28 June 2016Galatians 3:15-29
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (v. 28)
Psalm: Psalm 113
In chapter 3 Paul is addressing the question whether Gentiles should be circumcised. In the verses preceding today's passage, he uses the example of Abraham who had faith and had taken God at God's word.
Now Paul points out that God's promise to Abraham was made long before the time of Moses, when the law had been given at Mount Sinai. The promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The law did not nullify this promise. Its purpose was to show people how sinful they were. It acted, as one writer puts it, as a 'babysitter' or disciplinarian, making sure that people kept 'out of mischief'. But it would not be the law, but Jesus Christ, who would bring people to faith. When Christ came, all those who since that time, have accepted and entered into a relationship with him, are all equal before God. Jewish Christians could not claim superiority because of their circumcision, nor could Gentiles, who had not been circumcised, make that claim. That did not matter to Christ.
Grace is given in equal measure to all people so that no one could claim any more than the next person. If you regularly travel on an airline you can be given a loyalty card: the more you travel the more privileges you receive and you are treated differently from those who travel on that airline occasionally. But this is not the case when you are a Christ follower. Nobody can claim superiority because of gender, race, social status or culture. And those who are more mature in their faith cannot claim superiority over those who are new Christ followers. In the first few verses of chapter 4 Paul says that ultimately everyone who follows Christ becomes an adopted child of God (Galatians 4:5).
The hymn writer John Oxenham, puts it aptly when he asserts that: "In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth" (StF 685).
- To what extent does the Church make distinctions between different groups of people, for example on grounds of race, culture or language, directly and indirectly? Why might that be? And why might it be a good or a bad thing?
- What are some practical ways in which a more equal society could be brought about, both inside and outside the Church?