Entire Female Subordination Issue based on Inferiority/Superiority

Prejudice: The Insurmountable Barrier



“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ There is neither Jew nor Greek there is neither bond nor free there is neither male nor female for ye are all one in Christ Jesus “
Galatians 3:26-28

   S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. wrote, “Never could the Apostle Paul have envisioned the place of Galatians 3:28 in contemporary evangelical literature. The issues of sexual equality and societal roles in modern society, however, have done what Paul could not have imagined.”[1]
   We disagree with Johnson on this. We believe the apostle knew exactly what the Spirit of the Lord was dealing with as he penned his letter to the Christians of Galatia. And it should come as no surprise that in his dealings with the Galatians, the Spirit of the Lord began with the local then moved on to the universal.
   Among complementarians, it is vigorously denied that Galatians 3:29 refers to practical equality between Jews, Greeks, slaves, free, male or female. They use a two pronged argument with the essence of it being that the verse is referring to salvation only. We are all equally saved, they say. We ask, Is there any other way to be saved besides equally? It is doubtful the apostle would waste time refuting such a ridiculous notion. It is also argued that the word “one,” as in, “Ye are all one,” carries no connotation of equality. 
   But common sense and a candid look at scripture invalidates both of these arguments.  
  Richard Hove believed he was settling the question in favor of inequality when he wrote, “As predicted by the Old Testament, the new covenant is now known by its universal call; all are invited, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.…There is no distinction between Jew and Greek with regard to salvationall who call upon Him will be saved…” [2]
   Elisabeth Elliott felt the same when she wrote, “The passage in Galatians refers to what happens to a Christian through baptism. He becomes, whether male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek, a son. He enjoys the same privileges which all sons of God enjoy. But this “order of redemption” does not unite the two poles nor displace the ‘order of creation.’” [3]
   This statement of Elliott’s invites a world of discussion as to whether or not one is saved by baptism and what she means by “order of redemption,” but we will save that argument for another time.
   Proponents of inequality teach that Galatians 3:28 is referring to all persons who are “in Christ” as being equally saved, equally possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit, and equally sharing in the benefits of the New Covenant. Hove bases his argument on Joel Chapter Two, however, elsewhere in the same argument, he claims Galatians 3:28 is a reference to the creation and fall of man. 
   So which is it, a reference to salvation or to the creation and fall of man? 
  We agree wholeheartedly with Elisabeth Wilson, who said of the contradictory arguments nineteenth century egalitarians dealt with, “What a zig-zag production!”[4]
   Hove’s argument, that the reference to male and female represents creation and the reference to slave and free represents the Fall, loses steam and screeches to a halt altogether when the reference to Jew and Greek cannot be similarly spiritualized. It simply cannot carry, and he does not even try to make it work. He just ignores it.
   Try as we might, Galatians 3:28 cannot be spiritualized into some oblique reference to salvation, baptism, or to the creation and fall of man.[5] 
   Where in the Bible do we find that men were ever more entitled to forgiveness of sins than women? Women did not have to be liberated to seek forgiveness of sins under the New Covenant. There has never been any scriptural law forbidding women to be baptized. These liberties have always been theirs.
   It is carefully emphasized by Hove, Elliott, and others, that Galatians 3:28 is not a reference to religious, political, social, or gender equality, but according to their own interpretation, the verse is dealing with equality. 
   Do they not write that the verse deals with equality of salvation? An ethereal, occult, form of equality to be sure, but the only applications of equality permitted among complementarians, are of the vague, entirely intangible, kind.
   Hove claims that Joel prophesied the day would come when anyone, no matter who they were, whether they were Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, it would make no difference, would be equally invited to come to the LORD. 
   Joel prophesied no such thing. 
   Women were not exempt from serving God under the Old covenant, and even non-Jews could come to the LORD by becoming Jews.[6]
   Hove continues explaining that all could equally call upon the name of the Lord and be equally saved, and that the Spirit of the Lord would equally fill his daughters as well as his sons. 
   What a lame argument! Nowhere in scripture can it be found that God ever made any difference in His relationships with either His sons or His daughters! And His Spirit filled His Old Testament prophetesses just as well as His Old Testament prophets.
   Jeremiah is also quoted to show that all would equally know Him—from the least to the greatest. Joel and Jeremiah are cited, by Hove, as the interpreters of Galatians 3:28.[7]
   This argument cannot carry for two reasons:
1.)    Jeremiah is not addressing gender issues; There was never a time in history where the Lord showed preference for males over females in prohibiting females from knowing him. Also, Jeremiah is prophesying about the millennial reign of Christ, and not this present age. The day has certainly not arrived when all know the Lord from the least to the greatest. The prophets are consistently misquoted by complementarian authors as saying things like, “No matter who you are, all are invited (to know the Lord). Proponents of inequality often add the words “will have opportunity” or “will receive the invitation” to know Him. This is dishonest. The text does not say that. Jeremiah was not writing about invitations or opportunities to know the LORD, he was writing that a time is coming when all would know Him. This is a clear reference to the millennial reign of Christ. Invitations to know and to serve the Lord were always given freely regardless of gender or nationality.

