Galatians 3:26-28 (NKJV)
As is the case with many of Paul’s writings, Galatians 3:26-28 had a deeper meaning than modern man can understand at first glance.
The statements Paul made would have sent shock waves through everyone in the churches in Galatia. It is believed that the letter to Galatia was written around 49 BC and it was possibly one of the first letters Paul wrote. It was written to Jewish AND Gentile converts (https://www.gotquestions.org/churches-in-Galatia.html).
The bombshell started in Galatians 3:26 when Paul wrote, “For you are ALL sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
I envision when they first read the letter, everyone in the churches thought (and even said), “WHAT did he just say? Surely he didn’t just say we are all equal!”
Do you know how a speaker sometimes says something that is deliberately shocking in order to get the attention of the audience? Verse 26 would have been THAT shocking. Paul just put everyone in the churches in Galatia on the same equal playing field. I don’t think anyone in the audience would have been thinking and feeling they were really equal sons.
Paul’s suggestion would have created a cultural earthquake.
First and foremost, Paul’s reference to baptism in verse 27 would have not meant a physical baptism with water. It would have referred to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Receiving Jesus by faith meant they were immersed in the Spirit of Christ. If Paul would have been talking about immersion by water, he would have clearly stated it was baptism by water. He made it clear it meant baptism by being immersed in Jesus. Paul chose his words carefully.
Then in verse 28, Paul really heated up the fire when he said, “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.”
First, it’s difficult for us to understand today what had happened to the Hebrew culture in the first century due to the coming of Jesus.
Since the time of Abraham, the Jews had been called a holy people, set apart for and by Yahweh God. Some scholars believe Abraham lived around 2100 BC (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/abraham-and-the-chronology-of-ancient-mesopotamia/) which would mean the Jews had been consider a special and separate society of people for 2100 years before Jesus came!
They were, and had been THE sons of Abraham for thousands of years. The Hebrew culture was definitely ‘dead set’ in its ways. That ‘way’ did not include Gentiles.
More than likely it would also have been difficult for the Gentiles (Greeks) in the churches as well. From a logical viewpoint, here’s the reason why...the Gentiles had been taught they were NOT Jews for thousands of years. Their cultural identity of freedom of thought and associations would have been their ‘norm’. Telling them they were equal sons like the Jews would have been just as difficult for them as well.
Both Jews and Greeks thought of themselves as being completely separate for good reason.
But, Paul knew in order for the church to move forward in unity, there were many major obstacles they faced. That’s why in verse 28 Paul created a list telling them they were no longer separated by being:
-Jews or Greeks
-Slaves or Free
-Male or Female
Each item on the list would have gone against the ‘cultural grain’. I know from studying about communication and culture as an undergraduate student, one of the most difficult areas of our lives to change is our culture. Even in the United States where we are a mass of people who have a history of various cultures, we struggle with culture shifts. Our culture is something deeply rooted in our mind.
It doesn’t change overnight.
The second item on Paul’s list included dealing with being slaves or free men. Slavery at the time of Jesus was an acceptable cultural norm. We know from Ephesians 6:5-8 that slaves had a duty to their master as well as a duty to Christ. In the passage in Ephesians, Paul specifically told slaves they had to obey their master and he listed that duty first.
When Paul listed the slaves in the same context as free men, that would have been another game-changer! For centuries there had been slaves who (for one reason or another) had to become slaves in order to survive. They had been lower than cattle. Before Jesus they would have been sub-human. Now Paul was telling them in the eyes of Jesus they were equal to free men. Can you imagine what that felt like to the slaves? Suddenly they were SEEN. They had a soul. In the eyes of God they were the same!
The reverse would have been shocking as well. Telling a free man in the eyes of Jesus he did not have an elevated position above his slaves would have probably been unthinkable. Seriously...everyone knew that free men and especially slave owners held a higher position in the culture than slaves! How could Paul have even presumed to compare them!!!
But he did. He said in the eyes of Jesus they were the same. Both slaves and free men mattered!
Lastly, and maybe even more shocking, Paul compared men to women. In the first century, women were obtained from their fathers for one purpose. That purpose was to serve their husband and have their children. While children were considered to be the lowest of the low (which is why the disciples sought to herd the children out of Jesus’ way in Matthew 19), women weren’t much higher on the scale.
The shocking revelation to men in Galatians 3:28 was that they were NOT God’s only gift to earth. The 1st Century had led men to believe they were ‘undisputedly’ IN CHARGE. Now, they were told in the eyes of Jesus they were EQUAL???
Can you imagine what that did to the male population in the churches?
Shocking as it would have been, Paul wrote it. He wrote it BOLDLY. He made no apologies. He didn’t care who didn’t like it. He didn’t care what they thought.
In the last section of verse 28 Paul wrote, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
No matter who you are, you are one. Jesus sees you are a person of value and worth, all equal.
That’s the character of God. God sees us as equal no matter what. According to God we all have equal value.
God created Jews and Greeks. Both are equal.
There are slaves and free men. They are equal.
God created man and God created woman, EQUAL.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Recognize your value in God’s eyes
Ask God to show you how much He values you. Take time to stop and listen to what God has to say to you about your value.
In God, Deborah