Did Jesus Abolish Gender in the Church? Bible Checking Galatians 3:28

Does Unity in the Church Mean Uniformity? on the List of the Most Often Misused and Abused Bible Verses for Church People

A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.

—Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison never took completing his inventions for granted. Despite his brilliance and history of success, he always accepted how hard it was to take even a brilliant concept and turn it into an actual functioning product.  He understood that he had to be extremely disciplined and persistent in the building process and resist the urge to take short cuts intended to force results. He knew could never be successful unless his procedures were fundamentally correct, no matter how frustrating it was to face the many failures honest testing brought about.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

—Thomas Edison

Edison’s commitment to such a stringent process provides a great example for every Christian as you seek to read and understand the Bible.  It is even more crucial when you seek to apply the Scriptures to big life issues. There may be 10,000 things you want a passage to say in order for it to support your agenda, yet, if you allow your goal to dictate the meaning of the Scripture, you will always get bad results. You cannot warp the meaning of the Bible, even with good motives, and expect the Lord to agree with you.

Humility is the Key to Following God

35 Great Bible Verses about Humility

This concept leads to the next Bible verse that is commonly misused and abused in church;

Galatians 3:28


on my list of the 7 Most Often Misused and Abused Bible Verses for Church People.

For context, here are the first three posts in the series:

7 Most Commonly Misused and Abused Bible Verses in Church

Why “Touch Not Mine Anointed” has No Place in Jesus’ Church

Bible Testing the “Jezebel Spirit”: What is the Truth about this Popular Claim?

Does God have a Plan to Prosper You? Bible Testing Jeremiah 29:11

Good Motivations Don’t Guarantee Good Results

Many Christians invoke this passage to assert that God did away with any and all gender roles for Christians at the Cross of Jesus.  The arguments come in many forms, but tend to look like this:

Because of the Cross, there is equality and harmony between the sexes. It was only sin that marred the unity, equality and peace between men and women and caused the sin motivated gender hierarchy. – Anonymous

In Jesus, we see a rejection of the damage caused by sin in the patriarchy.– Anonymous

A brave movement is growing that takes Galatians 3:28 seriously and follows it to where Paul leads. It took a while for the early Church to sort out whether or not uncircumcised believers were full members of God’s people.  It took far longer to sort this out in relation to class, reaching a tipping point during the abolitionist movement.  It has taken even longer to apply the Paul’s argument to women. – Anonymous

I understand that this is an obviously emotionally charged issue in today’s world. You will run into very strong feelings on the questions involved and sometimes inflammatory language, but it is vitally important that you be willing to dig in and seek God’s answers, not man’s. It goes to the very makeup of God’s church and His calling on you, individually. The fact is, if you honestly read Galatians 3:28 in the context of book and within the meaning meant by the Apostle Paul, it is clear that God meant something very different and it does not mean what these proponents claim it means,

Is Divided Loyalty Destroying Your Christian Life?

cue the Inigo Montoya meme.


A Noble Intent

It is impossible to examine the past and not see the long history of mistreatment of women. At various times and in different ways, women have been denied rights as citizens of their countries and devalued as individuals in their cultures.  It was only as recently as 1920 when women were first allowed vote in the United States, a right that they had to fight to obtain.  The status of women and girls today remains terribly unjust and unfair in many parts of the world and it is no accident that abusive and cultish organizations tend to prey on women sexually.  Even the church has a history of poor treatment of women, at times. It is, therefore, certainly a good thing in general to want to push back against this sort of inequality and abuse.  Jesus Himself stood for the weak, lowly, and abused in society and pushed back against the things that demean and devalue a person. Yet, there is a grave temptation present when you seek to fix past wrongs and deal with real grievances. It is so easy to allow this good desire to dominate your understanding of God’s view on an issue. It is tempting to allow your understanding of Scripture to react against something and conform to your expectations rather than have your perspective be shaped by God’s Word.  Many of those who advocate the broader reading of Galatians 3:28 push so hard away from true injustices of the past that they run over God’s leading on the question.  A close reading of the passage in context reveals the error of this approach.

Is Your Identity in Christ?

A Question of Salvation

Galatians was originally a letter written to respond to claims about the sufficiency of the salvation of Gentiles. The churches of Galatia started during Paul’s missionary journey when he traveled through the area preaching the Gospel to the primarily Gentile population. Many individuals were saved and things in the churches were going well until certain men arrived among them with a troubling message they claimed was from Jerusalem.  These men were Christians from a Jewish background who brought with them a heretical doctrine that was both subtle and powerful:  

O Foolish Galatians! – Living in Joy and Peace as a Christian

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Galatians 3:1-2

Importantly, they did not tell the Galatians that they were not Christians.  This claim would have been easy to reject. Rather, they appealed to the fleshly instinct of every man and argued that though these former Gentiles were indeed saved, they needed to go through the rituals of Judaism and follow the Mosaic to be fully Christian.  They needed to do more in order to earn God’s approval and full salvation. 