       2.)    Joel’s prophecy that both sons and daughters would prophesy was not unusual. Even under the Old Covenant both men and women prophesied. The unusual thing about Joel’s prophecy is that all who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved. That prophecy baffled even the Old Testament Jew—Including Joel, who penned it, because under the old covenant, no one, no matter who they were, not even a Jew—not even a male—could be saved by simply calling on the name of the Lord. And Joel’s prophecy says nothing about anyone being “invited.”

   Another complementarian argument set forth in Galatians 3:29, is that the word “one” in verse 28 does not connote equality between all Christians.
   Something can be one and be unequal? How?   
  When we look at a tree, what do we see, ONE tree, or an amalgamation of separate and unequal parts? We see trunk, branches, leaves, and sometimes blossoms and fruit. We generally do not see roots, but we know they are there. Which part of a tree is in authority over the other? We know the answer to that is, No part. Every part of a tree is essential for the life and health of the whole. What if a tree lost its leaves? If they did not grow back, the tree would die due to lack of photosynthesis. What if the roots became severely damaged? The tree would weaken and most likely die due to lack of nourishment. If the tap-root dies, the tree dies immediately. What about the trunk and branches? Cut down a tree and sometimes it grows back, other times it doesn’t. What about the bark? Small animals have been known to kill trees by “barking” them—chewing the bark off in a ring pattern all the way around the trunk. Which part of the ONE tree is unequal to the other or in authority over the whole?
   For those who claim the use of the word “one” in Galatians 3:29 does not bestow equal status to the Greek with the Jew, the slave with the free, or the man with the woman, we refer to  John 10:30 and to John 5:18 where the Jews sought to stone Jesus for making himself equal with God. In the first passage, Jesus claimed God was his Father. In the second passage, Jesus claimed that he and his Father were one. 
   The Jews made no distinction between the two. 
   When Jesus said he and his father were one, they understood that he was claiming perfect authority and equality with God, therefore they sought to kill him. Historically, scholars have never argued this.[8]
   In Philippians 2:5-6, Majority Text translations read: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.[9] Jesus did not consider it robbery to be equal with God because He was God, even in His humanity.[10]  
   Those who seek the overthrow of women within the home, church, and society must, of necessity, overthrow the word of God first, in its references to the equal stature of Christ within the Godhead. Colossians 2:9 tells us that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt within Jesus in physical form. Isaiah 9:6 tells us that Jesus, the son, is also called the everlasting father. Those who seek to overthrow women by overthrowing the authority of Christ within the Godhead (theotēs) must ignore the many scriptures which establish the oneness within theotēs is a reference to absolute equality as well as to unity.
   The Jews had no problem acknowledging equality in the word “ONE.” Hear O Israel, YAHWEH ELOHIYM is ONE YAHWEH. A literal translation to English reads, “Hear O Israel The LORD Gods is one LORD (Elohiym is plural meaning three).” 
   When Jesus claimed God as His father and said they were ONE, the Jews understood he was claiming the authority of God, i.e., practical equality with God. That was “blasphemy” to the Jews, who wanted to stone Him for it.
   When the Jew, Thomas, said, “My LORD and my God, he was accepting Jesus’ claims to oneness with God, which entailed not just His unity with, but His practical equality with, and His actual identity as. . .Jehovah. Jews never called anyone LORD but Yahweh. The prophet foretold the claims of Christ in Isaiah 9:6, and the apostle reiterated them in Philippians 2:5-6 and Colossians2:9.
   The Entire Context of Galatians 1-3 deals with the related subjects of prejudice and equality.     
   The Christians of Galatia had moved away from the good news of Christ and had begun following another gospel—which, according to Paul, was not good news at all. They were being “troubled” by those who had perverted the good news of freedom in Christ into the “bad news” that law and tradition needed to be upheld (1:6-9, 13-14).
    Paul was not a people-pleaser. He reminded his readers that God was not impressed with the seeming importance of certain personages (2:6). Paul wrote that if he was concerned with pleasing people, then he was not being a true servant of Christ (1:10).
   Paul alluded to traditions [the Jews were in bondage to] when he reminded them that what he preached did not come from man but directly from Christ. He reminded the church at Galatia how he had previously ravaged the Christian Church, because he had loved the traditions (the Jew’s religion, 1:13) more than he had loved God. And, because of that, he had profited greatly in it (1:11-15).
   It was God, he wrote, who had called him to preach to the Gentiles. And when God called him to do so, he had asked no one’s opinion . . . or permission. He knew that he had heard from God. He was the bond servant of Jesus Christ, not of any man, and only where Christ led, would he go (1:15-17).
   He reminded the Galatians that Titus was Greek and had not been compelled to subject himself to the Jew’s religion by being circumcised, but that false brethren were spying out their liberty and were busily plotting how they could bring them back into bondage to tradition. Paul and Titus did not allow themselves to submit to this pressure to conform, not even briefly. They resisted such pressure to ensure that the good news—not the bad news (1:6-7)—would continue to go forward (2:1-7).
