Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Galatians 3:28 and Women Preachers?

"Every kind of foolish and superstitious belief can be proved from the Bible if it is not interpreted according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality."[1]

An example of not interpreting a passage or text of Holy Scripture according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality is when Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[2], is used as a proof text for the ordination of women. If ripped out of the context in which this verse appears, seeing what came before the verse and what comes after the verse, one could justify pretty much anything one wanted with regards to the ethnic distinction between Jews and Greeks (gentiles), slaves and non-slaves, men and women, and say it is so because “…you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But, is this what the verse is saying?

What the Apostle Paul is NOT saying is that in Christ women can or should be ordained as preachers of the Word of God. To draw this meaning from Gal. 3:28 would contradict texts of Scripture in which Paul says plainly that God has chosen men and not women as overseers or elders or deacons. In I Timothy 3:1-13, the same writer of Galatians addresses the issue of leadership in the church. He begins with the office of overseer in verse one. Paul later, in Titus 1:5-7, uses the word “elder” to indicate the same office. Qualifications for the overseer or elder are that “he” be the “husband” of one “wife.” This qualification is echoed in Titus 1:6. Paul goes on to say in I Timothy 3: 4,5: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” [3] (Italics mine)

If this wasn’t enough to convince that Galatians 3:28 is NOT saying that women should be ordained in the church, in the previous chapter (I Timothy 2:8-15), Paul spells out explicitly the role of men and women in the church. A woman, says the text, is to learn in silence in all submission and is not allowed to have authority over a man [4] And, unlike the accusation of liberals, the reason Paul says this, his reason, is not cultural. It is, rather, theological.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner[5]

Paul cites a “creation ordinance” as his exegetical grounds for this teaching about the roles for men and women in the church of Jesus Christ. The creation ordinance argument Paul also uses in I Corinthians 11:8-12.

Galatians 3:28 is NOT speaking to the roles of men and women in the leadership of the church. What the passage IS saying is that with regards to salvation, there is no longer a wall of separation. All in Christ are Abraham’s seed.[6]

This third chapter of Galatians is a corrective one. Paul is rebuking the Galatian Christians for letting themselves be drawn away from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that all are one in Him. The wall of separation had, at the cross, been torn down. Is justification by faith in Christ or the works of the law? Paul reviews and reproves in 3:6-18.

Then, after having rebuked the Galatians for their disobedience to what they knew to be true, he proceeds to prove, again, the doctrine he had rebuked them for rejecting. Paul’s argument goes as follows:

Under the law, the Jews were above the Gentiles (Greeks). Slaves had no privileges at all. Under the law, only the men received the sign of the covenant: circumcision. In union with Christ, all are of the same covenant. Jews and Greeks are one in Christ, women as well as men receive the sign of the New Covenant: baptism, slaves are equal to the freeman in Christ. There are no distinctions or special privileges in Christ under the New Covenant. All classes of people are kings and priests unto God with the same eternal inheritance.[7]

Taken out of context, the Bible can be made to say almost anything. Untaught and unstable the Apostle Peter calls those who twist Scripture and do it, Peter warns, to their own destruction.[8] Seeking the meaning of the text, the intended meaning demands interpreting Bible verses in the immediate and remote context. Not only do you have to interpret the verses within the paragraph in which it appears, like Galatians 3:28, but you have to go even further.

If “Scripture Interprets Scripture,” you must allow Scripture to show you how the one verse fits within the paragraph it appears, the chapter in the book it appears, all the other chapters of the book in which the one verse it appears, and with the rest of Scripture itself—all of it! You cannot understand the intended meaning of “a” verse apart from the rest of the Bible. No verse of Holy Scripture can be separated from the rest of the Scripture. In fact, one must interpret a verse of the text in both its immediate and remote context. Immediate context is the paragraph, chapter, and book in which the one verse appears. Remote context would be the other books, if any, by the same author as well as the rest of Scripture.

No one using “the analogy of faith” (Scripture interpreting Scripture) can come to the Galatians 3:28 text and walk away from it believing it is teaching that women should be ordained ministers to preach in Christ’s church. It would be, I believe, impossible. The contradiction is too great.

[1] The Folly of Taking Text out of Context, by A. T. Overstreet; Are Men Born Sinners? Appendix F

[2] New International Version

[3] Ibid

[4] I Timothy 2:11,12

[5] I Timothy 2:13,14

[6] Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 3:11

[7] Revelation 1:6

[8] II Peter 3:16



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