A TIME WHEN CHRISTIAN BAPTISM UNDERMINED RACISM by Mika Edmondson for Core Christianity
As part of his daily prayers, a typical first-century Jewish man began by thanking God for not making him a Gentile, a slave—and finally—for not making him a woman. In a fallen world, we are socially conditioned by messages about who’s important and who’s not, who’s precious and who’s expendable, who should be in and who should be out. Race, class, and gender are the fault lines of sinful disparity and division that pass from the world right into the church.
When the Judaizers infiltrated the churches of Galatia, they brought these attitudes with them. Looking to their Jewish ethnicity, cultural, and ceremonial trappings to guarantee their acceptance with God, they treated Gentile Christians as culturally inferior and pressured them to assimilate in order to really belong among God’s people. It was against this backdrop that Paul penned Galatians 3:27–29:
For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
1. All Christians have equal status, access, and inheritance.
We know from 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11 that when he wrote Galatians 3:28, Paul was almost certainly quoting an ancient baptismal formula. As believers prepared to enter life in the community of faith, the Lord gave them a reorientation that challenged their previous thinking. Jews, who were used to being preeminent among the people of God, confessed that there is “neither Jew nor Greek”—in other words, “It is Christ alone, not my race or culture, that affords my place in God’s house.”
Men who were used to having greater access and status in every other place in society confessed that “there is neither male nor female”—“It is Christ alone, not my gender, that affords my place in God’s house.” The wealthy who were accustomed to social and economic prominence confessed that “there is neither slave nor free”—“It is Christ alone, not my wealth, earthly citizenship, or political affiliation that affords my place in God’s house.”