   Paul spoke briefly about respecting men’s persons. He said no matter how important these men seemed to be, they were not successful in impressing either him or God. They added nothing to the truth of Christ and the liberty he brought, but rather, were contrary to it in their efforts to diminish it.    
   He reminded the Galatians that the gospel message to the Gentiles had been committed to him just as the good news to the Jews had been committed to Peter. He also reminded them that his commission had been acknowledged by recognized leaders in the church, James, Cephas, and John (2:1-10).
   Paul recounted the story of when he and Peter had settled the business of being respecters of persons regarding the traditions (2:11-13). This had happened while they were both in Antioch.    
   Before Peter’s Jewish peers had arrived on the scene, Peter enjoyed the freedom he had found in Christ and mingled freely with the non-Jewish Christians. He had even taken meals with them. But after his Jewish brothers showed up, he feared their opinion and did an about face. He abruptly ended his association with the Gentile Christians—especially at mealtimes. Then others, including Barnabas, followed his hypocritical lead, exhibiting racial and religious prejudice, in defiance of scriptural commands against being respecters of persons. The confrontation between Paul and Peter dealt with racial prejudice and hypocrisy—nothing else.
   The message coming from Peter was clear; Christian Jews considered themselves superior to Christian Gentiles. And Paul was not going to stand for it. He initiated a public confrontation with Peter over the matter, and they settled it right then and there.
   Paul later wrote to the Galatian Christians, how it was, then, that they were so bewitched? Had they received the Spirit of the Lord by the works of the law, or by faith in Christ? Did they think that, though faith had saved them, they must maintain that salvation by works of the law (2:16-18, 3:1-3)?
   The root of the problem, lay in the Jew’s claim to superiority over Gentiles because of their physical relation to Abraham. This was a sinful stronghold of pride in the hearts of many Jews. Jesus had addressed that very thing when he warned them not to be so haughty over their physical ancestry. He told them that God was able to raise up seed to Abraham from stones.  Paul reminded the Jewish Christians of Galatia that, “Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness know ye therefore that they which are of faith the same are the children of Abraham and the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying in thee shall all nations be blessed so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (3:6-9)
   Paul noted that those who were still under the law, were cursed, because Christ had come to redeem them from the curse of the law, and they had not accepted his sacrifice. 
   Paul wrote that even those who had legitimately lived according to the law, before Christ came, had been saved by faith—not by obeying the letter of the law—THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH, he reminded them (3:10-13).
   In essence, the apostle was saying that even Abraham had been saved by faith [in the promised redeemer]. Consequently all who are saved by that same faith are, in God’s eyes, children of Abraham. Abraham was before the law, and his faith was not disannulled by the law. So, whether a person is Jew or Gentile, those who have faith in Jesus are the ones who are blessed with faithful Abraham.    
   Paul annihilated the grounds for feelings of superiority, which had resulted in centuries of implacable racial prejudice, based who was or was not physically descended from Abraham (3:16-22, 23-24).
   He pointed out that the law was simply a school master, a teacher, used by God to reveal Christ, and now that Christ had been revealed, there was no longer any use for the school master. 
   Let it go, he commanded (3:24-25).
   Paul summed it all up, when he informed the Galatians that all, both Jews and Gentiles, were children of God through faith in Christ. The walls had to come down, they were sinful walls of prejudice and pride, bringing a curse on all who sought protection in their shadow. 
   The unequal status that existed between Jews and Gentiles under the traditions could not be transferred to Christianity.   
   He went one step further and wrote that the unequal status of male and female, slave and free, were not acceptable in Christ, either. For all are one in Him (3:26-28).
   Paul understood the pride and prejudice he wrote about better than most. He was a Jew, but he was also a Roman. If not born to it, Roman citizenship was both prized and difficult to obtain [11]. Paul was born to it. His mother was Roman (citizenship, in the Greek culture [the culture Rome descended from and clung to] passed through freeborn women). 
   The Roman culture, influenced as it was by Athenian Greek mores, and was a slave-holding society, with the greatest legal, social, and political divisions [within that society] being citizen/non-citizen, slave/free, and male/female. 
   Jews within the empire, did not have a problem with these legal and discriminatory divisions as they were full of discrimination themselves, and added an additional category to the division—that of Jew and Greek. 
   In each of these divisions, there existed clearly defined assumptions of superiority and inferiority. Free persons were considered superior to slaves, Jews considered themselves superior to all non-Jews, and there was no question that all males considered themselves superior to all females, of any category.

