In talking about the new one family of God that we join through faith in Jesus, the apostle Paul said, “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; ESV).
I have heard this verse used to suggest that men and women now are completely equalÂ in their roles and functions before God. Therefore women can be preachers and women can be elders in the Lord’s church. But was that the real thrust of Paul’s argument? If it was, Paul would later contradict himself in 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul said that men and women have different roles and functions in the Lord’s body. Friends, men and women are different. Just look at us! And praise God that we are different. To think that we will not serve God in different capacities while on the earth is to make a mockery of God’s wisdom to create men and women with different bodies. Clearly we must have different functions since we have different bodies. And the differences go beyond just male and female parts. We think differently, act differently, interact differently, and so forth. Anyone in a marriage recognizes these differences. These differences are not to be slandered or criticized but used to the advantage of the kingdom of God.
So what is Paul teaching? Men and women have equal rights before God. Or stated even more accurately, men and women have equal access to God. We cannot forget that in first century Roman and Jewish societies (and really all societies until our American society in the last 40 years), women were second class citizens, not equal to the men. We clearly see this concerning the Jewish women having a courtyard that they could not leave to go closer to the temple of God. Meanwhile, the men could go closer to the temple in Jerusalem. The women have gone from being excluded from the temple to being the temple of God. They are not second class in God’s family, but joint heirs of the promise.
This is what makes the gospel accounts and the book of Acts so beautiful. It is the women who are ministering to Jesus. It is the women who are providing for Jesus. It is the women who are shown to be faithful (like Lydia in Acts 16 or Tabitha in Acts 9). Women have an equal standing with men before God. Women have equal access to God. Women have equal rights in God’s kingdom and receive equal benefits and blessings. While men and women have different roles based upon God’s wisdom, we will also stand equally before God. No one’s work or role is greater than another’s. I believe this is the point Paul is making in Galatians 3:28.