Pauls Lack of Class

Paul's Lack of Class
Written by: Larry Elliott

It seems that throughout the history of man there have been disputes, differences and disdain between people. As early as Cain & Abel the conflicts were apparent. “I am the meat sacrifice guy!” “I am the grain sacrifice guy!” (cf. Genesis 4) And so, it began.

The letters of the NT often address this sinful characteristic in us, and Paul in particular, confronts this “us and them” mentality as it relates to believers “in Christ.”

Specifically, Paul’s letters to the Colossians and the Galatians prompt his theological correction if not open rebuke. Society was constantly elevating one person over another and demeaning one position relative to another. Partiality and societal prejudice maintained that Jews were better than Gentiles, male was better than female, free was better than slave. The fledgling church was not immune to this devaluing of individuals based on position and class.

In his masterful theological argument, Paul establishes the foolishness of our arbitrary human distinctions considering all that Christ has accomplished on our behalf. Paul is not saying that if you are a Jew you now cease to be a Jew anymore than he is saying if you are circumcised now you are uncircumcised. He is simply saying that in Christ all national, religious, cultural, economic, and social distinctions are set aside – these barriers in the body of Christ have been destroyed. Believers in Christ are created equal.

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

It has been popular in recent years to make these verses say what they were never intended to say. Some have used this concept to defend an egalitarian view of scripture or to defend the gay rights agenda. The context here is critical, as it is in all discussions of scripture’s meaning! The flow of Paul’s argument is focused on salvation and not gender issues. There is nothing in this text that warrants a consideration of anything other than the fact that human distinctions and classes have been obliterated in the body of Christ.  

Paul is simply saying male and female do not dictate ones standing in the body of Christ - a radical statement in its cultural context! He does not, however, negate gender differences or roles.

Paul is not arguing that a male can become female by faith in Christ! A slave did not become free upon faith in Christ (spiritually free, yes). Consider the practical application of this truth in his letter to Philemon! Onesimus did not magically become free but Paul encouraged his friend Philemon to see him as, “more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother.” Paul is arguing that the differences in our midst are no longer, and must never be, a barrier to fellowship.

Paul’s commands in Colossians 3 suggest that when we “set our minds on things that are above…”; “put to death what is earthly in us…”; “put on…” the character of Christ, we are embracing the new creation we have become and are acknowledging that all relationships have been remade in the body of Christ!

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