Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gender Relations in Galatians

Today is week four, day four, reading the Bible through together in 2013.  Our scriptures today are Genesis 47-48, Galatians 3, and Psalm 25.

In the Galatians passage (ESV), Paul writes about our relationship to the law:

  24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 

Of verse 24, The Reformation Study Bible, generously provided by Ligonier Ministries, says:
A “guardian” was a slave responsible for a child’s training, especially for pointing out and punishing misbehavior. Like a guardian, the law pointed out sin and punished it. Another important function of guardians was to separate and protect the child from the influence of outsiders. The law functioned in a similar way to separate Israel from the Gentiles. That function of the ceremonial law has also ended. See “The Law of God” at Ex. 20:1.

One of the jobs of the "guardian," or paidagōgos was to take the child to school.  He would hold the child's hand and guide him to the schoolmaster, and at the end of the day he would pick him up from school and walk him home.  The law serves the same function for us.  It leads us to the point where we understand our need for a Savior.  Just as the guardian doesn't have any power to teach, so the law in and of itself is powerless to instruct us.  But it leads us to God, who teaches us righteousness.

God expects that when faith comes (v. 25) we will develop spiritual maturity and no longer need to be under the guardian of the law.  But how many of us still need the do's and don't's of the law, just to keep our morality in check?!

Not only do we feel like we need the law to keep our moral integrity--too often we rely on the social structure that the law provided, rather than relying on the Spirit to guide us.  

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 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. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

One particular application of this is in the area of gender relations.  Many people hang onto outmoded ideas of gender inequality, insisting that men are the chosen leaders in church and that women need to sit down, be quiet, and submit.  But Paul says in verse 26 that through Jesus, we are all sons!  In Paul's day, only sons had rights, position, and inheritance in the family, and daughters were nothing.  But Paul says that in Christ, everyone has equal rights--the same as if they were a son.  

He goes on to say in verse 28 that there are no racial differences, no social-class differences, as well as no gender differences in God's eyes.  Because of this, verse 29 says we are Abraham's offspring (recipients of His faith, as well as seeds of faith to be sown into the world).  Not only are we Abraham's spiritual descendants--we are also heirs according to the promise.  Note that all believers are heirs--a concept that goes against the ancient construct of gender relations.  In the ancient world (with few exceptions), only men could be heirs.  But here, the Holy Spirit says through Paul that all believers are on equal ground, receiving the promise and the privileges of God.  This is why thoughtful and prayerful churches and denominations have been recognizing for a long time that women have an equal role in church leadership, right alongside men.  

Galatians says that whether we are male or female, gentile or Jew, slave or free, we are created equal in God's sight, and given equal rights and responsibilities.  James 2:1 (ESV) says, "My brothers,show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory."  In verse 9, James says, "If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."  Now, James is specifically talking about not showing favoritism toward the rich and disdain toward the poor--but the principle still applies that we should not make outward judgments of any kind, but inwardly discern people's worth as equal before God through Jesus Christ.  Remember the words of 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV):  "For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Once you've graduated from school, it would be foolish to go back and re-take those same classes, wouldn't it?  Yet how many Christians, having graduated from the Law, go back to its enslaving doctrines?!  Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin--but He also wants to set Christians free from the legalism of the law.  He wants to empower all His people to serve Him as He calls them.

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