Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Grecian,” etc.
“These words (as I have said) contain an answer to an objection, which is this. If all believers among the Gentiles be children of God, and all put on Christ, then there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, and the prerogative of the Jew is nothing. Paul answers thus. There be sundry differences of men in respect of nation, condition, sex. Yet in respect of Christ, all are one. Moreover, I have showed that these words contain the ground of the adoption of the Galatians, which is a union with Christ whereby all believers are made one with Him.
There remain other things to be added. By occasion of this text, two questions are moved, the answer hereof serves much to clear the meaning of Paul.
The first is, whether magistracy and government be necessary in the societies of Christians?
Answer. Yea: “Kings and queens shall be nursing fathers and nursing mothers to the church of God,” says the prophet (Isaiah 49:23). Paul bids us, “Pray for kings and all in authority, that we may live in peace and godliness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The fifth commandment, “Honor thy father,” etc., requires subjection to authority. And this commandment is eternal.
Objection I. All believers are “one in Christ.” Therefore there is no subjection among them.
Answer. Believers are under a twofold estate or regiment. The first is the regiment of this world, in civil society. The second is the regiment of the kingdom of heaven which stands in “justice, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost.” In the first estate, there are sundry differences of persons that believe: some fathers and mothers, some children, some masters and servants, some magistrates and subjects. In the second estate, there are no outward differences of men, but all are members of Christ, and all one in Him. Thus must the text be understood.
Objection II. Believers are governed by God’s Spirit, and therefore outward government by magistrates is needless.
Answer. In the visible church, hypocrites are mingled with true believers, and they are not governed by God’s Spirit, but by the spirit of the devil. And therefore in respect of them, civil authority is requisite. Again, true believers are but in part governed by the Spirit for the time of this life. And for this cause, civil government is requisite for the ordering of the outward man and for the protection of the church.
Objection III. They that are in Christ are freed from sin, and, consequently, from subjection which follows upon sin.
Answer. Subjection is either politic or servile. Politic is when men are subject for their own good, and this was before the fall, yielded by Eve to Adam. Servile subjection, when they are subject for the good of their masters. And this only comes of sin. Again, subjection with joy was before the fall. Subjection joined with pain and misery follows upon sin (Genesis 3:16).
The second question is, whether bondage, in which some are lords, others bondmen or slaves, may stand with Christian religion
Answer. It may, in the countries where it is established by positive laws, if it be used with mercy and moderation. Righteous Abraham had in his own house, bond-slaves (Genesis 17:13). God did permit the Jews to buy the children of the Canaanites (Lev. 25:45). Paul says, “If any man be called being a servant or bondman, let him not care for it” (1 Corinthians 7:21).
Objection I. “Be not servants of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23).
Answer. That is, in respect of conscience, the subjection whereof must be reserved to God.
Objection II. Christians have liberty by Christ. And where liberty is, there may be no bondage.
Answer. Christians obtain by Christ spiritual liberty in this life, and bodily liberty in the life to come.
Objection III. Bondage is against the law of nature.
Answer. Against the law of pure nature, created in innocence, not against the law of corrupt nature, the fruit whereof is bondage.
Objection IV. “All are one in Christ.” Therefore the difference of bondmen and freemen must cease.
Answer. All are one in respect of the inward man, or in respect of faith and fellowship with Christ. But all are not one in respect of the outward man, and in regard of civil order. The sense then of the text is this. There are distinctions of men in respect of nation: some Jews, some Gentiles; in respect of condition: some bond, some free, some rich, some poor, some in authority, some in subjection, etc.; in respect of sex: some men, some women. Yet in Christ Jesus, all are even as one man.”
— William Perkins (1558–1602), Commentary on Galatians