Neither Greek Nor Jew-Division within the Body (Colossians 3:11)

“Whereas there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and un-circumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free—but the whole, and Christ in all.”

(Colossians 3:11)


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.

-Samuel Stone

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on July 26, 2008, in Expositions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well spoken, an excellent defense of unity in the body of Christ.

    The answer is that “in Christ” there is neither Jew nor Greek. Neither is there even woman or man. How can this be from the same Paul who does not suffer a woman to teach or even speak in church?

    “If any man is in Christ, old things have gone away, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17)

    Philippians chapter one speaks of a “fellowship in the good news.” The gospel is to “the Jew first, but also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). But Philippians chapter two speaks of a “fellowship in the Spirit.” And chapter three of a complete unity in him (“being found in him”) and a sharing in his sufferings.

    Ist John is written to “the little children,” (forgiveness of sin) “the young men,” (overcoming the evil one by the word of God) and “the fathers” (knowing him who is from the beginning).

    Of the fruit of the seed that fell on good ground, there is a “thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” distinction. (Mark 4:8)

    In the witness of the gospel, there is first “Jerusalem,” then “Samaria,” and then “the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

    In the will of God, there is the “good, the acceptable, and the perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

    In the outer court of the temple, natural light (sunlight) prevails, in the holy place, manmade light (menorah fueled by oil); but in the holy of holies there is only the light of God himself (shekinah).

    Among the mature there was, is, and shall be true unity. In the “upper room” the disciples were in fact “in one accord.” (Acts 1) What we need now in this hour, is for each to grow up into “the full measure of the stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)


  2. Thank you for the complimentary words. One thing that I often find people doing when they find restrictions placed on God’s people in scripture, is to cry out, “legalism” or “that’s not fair!” And while I am not accusing you of doing so, I think that understanding these things properly helps to answer your question as well as to address the negative restrictions.

    In my experience, probably the language of women teaching in church and the use of the Sabbath day are the two major things that I deal with the most. My plea to folks, first of all, is to focus primarily on the things that God has allowed you to do–either as a believer on the Sabbath or as a woman in the life of the church–and then work from there. When you begin with the positive commands and expectations and focus on them, the negative commands (limitations) don’t seem to be as big a burden.

    Addressing your specific question about women teaching: Paul rightly understood that men and women were created as spiritual equals and in the church as in the marriage covenant, they are equal members. Yet, in role, men and women are different. Men function primarily in the protector/covenant head role of the household and women function primarily in the role of nurturer. Since the institution of the church is built on the model of the family, it should not be surprising to find such restrictions on who ought to function in the church as the covenant head.

    In technical terms, this is certainly a subordination of the female to the male, but it is an economic (the ordering of the roles in the house) subordination and not an ontological (of being) subordination. We use these same terms when we talk of the Trinity. While the three persons of our Triune God all are God in essence and there can be no ontological subordination there, there is an economic subordination taking place in that each person focuses on different aspects of God’s redemptive plan.

    So how do we focus on the positive aspects of the woman’s role in the church body? Women are nurturers once again, and that carries with it tremendous responsibility not only in the raising and teaching of children, but also as a hostess (see 2 John) in making sure that those who are traveling have a safe and welcoming place to visit or stay, to enfold visitors into the church, and to enable the men to do the task they have been commissioned to do as well. The church needs both men and women to fulfill its role, but it also needs both men and women who are willing to live out God’s design in their lives so that the work of the church may be done as it ought. Churches that go too far in either direction will wind up being lopsided and in error.




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