06 December 2013

Neither Jew nor Gentile?


A believing friend wrote me last week, taking me to task on something I said about Jews and non-Jews. She didn't like it that I titled her a non-Jew, based on an understanding about the New Testament views of the redeemed.

Here is what I began to write her back... enter into the discussion if you like.

You are right, the Bible is clear "there is neither Jew nor Greek," and then proceeds to tell us that there is "neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus." So let's unpack that a bit. The same apostle who says that, told wives to submit to their own husbands (Eph 5.22) and "let a woman learn in silence with all submission, and I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man..." (1 Tim. 2.11-12). That same apostle told men "older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience" (Titus 2.2) and that the "younger men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works..." (Titus 2.6-7) Paul also taught about women and head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11, which he did not require of men. So what I'm saying is that although "there is neither male nor female" that there clearly are roles and distinctives for men and women. I'm glad there are facilities for men and for women both at arenas and stadia and in theatres.

Same thing goes for "neither slave nor free." Onesimus was the slave of Philemon (see letter of Paul to Philemon verses 10-18) whom Paul sent back to Philemon to get back to work. His slavery was not removed just because Paul led him to faith in Messiah. And Philemon was free, but also has certain rules applied. Paul told masters to "give up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven" (Eph. 6.9) Slaves in fact are to "be obeidnet to those who are your masters according to the flesh.." (Eph. 6.5). In other words, although "there is neither slave nor free" clearly there are distinctions and rules that apply to one or the other.

So how do we understand the "neither...nor" statements of Paul? It has to do with inheritance and access. God has given everyone access to Him by faith. No one is better. No one is worse. No one is 'outside' and thus an outsider. We all can approach the living God. The distinctions in the Temple area which prevented slaves or women or handicapped people or... are not able to prevent us in these days from following Messiah. Awesome, eh?

What do you say?

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