So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is so good because it is sheer gift. When Paul, earlier in this letter, said that “the Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20), he was speaking for every single one of us. It’s pure gift. As a result, the only requirement for participation is simply to receive. And the only way to receive is simply by faith. No other credentials or achievements or heritage have any bearing. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. Gift.
The result, then, is that everyone who is “in Christ” is on the very same footing. No one has higher rank. No one has inferior standing. There is no caste system, no tiers, no substandard accommodation nor first class privileges. It’s in the very nature of the gospel itself that those who have received salvation are all in the same boat together, equally blessed and indebted to the sacrifice of our Saviour for any position in the boat at all.
Therefore, for Christians to pull rank on one another is completely out of line with the gospel itself. Any feelings of superiority (or, equally, inferiority) – whether based in ethnicity, gender, social standing, spiritual pedigree, education, wealth, denomination, years of service, or anything else – are all eliminated by grace.
Which is why Paul boldly says, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He radically put his finger on some of the most obvious and enduring divides within the ancient world, saying that in Christ they present no impediment to equality and fellowship and full acceptance.
From a Jewish point of view, of course, the greatest division of all was between Jew and Gentiles. The Jews knew their uniqueness – they were chosen by the Lord God Almighty as his covenant people. The Gentiles were outside that circle – the Jews knew it and guarded the perimeter. The distinctions between freemen and slaves, and males and females, were equally pronounced. Freedom, personal rights, choice, and opportunity were all constrained for both slaves and women, in a multitude of ways, but not so for freemen and males. The latter couldn’t help but look down on the status of the former.
But not among the community of the redeemed, Paul says. Our common standing is the gospel, freely given to all. Equally we have sinned. Equally we are in need. Equally have we been saved.
So, accept one another on that basis. Relate to one another as brothers and sisters in one family, equally loved by the Father, with a common pedigree, birthright and inheritance.
Oh, that we, the church, would live this teaching to the full. Too easily we exalt some and diminish others. Too easily we allow the surface differences of race and social standing and gender to determine what value we place on each one, and what acceptance we offer.
Oh, that we, the church, would lead the way in the broader community. That we would extend love and grace and acceptance to all, regardless of obvious surface markers that have too often divided person from person. In a day when every child matters, and black lives matter, and some are victimized, and some pushed to the margins, may we live the reality we have discovered in Christ – a reality where each person is equally valued, each one on equal footing. May we extend it heartily, even to those who have not yet experienced our Lord.
May our grace show the way to his.
Thank you, Lord, that in you I am fully accepted. Your grace has made me an heir according to the promise, alongside all those who have placed faith in you. Grant me grace to live as one with all your people, richly demonstrating that the gospel gives equal footing to all. For your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Is there someone in your Christian community who is different enough from you that you don’t naturally interact. How could you express unity in Christ with them? Ask the Lord how you should respond.