“Whereas there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and un-circumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free—but the whole, and Christ in all.”
You know, we, as the church, tend to make a lot of excuses to separate ourselves from those who are different from us. There are different styles of worship that often vary in different cultural settings. We tend to congregate in the communities in which we live and we tend to live around people who have a number of things in common with us, not the least of this is race and cultural background. Yet, for all of the excuses that we might put before us, it is passages like this that remind us that these things are nothing but that—excuses.
Though our language may be different, though our accents may vary, though the melanin that determines the color of our skin may be different, it is Christ who saves us all. If we are born again believers in Jesus Christ, we have not only been saved by Christ’s work, but we have been made part of His body. We are joined together inseparably with every other born again believer—united in the person of Christ. We are brothers and sisters united as the bride of our Lord. So, if we are brothers and sisters, bound together by the blood of Christ, why then do we feel we cannot worship together?
Paul’s teaching is radical even today—but essential. Even though there are many denominations, many local fellowships, and many types of gatherings, the body of Christ is not divided. We are bound together by Christ and whatever we do to create walls and barriers between churches or races within church denominations is seeking to frustrate what Christ has done. Not only is that impossible but it is sin as well.
Understand what Paul was saying here. There is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ. The Jews prided themselves in the purity of their bloodlines. The Greeks prided themselves in their culture and that they were neither legalistic Jews nor uncultured barbarians. The Barbarians, on the fringe of the empire, were considered a lower form of life because of their lack of culture. The Scythians were from the fringes of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, between the Slavic and Persian territories—nomadic warriors known for their savagery—simply to call someone a Scythian was an insult. Slaves have no standing of their own and free men had the resources to keep themselves free from slavery. In other words, as broad a diversity as can be imagined is represented here—and yet found to be one in Christ! We are one whole and it is Christ who has not only saved each believer, but who has also chosen to unite with that believer, dwelling in his heart through the Holy Spirit.
Beloved, this is the reality that God has set before us. Oh, how far the church is from reaching this point, though. It is a reminder to us, though, that in eternity there will be no divisions amongst the nations—in fact, Revelation 7:9 simply describes us as a great mob of people—we are bound together as one body. Yet, if this is what heaven will be like, should we not be striving for that here on earth within the church? Martin Luther King once said that 11:00 on Sunday mornings was the most segregated hour in America. That is still true today, and it is not just a problem that white folks need to work through. Black folks tend to stay in black churches, Korean folks tend to stay in Korean churches, and the list goes on. Yet, loved ones, the church has one foundation, which means she has one structure. I pray that we might work to unify the structure that we so often seek to separate as a result of ignorance and sin. If there is truly neither Jew nor Greek in Christ, then why can’t we reflect that in the church?
Elect from every nation,
Yet one over all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.