   The religious, cultural, legal, and political barriers that separated Jew from Greek, slave from free, and male from female, were composed of fear, hatred, and prejudice
   Both Jews and Romans were overtly racist, both cultures were sexist, and, as is the case whenever institutionalized slavery is present, slaves were barely considered human. The walls between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female reached to the heavens, and no earthly power was going to bring them down.
   Peter, who was fired with a passion to spread the good news of Jesus Christ—a passion that eventually led him to accept martyrdom—was so full of racial prejudice that he had to receive a vision from Heaven before he would consider visiting the house of a Gentile, even for the purpose of spreading the gospel.
   When Peter's vision came, he was not given a new command [ as some would suppose], for a Jew to preach the good news to a Gentile. Jesus had already given His disciples a personal example to follow in telling the Samaritan woman that he was Messiah. 
   That one had left them speechless for a time. Jews typically shunned Samaritans. For The Twelve to see their master associating with a Samaritan woman, well, that was beyond the pale. So what did Jesus do? He gave them a living object lesson in leading His little flock into an evangelistic crusade—in Samaria of all places!

In the Old Testament, after the Israelites had carried out the command to possess the promised-land, they were, without prejudice, commanded to share their commonwealth [the blessings of serving Jehovah] with all who would accept Yahweh as the one true God. We read of that happening with Rehab, Uriah, and Ruth. Even during periods of Jewish captivity, people could and did choose to become Jews [12]
   The prophets foretold a time, when all would know the Lord—not just Jews. They wrote of a time when non-Jews would be allowed to inherit Jewish land along with natural-born Israelites. But in spite of all this, racial pride ran deep. 
   It should not have been unthinkable to Jewish Christians to carry the good news of salvation outside the Jewish community
   Yet it was.
   God had to move mightily in order to convince the infant Church that Gentiles not only should  be evangelized but that they were also equal to Jews. 
   Such is the strength of prejudice, even with one so great as Peter, a beloved apostle.
   It was time for the walls to come down, and Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, extended the argument from Jewish prejudice against Gentiles to include slaves, and even women, both of whom had suffered horribly from the prejudice of both Jews and Gentiles.
   It is safe to say that no single group of people has suffered so consistently, from the dawn of history, from social, political, legal, and religious prejudice more than women. 
   People of color have been the butt of hatred and prejudice for centuries [this writer makes no attempt to minimize this]. The atrocities and horrors of chattel slavery were unspeakable. But even so, most can trace their cultural history back to a time when they were free—not so with females, of any race or nationality. 
   The Bible teaches that in the beginning both female and male were equal,[13] but according to our history books, there was never a time in all of history, saving the present in some countries, when women were considered autonomous human beings on social and political par with males [14]. It is not insignificant, that in his letter to the Christians of Galatia, Holy Spirit  through the words of the apostle, effectively tore down the walls of religious, political, and societal division between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and saw fit, at the same time, to tear down the greatest of all walls, that between male and female, in restoring woman to her original created purpose—that of perfect, tangible, functional, equality with man.

