|A291 : by Tony Garland |
Galatians 3:27-29 (like Romans 10:11-13, Ephesians 2:11-18, and Colossians 3:9-11) teaches that various classes of individuals, having come to faith, are now one in Christ: there are no distinctions between various groups in relation to access to salvation and standing before God. For example, both Jews and Greeks are saved by faith apart from the law.
Consider the words of Peter at the Jerusalem counsel:
And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as [He did] to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they”.1
In relation to salvation, Peter states that God made no distinction between the Jews and Gentiles, even turning things on their head from the perspective of his Jewish brethren to emphasize his point stating, we [Jews] shall be saved in the same manner as they [the Gentiles].
Does this mean all distinctions between Jews and Gentiles disappear among the saved? Evidence indicates otherwise:
Passages concerning equality in Christ, such as Galatians 3:27-29, must be read in context. They are not erasing all distinctions between Jew/Greek, man/women, and slave/free. Rather, they assert the equality of all these groups regarding the means and standing of salvation. All believers, regardless of ethnicity, sex, or status are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:28 cf. Gen. 12:2-3). But, having come to faith, they remain men, women, Jew, Gentile, slave, and free in their different positions and functions.
- The Jerusalem Counsel issues specific recommendations for Gentile believers, “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, [from] sexual immorality, [from] things strangled, and [from] blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”2. These recommendations relate to easing fellowship between Gentile believers (who need not practice the law) and Jewish believers (who remain free to practice the law, Acts 21:20-25).
- Galatians states there is neither male nor female . . . in Christ Jesus, yet Scripture still recognizes different male and female roles (e.g., Ephesians 5:22-25). Men and women have equal access to salvation and are on equal footing in regard to their participation in Christ, but differences still remain, such as the role of pastor/teacher being reserved for men (1Ti. 2:12).
- Galatians states their is neither slave nor free . . . in Christ Jesus. Was Paul teaching that believing slaves were to challenge their masters to become free men? Not in view of Ephesians 6:5-9 or 1 Corinthians 7:21-23.
So my understanding of Galatians 3:28 is that it concerns the equality of access and placement into the Church, the Body of Christ, the spiritual organism all believers occupy in this age. All who exercise faith, without exception, are members of the Church—regardless of which group they occupied prior to coming to faith. It really has nothing to say about the ongoing promises made to the nation of Israel in distinction with the Church—promises which will be brought to pass after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25-32).
So Jewish believers in this age are members of the Church, but this doesn’t mean they forfeit their ethnicity as Jews. Similarly, Gentile believers in this age are members of the Church, but this doesn’t mean they become Jews or Israel. At the rapture, the Church, the Body of Christ made up of all believers—whether male/female, Jew/Gentile, slave/free—will be taken to meet the Lord. Thereafter, God will focus more directly on bringing unbelieving Jacob (individuals within the nation of Israel who are heretofore enemies of the gospel) to faith:
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this [is] My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel [they are] enemies for your sake, but concerning the election [they are] beloved for the sake of the fathers.3