Apostle Paul, Bible, body and blood, Bread of Life, Christ, Christian identity, Christianity, church division, communion, early Christian church, eternal life, Galatians 3, Gender Identity, Holy Spirit, Jesus, John 6, Messiah, miracle, New Testament, science, Transsexual
(If you have not done so, please read the previous post on the same topic before reading this post.)
In Galatians 3:28, part of the verse states that “there is neither male nor female”. We have to be careful not to take this out of context and make this phrase say more than it really does, for there are a number of other passages in the New Testament that speak about separate roles and differences between men and women. However, none of these differences are spiritual.
The full picture is seen by looking at Galatians 3:26-29. This passage is saying something similar to Acts 10, but it extends it beyond Jew and Gentile (“Greek” means Gentile in this context). It is extended to slave and free, as well as gender. Elsewhere, we read that the poor and rich should be treated equally. The Apostle Paul is denouncing the divisions that were creeping into some early Christian churches: divisions based on identity differences that were spiritually unimportant.
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3 tells us that when Christians are saved, we put on Christ. Spiritually speaking, God no longer sees us in our filthy rags. He sees us in Christ’s shining robes of righteousness. The price of the clothes we wear, the color of our skin or what is between our legs have no bearing on that marvelous fact.
Throughout the Bible, we see people make the mistake of focusing on the physical and temporal, what they could see, rather than the spiritual and internal, including what God sees inside us. This is the same mistake that mainstream Christianity made when beginning to consider the question of transsexualism once awareness of transsexuals began to reach the general public about 60 years ago.
Fortunately, many Christians are seeing things in a new light, based on a combination of Scriptural truth and scientific fact. And to be fair to those who are holding onto old beliefs, many of those old beliefs were held until fairly recently by many in the scientific community, specifically in the fields of medicine and mental health. So I can understand that they would be slow to jump when science says, in effect, we were wrong before but we are correct now, so go along with us. This is one reason I consider a thorough examination of the Bible in this matter of utmost importance in terms of persuading Christians to accept that transsexualism is not a sin.
The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel is another account of people missing the point: focusing on the physical when they should be focused on the spiritual. Starting in verse 26, Jesus upbraids them for their response to His miracles, particularly the miracle of feeding the thousands (verses 5-13). They had continued to follow Him, looking to fill their bellies when they should be seeking His spiritual food (teaching). In turn, they ask Jesus to validate His ministry. (As if the miracles they had already seen weren’t enough!)
Jesus begins His response in verse 32. During this response, in which there are some further exchanges between the crowd and Jesus, allegories continue to be made to spiritual food by Jesus. He tells them that He is the bread of life which came down from heaven, among other things. The crowd begins to grumble at this statement, in part because of mistaken identity. They refer to Mary and Joseph, who they have known as His parents. Jesus is talking about His spiritual origin from His heavenly Father.
But now, Jesus takes it more than a step further. As far as the crowd and even a number of His own disciples are concerned, He goes way out on a limb. Here are those apparently outrageous remarks in verses 50-58:
“This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”
It’s a good thing that they did NOT have mass communication in Jesus’ day. Can you picture the tweets and Facebook posts? “Self-proclaimed Messiah offers strange menu.” “Son of God or son of cannibals?” “Jesus shocks crowd by offering them his flesh and blood for a snack.” And there would be at least a hundred You Tube videos by those with presence of mind to pull out their cell phones and start recording. Prominent leaders would call on Him to retract His remarks. One group after another cancels His upcoming appearances. His synagogue threatens to remove Him from the membership rolls if He doesn’t recant.
These reactions are not speculation. They are the 21st century equivalent of what took place nearly two thousand years ago. Even some of His disciples grumbled when they heard these remarks. First He poses a rhetorical question, asking them how they would react if they saw Jesus ascending to heaven (which He did after the resurrection). Then he speaks the key statement that clearly explains what He meant by eating and drinking His flesh and blood.
In verse 63 He says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” In 1611, the verb “quickeneth” meant to give life. It is used in the Apostles’ Creed in its nominative form when it talks about Jesus judging “the quick and the dead”.
It is the spirit that gives life. Jesus is talking to them about spiritual food, spiritual flesh and blood, not literally physical flesh and blood. And the physical? It isn’t profitable for anything, nothing truly important. Yes, it helps us by providing communication, mobility, dexterity and the five senses. But compared to the far more important spiritual, that which is related to eternal life, the physical is useful for nothing. When compared to eternity, life on earth is a mere blink of the eye.
This wasn’t the kind of Messiah that many, even among those who were following Jesus, were looking for. They wanted a Messiah who would only speak smooth words, who would pour out miracle after miracle upon them, build up a large enough following to drive out the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom. So even after this clarifying answer, John records that many of those who had been following Jesus turned away and departed from Him.
Enough of them departed that Jesus even asked His inner circle of twelve if they would also leave Him. Peter, often the first to respond, gets it right this time. He answers (verse 68), “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” God has revealed to him which of the two is more important.
When so many who were in the presence of Jesus and who heard His explanation get it wrong, it is understandable that some Christians today get it wrong, too. But that doesn’t excuse the error. They know how the story unfolds. They have the entire Bible to see verse after verse and passage after passage that emphasizes that it is the spirit, the things unseen and eternal, that are more important because they are the source of eternal life. Why would they base their gender identity on the physical (if in fact they do for themselves) and insist on basing the identity of others (transsexuals in particular) on the physical? Why would they believe that this is how God sees it?
The third and final additional passage I will consider on this topic will be discussed in the next post. The Apostle Paul has some interesting things to say about identity by looking at his own.