There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
There are three classes of obstacles to all union, and therefore to Christian union, and to the realization of the wondrous prayer of the Lord Jesus. These difficulties arise out of a threefold distinction that may be made among human beings. The Apostle Paul, in my text, does in three different ways divide mankind. He makes a threefold separation of the human race into two dissimilar classes, which, though here and there correspondent with one another, are by no means parallel the one to the other. This classification is governed by(1) the great intellectual differences and antagonisms among men;
(2) the chief emotional and constitutional differences of character; and(3) the prodigious distinctions effected by external circumstances. It is true that St. Paul presents these three antitheses in a pictorial fashion, in a vivid and concrete form, before our consideration, but it is none the less obvious that he is thinking of more than the literal meaning of his own words.
I. The first of these divisions was based on that great antagonism which was so admirably expressed in the apostle's day by the intellectual differences obtaining between the Jew and the Greek. The Jew, strictly speaking, was the member of the holy family, the descendant of Abraham and Israel, a representative of that well-known nationality which had better reasons: than any other Oriental people possessed, to believe that it was the special object of Divine care, and providence, and government. Thus the Jew became the type of all who, in every age of the Church, are, by their education, their mental habits, their strong dispositions, disposed to lay violent stress on the external sign, on the old tradition, even to the exclusion of the realities which are indicated by them. Now let us look at the other great type of intellectual character — the Greek. The term, even in the Acts of the Apostles and elsewhere in the — New Testament, meant more than a Gentile proselyte to the faith of Christ; and the word "Grecian" or "Hellenist" meant more than a Greek-speaking Jew. It is capable of proof that there was in Judaism a Grecized party even before the time of our Lord, and it is quite clear that the Grecian converts to the faith of Jesus were rather characterized by the freshness of their ideas, the freedom of their speculations, the liberty which they claimed from oppressive rite and ceremonial, than by their mother-tongue. No classes of mind could be more directly opposed and dissimilar in their modes of working than those of the pure Jew and pure Greek. To Jewish conservatism the Greek opposed an incessant love of change; to the Jewish love of tradition and dependence upon the wisdom of the ancients the Greek offered endless speculation and elaborate guesses after truth; instead of the Jewish dogma the Greek luxuriated in the last logical puzzle. By the side of the stern exclusiveness of the Jewish Monotheism, the Greek prided himself in a Pantheon of deities, who were admitted on equal and easy terms to the reverence of the Hellenes. The mind of the Jew was hampered in its philosophical researches by a language of great metrical power, but of comparative rigidity of movement and excessive externality and objectivity; the Greek used the most flexible and delicate instrument of thought which human minds had ever fashioned. The Jew accepted the supernatural with child-like simplicity, and asked eagerly for more; the Greek sought after the causes of things, the meaning of words, the essence of government, the unseen and intangible realities. It is not a wonderful thing that St. Paul should have said, "The Jew requires a sign, the Greek seeks after wisdom." The unrestrained liberty of the Greek was not without its serious dangers when it was brought by Divine grace within the limit of the true Church. If the two types of mental character of which I have spoken be found within the Church of Christ, we may expect sharp and sustained antagonism. Even regeneration will not change these grave and fundamental differences of mental constitution. How difficult must it ever prove for these two kinds of men to feel the deep-hidden unity which is possible between them! To put the matter in a concrete form, how difficult for one who imagines religious life to be inseparably associated with form, ceremonial, priesthood, sacraments, liturgies, elaborate dogmatic creeds and transcendental propositions, even to believe in the Christianity of another, whose only notion of it is a holy life, free from all these restraints; who thinks, speculates, philosophizes, and tries to prove all things, and only to hold fast that which is good! Verily, if these tendencies are left to themselves unchecked and unchastised, very distant will be the day when Jew and Greek shall be one.
II. The second of them is the great constitutional and emotional difference of character expressed by the antithesis of male and female. It is not merely the difference of sex of which the apostle is speaking, but rather of the great types of character, which, though not confined to either sex, are best expressed by the terms masculine and feminine. By masculine character, we mean the predominance over the passions of reason and conscience, the energy of will, the submission to law, the conscious pride of independence, strength, self-sufficiency, robust and vigorous life. By feminine character, whether seen in woman or man, we mean the predominance of the affections, the delight of dependence, the unreasoning consciousness of right, the strength of submission, the power of suffering, self-sacrifice, and waiting. In the one there is more power to act, in the other to endure. The strength of the one is energy, and of the other is rest. Both may be led to do what is good; but the one because it is right, and the other because it is lovely. The one looks at religion as a system of principles, the other as the expression of deep feelings. The one sees no religion in mere states of mind, devotional postures, strong sentiments; and the other cannot understand the religion of mere principle and energy. How shall these two types of character be harmonized?
III. The third great decision is that due to differences arising out of external circumstances. The bond and the free are the terms which Paul used to describe this great contrast. But though formal slavery be abolished, the distinction between different classes of men is not obliterated. The struggle between capital and labour, and the contrast between rank and wealth and power on the one hand, poverty, dependence, and obscurity on the other, are as vigorous and obvious as they ever were. How hard it is to bridge the gulf between the lordly owner of a county and the half-clad, unclean, besotted, diseased inmate of some hovel within sight of his palace! How difficult to make even Christian people lay down their pride, and their caste, and love one another with a pure heart fervently! Legislation, common griefs and joys, healthful literature, and free press, are bringing these separate classes into one another's view, and some of the reserve and mutual antipathy may be overcome in the foremost of the nations; but still within the Church, as well as outside its pale, there are the bond and the free. In the person of Jesus Christ is found the true point of contact for them all.
1. That the intellectual antagonism between Jew and Greek, of every age and Church, finds in Christ its true counteraction. The modern representative of the Jew within the Church, when he looks through the form and the letter, and the medium and the visible sign, to the reality which makes him Christian, heartily confesses that it is Christ crucified who satisfies his search. The Jew and Greek of St. Paul's day meet before the cross. "Come," says the Hebrew of Hebrews to the sinner of the Gentiles, "come, brother; thou who weft afar off art made nigh by the blood of Jesus. He is our peace, who has made both of us one, and hath broken down the wall of partition between us: Let thee and me clasp hands before the cross, for we two have access by one Spirit unto the Father." And the Greek responds, "I verily am no more stranger or foreigner, but a fellow-heir and of the same body, and partaker of Divine promise." There is now neither Jew nor Greek; they are both one in Christ Jesus.
2. Christ Jesus is the mediating power between the masculine and feminine mind. Christ is the well-spring of the strong motives to right action and of the deepest passions of holy love. As the mountain torrent may leap with wild pomp and energy from the same water-shed from which, by a quieter transit, other and a gentle stream may wind its way to the great ocean, "reflecting far and fairy-like from high the immortal lights which live along the sky," so too from the same fountain of deep emotions and great purposes varied lives may flow. As the two streams of water mingle at length, to do ever after a united work, so the two classes of mind, when they learn the lesson that from the one Christ they both derive their life and hope, then, "like friends once parted, grown single-hearted," their love begins to abound.
(H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.