 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. Galatians 2:4-5

The claim was that salvation was not really completed by Jesus alone, in other words. In order to be fully cleansed and holy, they needed to rise to the status of the Jews and be circumcised. The men we call Judaizers attempted to create a sort of hierarchy in the church in their salvation and standing before God where the Gentiles were much lower that the former Jews as Christians.  Paul wrote the letter to the churches of Galatia when he heard about these theological arguments to specifically address this issue and refute claims.

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ…Galatians 1:6-7

What is Paul talking about?

Stand Fast! Your Freedom in Christ is Important! Galatians 5

You see his focus on the issue of our common salvation repeatedly throughout the letter. Look at the verses around 3:28, for example:

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 

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 neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.    


In context, Paul’s point is as clear as it is wonderful. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, man or woman, slave or free in their standing and righteousness as a beloved child of God in Christ.  Everyone in Christ is a full member of the family of God.  Every single believer is just as saved and just as loved by Jesus, no matter whether they are Jew or Gentile, slave or free.  Yet, in context, it is also clear that Paul’s words are limited to this issue. Paul did not address gender roles, distinctions between sexes, the variety of gifts, and the many different callings the Lord has on His church in this passage.  It is a misapplication of this verse to apply it to these issues. You can remove the verse from those surrounding it and do so, but it was not God’s point and is not faithful to Galatians.

Follow Me as I Follow Christ

What Does a Heart for God Look Like?

God’s Beautiful Tapestry the Church

In addition to the context, the rest of Paul’s letters in the New Testament also argue against the broad application of Galatians 3:28. The great Apostle specifically addressed the fundamental structure of the church in his first letter to the Corinthians. In that letter, Paul set out a beautiful picture of the people of God that is one of unity and inclusion, but also one of stunning intentional diversity.

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 1 Corinthians 12:5-6

God Doesn’t Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called

God gifts each of His children uniquely according to His purpose for you in the way that glorifies Him.  Each believer is greatly valued and every role is necessary and important for the church to work as God intends. Yet, there is also clearly a great variety of unique callings, gifts, and talents among God’s people. You and I may have very different gifts and ministries in the church. God gave you more of something (talent, will, role) than the amount of that same thing that I have – despite us being equal in standing before God. It has nothing to do with fairness or equality, it is simply the master conductor direction the symphony in a way that makes gorgeous music. Paul went even further in the same chapter:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 1 Corinthians 12:27-30

Have you thought about what this means? In general and as applied to Galatians 3:28?

There are roles in the church for which you and I are not qualified…and never will be. 

You are not an Apostle and never will be.  In fact, all but 12 people in history are excluded from that role. You are certainly equal to the Apostles in standing before God. You are just as saved as John or James and Jesus’ love for you is no less secure. Yet, despite being on the same level as the Apostles in Christ, God chose only a certain group of people for a role in His service – despite Galatians 3:28 – and excluded others.  There is no inequality intended, it is simply the Master directing His servants.

The same exclusions are present in every role God sets out for the church.  You cannot help but notice the implied answer to each if Paul’s rhetorical questions in this passage is obviously “no”.  Despite our common salvation and being equally loved by God, not all are called to be apostles, prophets, teachers, or workers of miracles.  These jobs are filled by God choice through the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s writings are also filled with distinctions between classes, roles, genders, and backgrounds.  Without belaboring the point, consider Titus 2:

Or Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself

And 1 Timothy 2:

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

Paul addressed men and women, young and old, and husbands and wives differently in these passages based on their unique identities as men or women in Christ.  These tailored encouragements would make no sense if Galatians 3:28 did away with all of these distinctions.  It would also take away from the beautiful picture God paints with the church. Instead of covering a canvas with one uniform color, God uses each Christian like one of millions of unique hues from the palette of the Master artist to create His masterpiece.

 Do You Want to See God’s Glory?

Galatians 3:28 is a wonderful verse within an awesome Bible, this is true.

It is revolutionary in setting out equality among all people in the Body of Christ in our salvation, this is also true.

Protecting women from injustice and remedying past wrongs against them is a wonderful intention, this is also very true. 

Yet, you cannot use this great verse to try to achieve this noble goal without damaging the clear reading of the Word of God and warping its meaning. Trying to do so only serves as one of Edison’s 10,000 solutions that won’t work and damages your walk with God in the process.

God’s answer to the problem you see is always better than yours.

You Can be an Extraordinary Christian!

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