Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse comes in the broader context of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in which he is correcting some wrong thinking that had crept into the churches in Galatia.
Specifically, in Galatians 3 Paul is arguing against the false teaching that Christians needed to obey the Jewish law in order to be saved. Certain people, referred to as “Judaizers,” were teaching that in addition to having faith in Christ, Gentile believers needed to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. Paul argues vigorously against this, saying that people are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by works of the law (Galatians 2:16).
In Galatians 3:26-29, Paul gives the basis for why Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. He says:
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and 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.
Paul is saying that those who have faith in Christ are united to Him, and this unity transcends earthly categories like ethnicity, economic class, or gender. When someone becomes a Christian, they become part of God’s family. Paul uses the metaphor of being clothed with Christ to describe how a believer’s identity is now found in Christ rather than any other external factor.
The specific declaration that there is “neither Jew nor Greek” in Christ is significant in light of the context. Under the Law of Moses, Jews enjoyed special religious privileges and blessings from God. Many Jews tended to look down on Gentiles as outside of God’s covenant favor. But Paul says that in Christ, Gentiles have equal standing before God. Ethnicity and bloodline do not determine your status in God’s family. All believers, whether Jew or Greek, are united to Christ and full heirs of God’s promises.
Some key points about the meaning of “neither Jew nor Greek”:
- It affirms that God’s salvation is offered to all people regardless of ethnicity.
- In Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike have access to God by faith.
- The way of salvation is the same for all believers; not different for different ethnic groups.
- No ethnicity is spiritually superior before God.
- All Christians become part of the same spiritual family/body in Christ.
- Earthly divisions and barriers are erased in Christ.
- Believers have a new primary identity in Christ that transcends ethnicity.
BesidesJew and Greek, Paul also says there is no distinction between slave and free or male and female in Christ. In the ancient world, social-economic status and gender carried even more division and inequality than ethnicity. Paul is emphasizing that the Christian’s identity and status before God is based on their relationship to Christ, not any other earthly category. When people enter the body of Christ, they become equal members of God’s family.
The Old and New Covenant Context
It’s also important to understand Paul’s radical statement in light of the Old Covenant and New Covenant arrangement. Under the Old Covenant (the Mosaic Law), Israel enjoyed a special covenant status with God. Gentiles could convert to Judaism, but generally speaking God dealt specifically with the physical descendants of Abraham. But Christ initiated the New Covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20), which included Gentiles being grafted into the people of God (Romans 11:11-24). The sign of the Old Covenant was circumcision, but the sign of the New Covenant is faith and regeneration by the Spirit (Colossians 2:11-12). So Paul is affirming that all who believe in Christ—whether Jew or Gentile—are partakers of this New Covenant.
Romans 10:12-13 also helps illuminate the Jew/Greek distinction:
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The same Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over all nations, and He graciously saves all those who call upon His name, regardless of ethnic background. In the New Covenant era, God’s people are identified by faith in Christ rather than ethnicity or any external factor.
So in summary, the statement “there is neither Jew nor Greek” affirms the equal standing of all nationalities and ethnicities before Christ. All believers, regardless of race, gender, or social status, are united to Christ and members of God’s family. No nation has superiority or unique spiritual privileges in the body of Christ.
This truth should have profound implications for how Christians view and treat those of other races and nations.
- No place for racism or ethnic superiority
- Values unity amidst diversity
- Views other nations with dignity and compassion
- Does not show favoritism based on ethnicity
- Ethnic discrimination has no place in the church
- Ministers to all people regardless of ethnic background
- Seeks to break down walls of division between people groups
The church is intended to be a beautiful tapestry of believers from every tribe, tongue and nation unified in Christ. Christians should lead the way in overcoming racial barriers and modeling the truth that we are all one family in Jesus Christ.
Though this verse speaks directly of Jews and Gentiles, the principle applies broadly to racial reconciliation and ethnically diverse Christianity. As it says in Revelation 7:9, the multi-ethnic multitude before God’s throne reminds us of God’s intention to redeem people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.”
Application for the Modern Church
In light of Galatians 3:28, pastors and church leaders should think through how to apply this truth to their specific context. Here are some suggestions for putting this into practice in the local church:
- Preach and teach on our equal standing before God regardless of ethnicity.
- Encourage ethnic diversity and inclusion within the church body.
- Sing worship songs in different languages and styles.
- Pursue reconciliation where there are racial divisions in the church or community.
- Value the perspectives and gifts of diverse church members.
- Allow leadership that reflects the diversity of the church body.
- Embed vision for ethnic inclusivity into church values/constitution.
- Repent of ethnic prejudice and teach equality in Christ.
The truth of Galatians 3:28 provides a biblical foundation for valuing diversity while maintaining unity in Christ. It calls us beyond comfort zones to pursue deeper fellowship across cultures for the glory of God and the testimony of the gospel.
Galatians 3:28 succinctly expresses a core New Testament teaching that in Christ the divisions and inequalities of this world are nullified. Every Christian equally bears God’s image, has received the Spirit, and belongs to the family of God. Though Jews and Gentiles traditionally were divided, Paul declares they are united as one in the Messiah. This happens not by human effort but by Christ’s work in making believers of all nations into one body, the church. The practical fruit is that Christians lay aside prejudices and ethnic discrimination for the sake of fellowship and mission. All the redeemed have a common Savior and a common destiny. May this truth that enriches our oneness in Christ continue to shape churches today for God’s glory among every nation on earth.