[1] Role Distinctions In The Church, Galatians 3:28, S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by Wayne Grudem and John  Piper, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1991 

[2] (Does Galatians 3:28 Negate Gender-Specific Roles? Richard Hove), Wayne Grudem, editor, Biblical Foundations For Manhood And Womanhood, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2002

“The context of Galatians 3:28 makes abundantly clear the sense in which men and women are equal in Christ: they are equally justified by faith (v. 24), equally free from the bondage of legalism (v. 25), equally children of God (v. 26), equally clothed with Christ (v. 27), equally possessed by Christ (v. 29), and equally heirs of the promises to Abraham (v. 29). This last blessing is especially significant, namely, the equality of being a fellow-heir with men of the promises.” (Edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical Feminism, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1991,) Notice that not a single thing listed has a thing to do with any type of tangible equality. The equality offered by complementarian men to complementarian women is like confederate money. And just as confederate bonds were worthless, so is complementarian equality.

[3] Elizabeth Elliott, Let Me be a Woman: Notes to My Daughter on the Meaning of Womanhood, Living Books, Wheaton, Ill, 1982

[4] Elizabeth Wilson, A Scriptural View of women’s Rights AND DUTIES, Pennsylvania, 1849

[5]The male/female couplet, for example, is the result of creation, while the slave/free couplet is the result of the Fall. While the syntax of verse 28 is simple enough, the meaning and significance of it are ardently contested.” Does Galatians 3:28 Negate Gender-Specific Roles? Richard Hove, Wayne Grudem, editor, Biblical Foundations For Manhood And Womanhood, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2002

[6] Esther 8:17, “And many of the people of the land became Jews”

[7]Jeremiah points to the universal nature of the new covenant; everyone, from the least to the greatest, will be able to know the Lord. Joel’s prophetic description of the arrival of this day includes the same element: ‘And afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’” —Joel 2:28-29 Does Galatians 3:28 Negate Gender-Specific Roles? Richard Hove), Wayne Grudem, Editor, Biblical Foundations For Manhood And Womanhood, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2002

[8] “’Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also God was his Father, making himself equal with God (italics in original)’ The Greek word for equal is ISON, which according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (p. 307), an acknowledged authority, means “equal in quality as in quantity, to claim for one’s self the Nature, rank, authority, which belong to God.” Dr. Walter Martin, and Norman H. Klann, Jehovah of the Watchtower, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1956

[9] Minority texts read differently, but minority text translations are not universally accepted as reliable; these include the critical texts of Nestle-Aland and The United Bible Society which claim to be “eclectic” texts but, in reality, are primarily based on minority texts.
[10] All the fullness of theotēs (the Godhead) dwelt in Jesus in physical form (Colossians 2:9). What part of “all” and “fullness” and “physical form” do we not understand?

[11] Acts 22:25-28 “And as they bound him with thongs Paul said unto the centurion that stood by Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned When the centurion heard that he went and told the chief captain saying Take heed what thou doest for this man is a Roman Then the chief captain came and said unto him Tell me art thou a Roman He said Yea And the chief captain answered With a great sum obtained I this freedom And Paul said But I was free born” 

[12] Esther 8:17

[13] When God instituted marriage, knowing what was ahead, He gave a specific command for men to leave their parents and cleave to their “one” wife. This was a safeguard for women who were not told to leave the protection of their parents and families, so husbands, of necessity, would have had to join the bride’s family. Yet that protection for women was quickly dispensed with, and well before the time of the flood we read that polygamy was introduced into the fallen creation (God’s opinion of polygamy is revealed in that not one of the four married men who entered the ark were polygamous).

[14] This portion of the histories are debatable, or perhaps they do not go back far enough, as Katharine Bushnell, in her God’s Word to Women studies, presents a good case for the early existence of, and reasons for the demise of, female kinship under which, in very early history, females enjoyed equality with men. Bushnell used both Genesis studies and secular anthropological research in order to prove her hypothesis.     

Woman this is WAR! Gender Slavery and the Evangelical Castes System, examines misogynistic Bible translation and commentary (and discriminatory mis-definition of biblical words) which have adversely affected understanding of the scriptures, as well as relations between women and men, happiness of men and women, and hindered the work of the gospel.


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