“Partakers Together In One Body”
(Eph. 3:6; Gal. 3:26-28)
Warren E. Berkley
“In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” (Gen. 12:3; 22:18).
With these words spoken to Abraham, God set in place a promise that would stay alive long after it was first spoken. God would direct the work of fulfilling this promise through the nation formed from Abraham, the law He gave through Moses, the changing fortunes of the nation, the work of the prophets and the brief ministry of John the Baptist. After the fullness of the time came, Paul wrote to the Galatian churches and said: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Gal. 3:13,14).
As a result of God’s work, bringing the promise to reality in Christ, those in Christ find themselves partakers together in one body. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Gal. 3:26-29).
“This passage is designed to show that one’s standing before God is not determined by nationality, social position, or sex. One stands acceptable before God on the grounds of the blood of the Jesus Christ and on the conditions that he has faith in Christ, has repented of his sins, and has been baptized into Christ,” (Mike Willis, Truth Commentaries, Galatians, p#170).
Fellowship, therefore, should never be extended or withheld, based on status among men (bond or free), gender (male or female) or racial (Jew or Gentile). There is no suggestion in this that the distinctions or differences have no meaning; that they completely disappear. The point at hand is, they have no meaning in separating us from each other in Christ. We are “partakers together in one body,” enjoying equality in Him and empowered to accept and respect one another unconstrained by the common walls of separation. We must never condone, encourage or demand “fellowship” broader than what the New Testament allows. But we must share, participate with and hold in proper esteem our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ (of whatever race or social status).
At no other place, in no other way and in no other relationship, can people with previous diversity find compelling unity (fellowship with God, then fellowship with others who partake in the same). The “mystery of Christ” unveils this blessing that God first spoke to Abraham, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,” (Eph. 3:6). The promise God made to Abraham became the offering of the gospel to all men, that in Christ they might meet God as a justified people and meet each other as joint-heirs.
This truth reminds us of the basic principle: no condition of salvation should be imposed that God hasn’t given. And no test of fellowship should be enforced, except the faithful application of God’s standard, His Word. Fellowship must never be denied or withdrawn based on race, status or gender.
Fellowship with people of previous and present diversity is a blessing, to be acknowledged and appreciated. Fellowship with people of previous and present diversity should become a part of our rich functioning together in Christ, doing His will and joining together preaching Him to all. This is not about Jews acting like Gentiles or Gentiles acting like Jews (see Gal. 2:11-19). This is about all who are in Christ acting like Christ, and thus being partakers together in one body; members acting under the direction of one Head.
“This distinction meant much in pre-Christian ages. The Jews were God’s peculiar people, blessed with great privileges and prepared for great destinies. The Greeks, representing the Gentile world, stood apart from the Jews — ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise’ (Ephesians 2:12). But Jew and Greek stand on exactly the same footing in the kingdom of God, possessed of equal privilege, equally sons of God, and equally heirs of God. Christ broke down the middle wall of partition that severed them for ages, and made them one commonwealth.” (Pulpit Commentary, Homiletics, Gal. 3). Someone called this, “the death of the tribal spirit.” When Jews and Gentiles obeyed the gospel, they figuratively walked over “the middle wall of separation” and stepped into Christ, there to become partakers in one body.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit,” (1 Cor. 12:12,13).
May we put aside any attitudes, habits, traditions, teachings or reactions that fail to take to heart the unity of obedient believers in Christ. Enjoying the same privileges, having the same obligations and sharing the same destiny, there is motivation to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Previously published in Biblical Insights, 2004