Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11, NIV)
Before we dig into this, let’s define some terms:
- Greek – the most educated, erudite, sophisticated people in the world.
- Jew – God’s chosen people.
- Circumcised – strict followers of God’s law.
- Uncircumcised – those NOT obedient to God’s law.
- Barbarian – technically used by Greeks to stigmatize non-Greeks. The term denotes being uneducated and the inability to articulate. We might use the word “heathen.”
- Scythian – the worst barbarians from way up north by the Black and Caspian Seas. They were known for their violence. We might use the word “thug.” (Interesting side note: most “white” people have ancestry from these barbarians as the term “Caucasian” describes this area of the world.)
- Slave – slave
- Free – not slave
As you read this list, remember that Paul has just finished telling us to set our hearts on things above since we’ve been “raised with Christ.” Then he gave us a list of the “things below” that we need to “put to death:” anger, rage, malice, slander, etc. Today he finishes the “things below” list.
This is not an argument, as we may think at first, of the equality of all men and women. That argument is made conclusively elsewhere in the Bible. This is a specific argument against prejudice in the church! Certainly all men are equal in the eyes of God – but that is especially true in the church under the Lordship of Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we all – no matter what our background – are “renewed in the knowledge of the image of our Creator (v. 10).”
So there are no longer ethnic or racial divisions (Greek and Jew). There are no religious distinctions (circumcised and uncircumcised). There are no educational divisions (barbarians). There are no moral divisions (Sythian). There are no economic divisions (slave or free).
We are simply Christians. He is all in all. Divisions are an unfortunate part of American life. Social scientists and governments don’t have the answer. The answer is found in the church. But we can’t expect the world to get it until it starts with us.