“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”
“where there is neither Greek nor Jew”
The terms “Greek” and “Jew” are national differences. A “Greek” is a person who is a Gentile, a non-Jew. The Roman world classified a “Greek” as a person who participates in Greek culture and, in so doing, would speak the Greek language, but not necessarily a person of Greek ethnic background. A “Greek” was equivalent to a civilized person Greek applied to such Gentiles as spoke the Greek language, e.g., Gal. 2:3; 3:28 used in contrast to the “barbarian” (Romans 1:14).
“circumcised nor uncircumcised”
“Circumcised” are Jews. “Uncircumcised” are those who are not Jews. This phrase signifies religious difference — no rite of religion can influence the Christian life.
“Barbarian” and “Scythian” are cultural differences. “Barbarian” properly means one whose speech is rude or harsh; the word is onomatopoeic, indicating in sound the uncouth character represented by the repeated syllable “bar–bar.” Hence it signified one who speaks a strange or foreign language (1 Cor. 14:11).
The “barbarian” came to denote anyone ignorant of Greek or its culture, a person not participating in Greek civilization. The focus is on culture rather than language (1 Cor. 14:11). One may render the contrast in Romans 1:14 as “the civilized and the uncivilized.”
“Scythians” were uncultured, nomadic people from north of the Black and Caspian seas. They were fierce barbarians who scalped their enemies, used their skulls as drinking cups, and offered human sacrifices. They are taken as a specific representative of the barbarian world.
“slave nor free”
“Slave” and “free” are economic or social distinctions (Gal 3:28). Roman law did not classify the “slave” as a human being. His master could maim or kill them at his pleasure. The slave had no rights. He did not even have the right to marriage.
Jesus destroys the walls that divide.
All human classifications and distinctions are void in Christ. The world of the New Testament, as in our day, was full of divisions between people. The Greeks looked down on slaves and barbarians, and Scythians. The Greek was the aristocrat of the Roman world and lauded their culture over anyone who was not Greek. The Jew also looked down on the Gentile.
Regardless of the level of culture or civilization, each ethnic group considers some other group as uncivilized. We cannot excuse racism based on class or background. Jesus sets aside all our education, background, nationality, and experience.
Jesus breaks down social barriers. Jesus sets aside national, religious, cultural, and social distinctions. God’s Word says that there is one place where everyone is equal, and that is at the foot of the cross.
There is no ultimate answer to race problems because of the degeneracy of the human being. Government can legislate rights, but it cannot legislate the heart. Slavery was rampant in Paul’s day. In the devil’s world, there is no solution to the inequalities of life. There never will be an ultimate solution to the social and racial problems except for the gospel.
Very insightful. Thank you very much. Spot on!