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One in Christ from Order of Creation/Order of Redemption

One in Christ

from Order of Creation/Order of Redemption
by Michael Azkoul, publ. Orthodox Research Institute, 2007, pp. 43-49.

Republished on our website with permission of the author.

“For you are the children of God by the Faith in Christ Jesus, For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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.”Galatians 3:26-28 is currently viewed by many Christian writers as the biblical manifesto of “gender equally.” This, along with other such verses, form the basis of the biblical argument for the admission of women to the priesthood.( 40)

But this verse does not say the sexes are equal or the ame, but “one in Christ” And, to be sure, St. Paul did not write “unto the churches in Galatia” in order to announce the “equality” of women in Christ, certainly not in the modern sense. He tells them and us that within the Church there are many roles, but all exist to foster unity n the Spirit. In the specific case of women, writes R.T. Beckwith, “the normal role of woman has been as wife and mother, and her normal sphere the home.”(41) I am not certain that Beckwith has gone far enough. Motherhood is not so much a “role” or “ministry” as it is something inherent to the female gender itself. Surely, that is the reason that the Orthodox Church thinks of “virgins” or nuns (female monastics) as more than women.

Men and women bear “the image of God” and, therefore, they share the same humanity. What is common to them transcends the biological differences. Nevertheless, what they possess in common does not eliminate the physical and emotional differences between them. God has grounded gender in nature (creation). It is written on our bodies, and it will not disappear at the resurrection (redemption), nor will deification erase the distinct identities of male and female. The righteous will spend eternity with the blessed Trinity as men and women. Monasticism is a type of the future existence, inasmuch as male and female monks live on earth as the angels, “neither giving nor taking in marriage”(Matt. 22:30).

On earth, at least, our oneness in Christ does not outlaw many members and offices, “For by one Spirit are we baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, and all have been made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many” as St. Paul teaches the Church at Corinth (12:12-13). In the words of St. Justin Martyr, Galatians teaches that the Church lives by one Spirit, one Faith, as “one man.”(42) Nevertheless, the one Church has many functions. “Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular” Paul writes. “And God has set some in the church first to be apostles, secondarily, prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, etc. ”(12:27-31). Each person has his duty and his rank, the highest of these the “elders” or “presbyters,” generic term for the leaders of the Church. There is nothing here that leads us to conclude that the Holy Spirit has reduced the members and their duties of the Church to an abstract sameness.

The Fathers make very plain the meaning of unity or “oneness in Christ” “This is the purpose of the great mystery for us,” wrote St. Gregory the Theologian. “This is the purpose in God, who for us was made man and became poor, to raise our flesh, and recover His image, remodeling man that we might all be made one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). He was made perfectly one in all of us what He Himself is, that we might no longer be male or female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free (which are badges of the flesh), but rather bear in ourselves the stamp of God, by whom and for whom we were made, and have so far received our form and model from Him.. ,”(43) In other terms, gender characteristics are not relevant to our unity or salvation in Christ.

St. John Chrysostom says the same: “‘For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.' We have all become sons of God. Since Christ is the Son of God; and thus having put Him on, you have the Son within you. You are fashioned according to His pattern. You are kindred in nature with Him. In other words, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ’ We are all the children of God through the Faith. Paul does not stop there; but tries to find something more exact which may serve to describe our oneness...he comments that ‘You are all one in Jesus Christ,’meaning that you have all one form and mould with Christ Himself. What can be more wondrous than these words! He that was a Greek, or a Jew, or a bondsman yesterday, now carries about in himself the form, not of an Archangel, but of the Lord of all, displaying Christ in himself.”(44 )

St. Ambrose of Milan likewise stressed the unity of those who have been incorporated into Christ.“And these indeed were you, but ‘you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God’(1 Cor. 6:11). How many instances of this need I produce? For it is written ‘you are all one in Christ’ (Gal. 3:28)...‘sanctified in Christ’ (1 Cor. 1:2)...‘you have the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Cor. 5:21) ...”(45) St. Hilary of Poitiers likewise associates Gal. 3:28 with oneness in Christ, but links it with the common will of believers and their participation in the Sacraments. “For as the Apostle shows that the unity of the Faithfuk arises from the Sacraments when he writes to the Galatians,‘For as many of you were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. 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’... That these are one among such diversity of race, condition, sex—is from an agreement of will or from the unity in the sacraments, since they all have one baptism and put on Christ...,”(46).

St. Leo the Great also connects oneness in Christ with baptism. “And because through the transgression of the first man the entire stock of humanity was tainted, no one can be freed from the state of the old Adam, save through Christ's Sacrament of Baptism. Therefore, the Apostles says, “‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ put on Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, but you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3:27-28) ...Behold how the grace of God makes what is unequal equal, whatever their labors in this life.”(47) God does not look upon His children by virtue of their race, nationality, class or gender, but to their identity with His Son. Their “equality” is the consequence of their membership in the Church — not through any political solution. This equality before God cannot be found outside the Church. Only in her are we “Abraham’s seed and heirs are all one in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:29).

Whoever is baptized into Christ has the same value before God and, to be sure, each must pay equally, “a ransom for his soul” (Exodus 30:15). The Sacraments work unity in Christ, but the process of salvation also requires human effort: a common Faith and a common will. They are bestowed upon us as a pledge or earnest of the promised kingdom, of the good things to come. In Divine-human synergy or covenant, the Faithful are prepared for the Kingdom of heaven wherein the saved are like angels “neither giving nor taking in marriage.”(48)The promises of the future, however, do not entitle us to revolutionize ancient practices or revise the doctrinal and canonical imperatives of Tradition in favor of a new understanding of men and women in the Church. For the present, there is no “democracy” in the Church. Patriarchy and the hierarchy are a permanent feature of the earthly Church, which extends from the “order of creation” through the “order of redemption.”

To summarize, Galatians 3:28 nowhere supports male/female egalitarianism in the functioning of the Church. It is not, as some writers think, the last word on the subject of female equality. St. Paul unambiguously teaches in all his letters the subordination of the female to the male. He recognizes the distinction between male and female as taught by Genesis; and, also, that it is through this condition, perpetuated in the new covenant, as soteriologically essential. In other words, we are not free to profess that St. Paul was speaking only for his time or that the holy Fathers failed to explore certain not probe beyond the landmarks erected by their predecessors, it was that they respected their silence.

Notes

40. R. B. Alien, Liberated Traditionalism: Men and Women in Balance. Portland (OR), 1985, p. 134.

41. “The Office of Woman in the Church to the Present Day,” in Why Not? Priesthood and the Ministry of Women. Ed. by M. Bruce &G.E. Duffield. Appleford, 1976, p. 27.

42. Dial. c. Trypho, ch. 116 PG 6 745A.

43. Ora VII, 23 P_G 35 783C.

44. Comm. On Gal., III, v. 28 NPNF.

45. Of the Holy Spirit II, viii, 74 NPNE.

46. On the Trinity, VIII, 8 NPNE.

47. Ep. XV, 11 NPNE.

48. Cf. St. Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians II, 74 NPNF; St. Aphrahat, Selected Demonstrations XXII, 13 NPNF; St Jerome, Ep. 75, 3 NPNF.

49. N.V. Harrison, “Orthodox Arguments Against...,” 179.

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