Summary: A study of gender and the role of pastor of the congregation.
“In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
stute readers of the BOOK OF GALATIANS will have noticed a transition at our text. Before this TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE Paul has employed the first person plural pronoun “we” throughout the letter. The first verse of our text, however, marks a change as from this point he uses the second person plural “you.” We should be careful not to make too much of this transition; but neither should we ignore the change; for surely the Spirit of God has not directed the Apostle to write in a superfluous manner.
This TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE marks a transition that is central to the Apostle’s argument to these factious saints. Before this, Paul has spoken of the promise [GALATIANS 3:6–14], which gave way to the Law [GALATIANS 3:15–22], which was in turn superseded by grace [GALATIANS 3:23–25]. Following this TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE the order will be reversed to form a rather complex chiasm. Grace will now be exalted [GALATIANS 3:27–4:7] as greater than Law [GALATIANS 4:8–11], which came as result of the promise [GALATIANS 4:21–31].
What is crucial to our understanding of the message today is that the verses of our text are dependent upon this TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE. Unfortunately, the TWENTY-EIGHTH VERSE has become a sort of battleground in the ongoing battle between the sexes. Subject to isolation by well-meaning saints with a personal agenda, the verse is often distorted until even the Apostle would be confused as to what he must have meant when he wrote the words. The verse cannot, however, be understood in isolation; it must be read in the light of the preceding verses and in light of the verses following.
ENTRANCE INTO THE FAMILY IS AN ISSUE OF FAITH — I do not doubt that the language of this TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE insults some women, especially those schooled in feminism. Paul writes, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Nevertheless, the words are either those which were inspired by the Spirit of God or they are to be dismissed as mere remnants of Jewish patriarchal views of humanity. The Bible is quite precise in stating that “You are all sons [huioì] of God.” There is no doubt that we are to understand that this encompasses all humanity, but the language does not permit us to retranslate this clause to meet our own gender bias.
It may be interest you that whenever Paul employs this particular phrase (huioì theoû) it refers to the mature position of a believer in Christ [see ROMANS 8:14; 9:26]. By faith we become “children of God” (tékna theoû) as outlined in JOHN 1:12; however, a regenerate sinner becomes a son of God by adoption [cf. GALATIANS 4:5]. A child is a child because he or she has his or her parents’ nature, but the child is still immature and must grow into adulthood. Whereas in the material world a child does not enjoy mature responsibilities and privileges until reaching a predetermined age, in the spiritual realm a regenerated child is immediately placed in the position of sonship, enjoying all the privileges and responsibilities of sonship.
The noun which is translated “adoption” in GALATIANS 4:5 (huiothesían) means “to be placed in the position of a son.” That act of adoption, receiving the full rights of sons, was determined by God in eternity past and has been finalised by the work of the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion. Christ came “to redeem those who were under law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights” [GALATIANS 4:5 NET BIBLE]. One under the tutelage of the school master of law could never be regarded as a son. What a rich heritage we would sacrifice were we to insist on gender neutral language! What a great sacrifice political correctness demands!
“You are all sons of God.” Paul is emphasising that those to whom he is writing are in his estimate mature. Though they may not necessarily have been acting in a mature manner (actually they were acting in quite an immature fashion), they nevertheless were even then heirs with the full rights of sons of God. You need not wait until some date far in the future to enjoy the full rights of sonship—the full rights of a son is your present possession by faith in Christ. At the point you became a child of God you received the full rights of a son. Even now you enjoy access into the presence of the Father, you enjoy the presence of His Holy Spirit, you hold unique spiritual gifts which He has distributed just as He decided, you have the promise of Heaven and all that God has planned for His precious sons.