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. (Gal. 3:28)


Sadly many have taken the verse above as a warrant to alleviate gender distinctions between men and women in both the home and in the church. Those who do so are usually called egalitarians. Those egalitarians of an evangelical bent propose that gender distinctions in the home and in the church are erased in light of the New Covenant. On the other hand, there are complementarians. They argue that while men and women both have equal dignity in personhood, they nonetheless have distinctive callings, responsibilities and limitations in light of their gender. With all due respect to those who hold an egalitarian view, it is clearly not the view espoused by the Scriptures, nor is it the view of Galatians 3:28.

First, let’s look at the verse itself. Clearly Paul was making the case for an overarching unity that is shared among believers – “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (vs.28b). Christians were not to primarily identify themselves and quantify their value by their gender, social strata, or ethnicity; they were to see their identity and worth in Christ. And that identity was not dispensed in differing measures: the Jew was no more “in Christ” than the Gentile, nor was the free man more a child of God than the slave, or the man more a spiritual son than the woman was a spiritual daughter. One of the beautiful ramifications of the Gospel is that every other level of differentiation among people does not augment or diminish the reality of true spiritual union with Christ and by extension other believers.

Second, let’s consider the context of Galatians 3:28. Immediately preceding and following verse 28 are statements about being “sons of God” (vs.26a), being “in Christ Jesus” (vs.26b), being “baptized into Christ” (vs.27b), putting “on Christ” (vs.27c), and belonging to Christ (vs.29a). So rather than seeing Galatians 3:28 as alleviating the real distinctions between each of the groups mentioned, it should be seen as affirming that all groups of people, through faith in the Gospel, are equally children of God, equally in Christ, equally baptized into Christ, and equally belong to Christ. In that regard there is no distinction.

Third, let’s consider the other New Testament writings that clearly uphold distinctions among the groups listed. For example, rather than pretend that there weren’t any Christian slaves, Paul charged such slaves to be obedient to their masters (Eph. 6:5-8); and likewise, masters were to treat their servants with respect and without threatening (vs.9). In the home, Paul clearly taught a distinction of roles to New Covenant Christians: husbands were to love their wives as Christ loved the church, nourishing them and providing for them, and wives were to submit to their own husbands in all things (Eph. 5:22-33). And as far ethnicity was concerned, even under the New Covenant there were still recognized, ethnic distinctions. Paul was commissioned as an apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was commissioned to the Jews (Gal. 2:7), and those who came to Christ still retained their ethic identity. For example, Paul said, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilcilia” (Acts. 21:39) when he pleaded to speak to the mob that wanted to kill him. The overarching salvific unity that he shared with other believers in Christ did not erase his ethnicity.

But back to the issue of gender, the New Testament clearly argues that justified men and women have equal standing before God and equal sonship in Christ, but it also presents multiple examples relating to their distinction of roles. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul showed that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men. Continuing in that train of thought, in Timothy 3:1-7 he outlined that a pastor must be a man “who rules his own house well” (vs.4). The same requirement is likewise given for deacons (vs.12). Furthermore, men were to provide for their households and family widows in financial need (1 Tim. 5:8), while older women were charged to teach younger women to, among other things: love their husbands and their children (Ti. 2:4) and work as homemakers (lit. ‘home workers’) to the glory of God (vs.5). And akin to the way he did in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 when teaching on the subject of male leadership in the church, Paul argued that this order for both the church and the home has its roots in the creation of man and woman (1 Cor. 11:2-11).

And lest any of the aforementioned citations be misunderstood, please note that submission does not imply inferiority, nor is it a license for male domination. Jesus’ submission to His heavenly Father by no means insinuated that He was any less God than His Father; and Jesus’ model of self-sacrificial, loving leadership is the model that husbands are to follow. Just because men and women have different roles within the church and the home, it is by no means whatsoever a license for any man to abuse the Christian responsibility that he has to lovingly imitate Christ in His leadership. But the point remains – a proper understanding of Galatians 3:28 would affirm the equality of sonship shared among all believers in Christ, while not alleviating the gender, ethnic, and societal distinctions that they have. Make no mistake, the former takes tremendous precedence over the latter, but it does not erase it.