Does Galatians 3:28 Do Away with Male and Female Distinctions?
In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “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.” Does this word from the apostle do away with male and female differences, such as those that for years I have distinguished as “pink and blue” and “not wrong, just different”? After all, Paul said there is neither male nor female. What else could he have meant, some have asked, if not that there are no distinctions between male and female?
Well, first, Paul also said in that verse, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man." Did he mean that a Jew was no longer a Jew, and if this Jew wished to be a Greek, he could become a Gentile? Could a slave cease being a slave and become a free man simply from wishing it to be true? Of course not. Paul isn't even hinting at that, nor have even the most liberal scholars suggested that.
Instead, he tells us clearly in the surrounding verses what he meant. In Galatians 3:26 he writes, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." We are part of God's family. We who believe in Jesus are all children of God, which is what Paul even says directly in 3:29 when he writes that we all “belong to Christ . . . heirs according to promise.”
But Paul is not declaring that a Jew is the same as a Greek. That would be silly to him. Rather, he is saying that a Greek who believes in Jesus belongs to Christ just as a Jew who believes in Jesus belongs to Christ.
In the same way, a slave who believed in Jesus was now an equal heir to a free man who believed in Jesus. Regardless, although the believing slave would receive the same inheritance throughout eternity as his master, that slave was not the same as a free man. Though Paul advocated a slave to become free in a legal sense given the opportunity presented itself (1 Corinthians 7:21), he did not confuse two realities.
The first reality: we are equal in the eyes of God, which means there is no exclusion to His promises throughout eternity based on gender, race, or legal status. The second reality: we must live in this world and navigate the gender differences, race differences, and legal differences. For example, Peter commands a husband to live with his wife in an understanding way precisely because she is a woman. To Peter, gender differences remained, and for the husband who failed to act on what Peter revealed, his prayers would be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
Though he recognized the abuse of Jews by the Greeks, and the abuse of slaves by free men, and the abuse of females by males (1 Corinthians 7:11), he did not remedy this by denying the reality of gender, race, or legal status. Men remained males who as husbands are uniquely commanded to agape-love their wives. God does not command wives to agape-love their husbands. And, women stayed females who as wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Interestingly, Paul wrote Galatians 3:28 before Ephesians 5:33, and in the latter verse, God commands a husband to love and a wife to respect. We must not miss this distinction. I set forth this difference in my book Love & Respect.
Bottom line: Though we are equal, as are our inheritances as children of God, we are not the same. There is no unisex teaching here. That misses the point of the text.
The apostle Paul is not advocating a genderless ideology any more than he is promoting the idea that a Greek is now a Jew, and a slave is now a free man.
Instead, Paul unfolds the richness of our equality in God's eyes. We are all equally welcomed, loved, and heirs.
Questions to Consider
- Have you ever heard any liberal, unbiblical teaching on the passage that says “there is neither male nor female”? What was taught? How do you believe they were wrong?
- These passages and others declare that men and women are all equal in the eyes of God yet different, by God’s design. How should it be helpful to keep these truths in mind during times of differences and conflict with your spouse https://loveandrespect.com/blog/conflict-over-clashing-preferences-or-moral-transgression/?
- First Peter 3:7 says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman.” How do you interpret this passage that deals with gender differences?
- How can we bring glory to God as we navigate our way through gender, race, and legal differences with our spouse and others?