“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” (Galatians 3:28).
There were many potential areas of division among the members of the Galatian churches, just as there are many things that can divide us today. For instance, divisions can form along racial, cultural, or geographic lines. There are class distinctions, social idiosyncrasies, or contrasts in dress or appearance that can breed differences between various people groups. Some may even divide over financial matters, political affiliations, or allegiances to a favorite sports team.
While some of those differences are more serious than others, Galatians 3:28 contains a foundational truth that applies to every Christian: “…you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We can understand and apply this passage in two different ways. First, we can say there are no racial, cultural, social, or class distinctives that can prevent anyone from finding salvation in Christ. In the words of one commentator, “All people equally can become God’s heirs and recipients of His eternal promises…”. (1)
Next, this passage teaches that our human differences have been broken down in Christ. This does not mean that these distinctions are irrelevant or they have ceased to exist. Nor does it imply that there are no differences in our roles or functions. However, it does mean that we are positionally equal in Christ regardless of such differences.
One source provides us with the following explanation…
“All those who are one with Jesus Christ are one with one another. This verse does not deny that God has designed racial, social, and sexual distinctions among Christians, but it affirms that those do not imply spiritual inequality before God. Nor is this spiritual equality incompatible with the God-ordained roles of headship and submission in the church, society, and at home. Jesus Christ, though fully equal with the Father, assumed a submissive role during His incarnation (Php 2:5–8).” (2)
Unlike the positions of privilege granted by ancient and modern societies to those in possession of wealth, prestige, beauty, or other such characteristics, God does not afford preferential status based on such things. And while many seek the elusive goal of “unity in diversity” today, Jesus made true unity in diversity possible through His life and sacrificial death on our behalf. In the words of one Biblical paraphrase of this verse, “Gone is the distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female—you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Phillips)
(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1523). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
(2) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 3:28). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.