains the phrase neither male nor female. In the Greek the phrase stands out because it reads literally “male and female” in distinction from “Jew nor Greek,” “slave nor free.” The phrase exactly echoes the Septuagint of Genesis 1:27: God created man “male and female.” Perhaps early Christians chose this phrase deliberately so as to signify that in baptism a new creation occurs (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17), one that redefines even the most basic features of the original creation.
The inclusion of the phrase “male nor female” in Galatians may be because of the issue of circumcision. In this regard it is interesting to read Justin Martyr, whose comments indicate the positive way that the church’s rejection of circumcision could redound to women. Justin comments that
the inability of the female sex to receive fleshly circumcision, proves that this circumcision has been given for a sign and not for a work of righteousness. For God has given likewise to women the ability to observe all things which are righteous and virtuous; but we see that the bodily form of the male has been made different from the bodily form of the female; yet we know that neither of them is righteous or unrighteous merely for this cause, but [is considered righteous] by reason of piety and righteousness. (Dialogue with Trypho 23 [ANF 1.206])
The center of gravity in the confession of 3:26–28 is Christ. Christ is the transformative locus of the faith the Galatians know. Through reference to what may have been a widely used baptismal confession, Paul reminds the Galatians of their initial understanding of the faith. Their original commitment was to a worldview in which they understood themselves to have gained a new identity, one rooted in and defined by Christ. This identity transcended all typical social distinctions and the moral distinctions that resulted from such social differentiating, and upon this shared understanding the affirmation in verse 29b is based. Paul expects the Galatians to fully embrace the self-understanding articulated in 3:27–29a, and so he uses it as another way to support his point that Gentiles are inheritors of the promise to Abraham without following the law.
28. There can be neither Jew nor Greek; there can be neither slave nor freeman; there can be no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. In Paul’s day fraticidal class-distinctions were the order of the day, just as they are still in many quarters. See N.T.C. on Colossians and Philemon, pp. 151–154, where this same subject is discussed in some detail in connection with Col. 3:11. For the present purpose it is necessary only to note that the Jews drew a sharp line of separation between themselves and the “swarms” or “hordes” (“goyim”) of outsiders, heathen nations in contrast with Israel. Often such heathen were simply called “dogs.” Even proselytes to the Jewish religion were never fully “accepted.” After all, they were not “children of Abraham.” It seems that the Judaizers of Paul’s day had not broken away from this feeling of disdain for non-Jews. Gentiles, too, were often guilty of similar snobbery. They looked down upon the Jews as much as the latter looked down upon them. And as to their attitude toward slaves, it cannot have been far removed from that of Aristotle, who called a slave “an animated implement,” a mere breathing tool. And as to the distinction between male and female, even such a man of culture as Josephus, if the passage in his work Against Apion (II.xxiv) be genuine, declared, “The woman, so says the law, is inferior in all things to man.” What Paul is saying, then, is that all such distinctions—be they racial-religious (“neither Jew nor Greek”), social (“neither slave nor freeman”), or sexual (“no male and female”)—must be thoroughly and forever abandoned, since in Christ all are equal.
This does not mean that common sense must now be cast overboard. Because of different historical backgrounds, different vocational interests, different skills, different degrees of educational advancement, and different geographic locations, it may be in the interest of all concerned that at times “birds of a feather flock together.” The Bible recognizes this right. It was not wrong for Bezalel and Oholiab to work in conjunction with other artisans of similar ability in the construction of the tabernacle (Exod. 36:1, 2, 8). Neither was it wrong, as such, for Demetrius, “the silversmith,” to meet with other men of his trade (Acts 19:25). Scripture clearly justifies distinctions of this nature. It teaches not only the unity but also the diversity of all believers and, in a sense, of all men (Acts 17:26; 1 Cor. 7:20; 12; 16:2; Eph. 4:7). Are there not some people today who, in their mania for unity and equality, have left common sense and genuinely scriptural teaching far behind? Is it not absurd, for example, in the interest of “integration” to force into the fourth grade children, of whatever race, who cannot do fourth grade work? Would it not be foolish for ministers, with little knowledge of electricity, to try to crash a Convention of Electrical Engineers? Or for men to barge into a meeting of the Sewing Circle?
On the other hand, it certainly remains true that in God’s holy sight all men are, indeed, equal, for “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; cf. 2:11; 3:9–18; 5:12, 18). Also, “the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all that call on him” (Rom. 10:12). For a Jew to confess himself to be a Christian, and then to 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, one body “in Christ” (1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; Col. 3:15), for he who is the Son of David is also the Son of man; he who is “the seed of Abraham” is also “the seed of the woman.” From God’s side the Holy Spirit, and from man’s side Spirit-imparted faith, link believers with Christ, and thereby also with one another.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 99–100). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 603). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Fung, R. Y. K. (1988). The Epistle to the Galatians (pp. 175–176). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Jervis, L. A. (2011). Galatians (pp. 106–108). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, pp. 149–151). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.