In Galatians 3:28, Paul emphasizes that three major social distinctions no longer matter in Christ:
- Ethnicity: “neither Jew nor Greek.”
- Socioeconomic status: “neither slave nor free.”
- Gender: “neither male nor female.”
First-century culture was deeply divided along these lines. So was the church. But Paul stressed, “You are all one in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added).
Christians have become children of God through faith, which means we are all in the same family – God’s family. We are no longer divided by ethnicity, social status, or gender, but have become brothers and sisters in God’s family.
One powerful symbol of that new unity is baptism (Galatians 3:27). As part of the baptismal ceremony, a believer affirms the lordship of Christ and his or her commitment to a new way of life. Paul was possibly quoting from a first-century baptismal creed (Galatians 3:28) to remind us of our promise to “put on Christ,” not just in word but also in deed.
In the early Christian communities this meant that both Gentiles and Jews could exercise their spiritual gifts. Both slaves and masters could pray or prophesy. Both women and men could enjoy full membership in the body. “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). The breaking down of traditional barriers wasn’t just a future hope. The early church worked to make it a reality.
Which brings us to the question: What walls of ethnicity, status, or gender divide believers today? Are we willing to model reconciliation between different and even antagonistic groups? If not, then is our church truly a sign of God’s kingdom, or merely a human institution?