In Christ, there is neither slave nor free, nor male and female – in him we are all equal and united, and in the body of Christ, we help one another to flourish.
Galatians 3:19 – 4:7
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
At its heart, this passage is about the promises that have been fulfilled in Jesus. The law was a “guardian,” but now Christ has come, justifying us through faith and fulfilling God’s glorious promises to us. Built upon this foundation, it seems that Paul is saying a few crucial things:
We are united. In Christ, we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” One body. One house. One kingdom. Christ has taken the curse for us on the cross, freeing us from the enmity that once existed between men and women because of the curse (Genesis 3). We belong to one another, and together, we belong to Christ.
We are equal. All the fulfilled promises of Christ apply to all of us, equally. We are all equally redeemed, children, heirs. Distinctions fall away, and we’re equal in the kingdom of God, in Christ.
We are free. There is “neither slave nor free” – for all who belong to Christ have been set free from sin: the true freedom of serving Christ. This means we’re free from a broken, sinful grasping for power, and free to find joy in relating as the men and women we were created to be, in God’s good design.
We are heirs. All of us. Heirs of the promises and riches of God. Forgiven, redeemed, loved, worthy. This is why, in one passage, we find the gender-neutral term “children” alongside the seemingly gender-specific term “sons.” Women especially might, perhaps, wonder: why not just use “children,” to be inclusive? It’s because the words are doing different things. The word “children” denotes that we are adopted and loved by our Father – his sons and daughters. But the specific word “sons” is an inheritance term. As well as being children, we also (women included) are sons – equal partakers in Christ, filled with his Spirit as a guarantee, and promised an equal and enduring inheritance, with the certain hope of glory. (Hebrews 2:10)
What does all this mean as we live this out in the church? We need to truly know that we are equal in status, and united in Christ. To treat one another with respect and appreciation. For men not to oppress or hold women back out of pride or fear of their abilities and gifts. For women not to scorn or belittle men, or to resent their particularly masculine giftedness. I think it means actually paying attention to our similarities and differences as men and women, and prayerfully working with them. Our very equality in Christ demands that we don’t fall back on stereotypes and assumptions, or mute one another’s particularity and God-given design, gifts, temperament, and inclinations. This is what it is to dignify and respect the equality that we have as co-heirs and partakers in Christ – as those called together to serve in his Kingdom.
This takes hard and deliberate work. To respect the equality of people who are different requires connection and understanding. To listen well and learn to ask good questions. To daily repent of our pride, our desire for control, and our fear of differences. For both men and women to neither scorn nor oppress the other, but in humility, to love, respect, and joyfully help the other to flourish.
Head: How is it a comfort and a freedom that you are a child and a son of God?
Heart: Do you have any fear / frustration / anger / resentment in this area of gender equality? Why? Consider prayerfully and humbly what some next steps might be, and who you might talk to.
Hands: How might you cultivate the habit of listening and asking good questions of others – especially those who are different to you?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that because of Jesus and his sacrifice for me, I am your child, and have an imperishable inheritance in him. Thank you that you have made us one in Christ. Help me to seek and promote unity in the body of Christ – in my own heart and in my church, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.
A song to listen to: Make Us One
Bloss Wilson- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Springfield