‘We Want Equality’
J. M. Davies, Canada
While a missionary in Spain was preaching the gospel in a market place some years ago, he was interrupted by a man in the audience who kept on shouting, "We want equality". The curiosity of the people was aroused and a large company gathered. Eventually the missionary said,' 'All right, come here". Believing that he had attained his objective the man went forward. When the missionary asked him how much money he had, he put his hand in his pocket and showed a handful of coins. Then the missionary turned and asked a beggar sitting nearby how much money he had. He had just a few small coins, so the missionary said to his interrupter, "You want equality, now come share with the beggar what you have". To this his answer was, "That was not what I wanted". But he dare not shout "We want equality" after that, and he stood and listened as the preacher spoke from the words, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich", 2 Cor. 8. 9. Surprised that such a verse was in the Bible the man purchased a copy of the New Testament.
The Bible recognizes certain differences such as between employer and employee, between husband and wife, between parents and children, and between elders and the younger, but there are also spheres in which the Bible very clearly teaches an absolute equality. These will be briefly considered here.
1. "For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God", Rom. 3. 23. Again, "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned", 5. 12. It is very emphatically stated that it was by one man that sin entered the world, and by one sin, his first act of disobedience. His one act had universal consequences and age-abiding results that reach into eternity. By it every child born into the world is constituted a sinner. Because he was a representative man, his action affected all whom he represents, the whole human family. But apart from having sinned in Adam, and being thereby born a sinner with a sinful nature with sinful tendencies, a bias towards sin and a desire for it, every person is also a sinner by practice. Every man has sinned and is therefore guilty before God. All have not sinned to the same degree, but all have sinned. In the sphere of guilt all are equal; all have sinned.
In the Gospel records there are recorded three cases of persons whom the Lord raised from the dead. One was a child of twelve, another a young man, and the third was Lazarus, a middle-aged man. Each were equally dead but the stage of corruption was different in each. In the case of the child, corruption had not started, whereas the young man's body was being taken to be buried. It could not be kept in the house any longer, while Lazarus had been dead for four days, and by that time Martha, his sister, said that it was stinking. Each was equally dead, although not equally corrupt, but it took the same life-giving power of the word of Christ to raise each of them. In that there is no difference. It is only the power of the word of God in the gospel that can quicken and impart life, whether it be to young or old.
2. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him", Rom. 10. 12. There is no respect of persons with God; all may be saved. At the cross all are on the same plat form, for provision has been made for all. The Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life", John 3. 16. At the cross the rich and the poor met together. It is by grace, and grace alone, that any can be saved. Just as it was by the one sin of the one man Adam that we were constituted sinners, so it is only by one act of righteousness, the one act of obedience accomplished on the cross by the Lord, that we may be constituted righteous. "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world", 1 John 2. 2 R.v. As provision has been made for all, the Bible closes with an invitation: whosoever will may come. Over the cross, the door of mercy, there is clearly written the words, "There is no difference". All who trust in Him are equally justified.
3. "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", Gal. 3. 28. By virtue of the fact that all who truly believe are equally children of God, v. 26, and that all are equally justified, our position before God is the same; there is no difference. Three lines of distinction are noted in the verse. First there is the national, neither Jew nor Greek. Then there is the social, neither bond nor free. Then, lastly, there is the natural, neither male nor female. In the world and the assembly these distinctions still obtain, and as already stated they are recognized by the writers of the New Testament. These distinctions are not removed as far as our daily life is concerned. This is evident by the way instruction is given to each in various parts of the Scriptures. It is important to note that this verse is dealing with the judicial relationship of each believer before God. Every Christian, irrespective of these distinctions, is equally justified. The standing of each in the presence of God is based upon the value that God has placed on the death of Christ. Every true Christian is accepted before God in all the acceptability of the death and exaltation of Christ. That is why the verse emphasizes the truth that "in Christ Jesus" these earthly distinctions are not recognized. God sees the believer in Christ.
4. "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew . . . but Christ is all, and in all", Col. 3. 11. This verse does not emphasize the equality of our position before God, but the fact that the truth of Christ is for all alike. The false teachers in Colosse were saying that only those who were specially initiated into the mysteries could understand. This the apostle cancels very definitely. The truth of Christ is not for a select few, but for all believers alike. This does not mean that there are no differences or degrees in the understanding of the truth of God. Many through the reading of the Word of God, and by the illumination of the Spirit of God, have been enabled to enter into the treasures revealed in the Word of God in a way that others, who have not taken the time to read the Scriptures, have not. However, that is due to their spiritual lethargy. All the truth of Christ is for all alike.
The Lord said to Joshua that the whole land was theirs. It was given to them by deed of covenant-promise made to Abraham, but He added the words, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you". The enemy had to be subjugated, and the land appropriated. So with the Christian today. We need to make our own what the Lord has provided for all without distinction. The truth of Christ is for all believers alike. It is ours to possess. May we go in and possess our possessions, Obad. 17.
5. "For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit", 1 Cor. 12. 13 r.v. The word "for" gives the reason or the basis for the truth stated in verse 12, in which the metaphor of the body is used to teach the oneness of the Church, the body, with Christ the Head. Both are included in the terms, the "Christ". It is evident that the word "Christ" used in the verse cannot be understood as referring to the Lord in an historical sense, as in the words "Christ died for the ungodly". It is used in a mystical, or metaphorical, sense. In Genesis 5. 2 we read that God called their name (namely that of Adam and Eve together) Adam. Of Eve, Adam had said "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh". She partook of the life of Adam as no breath of life was breathed into her nostrils as in the case of Adam. Just as Eve is included in the name Adam in Genesis 5. 2, so the church is included in the term "Christ" in 1 Corinthians 12. 12.
Just as Israel was historically, collectively or nationally, and passively, baptized into Moses in the cloud, and thereby brought into a new relationship with Moses, so by the baptism in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost the Church was constituted the body of Christ. While the disciples were born-again believers prior to the day of Pentecost, by the baptism in the Spirit they were brought into a new relationship with Him as the Head of the Church which is His body. In the matter of membership in the body of Christ, national and social distinctions are all set aside. In order to establish this, it pleased God to give three illustrations as recorded in the book of The Acts. In chapter 2 we have a record of the experience of the twelve apostles, those who were responsible for laying the foundation, Eph. 2. 20. In Acts 10 we have recorded the experience in the house of Cornelius which proved to the Jerusalem church that membership in the church was not dependent on any rite such as circumcision or baptism, though in their case it was a setting aside of circumcision that was the prominent feature. In Acts 19 we have the case of Grecian Jews (the Jews of the dispersion), whom the Palestinian Jews (those who considered themselves to be real Hebrews as Paul claimed to be) rather despised. But the experience in Ephesus established the truth that all such national or other distinctions based on the idea of being a favoured people were obliterated. All believers then are equally members of the Church which is His body, and all have been made recipients of the Holy Spirit, just as the smitten rock provided water for all the redeemed out of Egypt.
All men then are by nature equally guilty before God.
All men irrespective of all earthly distinctions may be saved. The same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him.
All are equally justified before God. The judicial position of all is the same. All are "one in Christ Jesus". The verse in Galatians does not emphasize the organic oneness, but rather the oneness of their position judicially before God. It has therefore no application to relationships in the assembly. There the natural distinctions still remain.
All the truth revealed in Christ is for all alike. Our appreciation of this will depend on the measure of our spiritual apprehension.
All believers are equally members of the church which is His body. But while all are equally members., emphasizing the unity of the body, each has a different function to perform. This emphasizes the diversity that characterizes the members. Responsibility for ministry depends not only on membership., but on a God-given fitness or ability. Membership in the body does not in itself confer upon the individual the liberty to minister. For that there must be the Spirit-given qualification or enabling, and a spiritual submission to the Lordship of Christ as detailed in the commandments of 1 Corinthians 14. 26-40.