Regarding the concept of primogeniture, Kostenberger writes:
“In referring to primogeniture, complementarian scholars are scarcely suggesting that the cultural practice of primogeniture should be enforced today, nor do they think that Paul is endorsing primogeniture per se. Nor would they deny the many examples from the Old Testament…they appeal to primogeniture to explain that the notion of the firstborn having authority would be easily understood by Paul’s readers. The readers of 1 Timothy would not have scratched their heads with perplexity and amazement when Paul says that women should not teach because Adam was created first. The priority of Adam in creation would have NATURALLY SUGGESTED his authority over Eve to the original readers” (Kostenberger, “Women in the Church,” pg. 107).
I’ve referred to Kostenberger’s quote before, but something made me think about primogeniture yesterday. I’ve spent the past several days thinking on Galatians 3, and yesterday was no different. However, I did have a different thought about the chapter than before. Egalitarians spend a lot of time assessing Galatians 3:28 and its implications for women in the church; yet, what about the verse after—what about Galatians 3:29? No one seems to consider the verse AFTER the famous verse of new creation in Galatians 3. Let’s look at Galatians 3:28—
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, ESV).
And egalitarians and complementarians invest a great deal of time writing books and articles on this verse. But by doing so, they (me included) forget what follows:
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29, ESV).
Paul begins verse 29 with the words, “IF YOU ARE CHRIST’S…” Verse 28 tells us that we are “IN CHRIST.” No matter what differences lie between believers, all together are ONE in Christ. There is only ONE body in Christ—and all believers are a part of that one body.
But complementarians stop here. They spend a great deal of time stressing that each member is a part of the body. But verse 29 goes beyond just our unity in Christ: it goes into the IMPLICATIONS of our being ONE BODY in Christ.
Since we are in Christ, we are “Abraham’s offspring, HEIRS ACCORDING TO PROMISE.”
If we are Christ’s, then we are HEIRS, inheritors of the promise, along with Abraham and the Jewish believers.
Let’s look at a text that will explain this further, Galatians 3:
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the GENTILES by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7-9, ESV).
The quote in Galatians 3:8b is found originally in the Old Testament in Genesis 12:3—
1Now(A) the LORD said[a] to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2(B) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3(C) I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and(D) in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."[b]
So when God tells Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed, He really meant ALL nations, including the Gentile nations.
Go back to Galatians 3:28-29. As I stated earlier, complementarians stop too soon in their assessment of the implications of salvation. Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that we are one “in Christ”—but this being “in Christ” is the result of salvation. Paul, however, goes beyond the theory of being “in Christ” and says that it has ecclesiological and personal implications. If someone is in Christ, whether male or female, then they are heirs of the promise. And to be an heir means “to inherit” something. And this is practical.
Let’s look at a situation from our everyday experience. Let’s say that a father has five sons. When the father dies, all five sons EXPECT to receive a portion of their father’s inheritance (each would receive equally 20%). What son would be content just to know he’s getting something BUT NOT receive as much as the next son? No son would be content with that. And no son would accept it. If he is a legitimate son, like his brothers, he will demand that he receive an equal share…
And if Gentiles, including women, are equal SONS of God as well as men, then, God being impartial as Paul tells us in Galatians 2, women expect an EQUAL SHARE in the blessings. The Danvers Statement (and complementarians) will tell you that women receive an equal share. But they also agree to an unequal share—women will receive gifts, but CERTAIN gifts they will not receive. But that doesn’t make sense if women as well as men are legitimate sons (which they are, being that Christ redeemed them through His blood).
Complementarians have espoused primogeniture, the idea that the ELDEST SON gets the father’s inheritance. But IN CHRIST, ALL SONS inherit EQUALLY that which the Father promised to them—and they all inherit AT THE SAME TIME (there is no line of succession for the inheritance to pass from one son to another).
Let’s examine Romans 4 regarding the inheritance:
We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11(J) He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was(K) to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Rom. 4:9b-12, ESV)
Abraham was counted as righteous BEFORE getting circumcised—so the only thing that counts toward righteousness is faith, NOT the work of circumcision itself. Gentiles, then, don’t need to be circumcised (for circumcision will not impart righteousness).
13For(L) the promise to Abraham and his offspring(M) that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14(N) For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For(O) the law brings wrath, but(P) where there is no law(Q) there is no transgression.
16That is why it depends on faith,(R) in order that the promise may rest on grace and(S) be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham,(T) who is the father of us all, 17as it is written,(U) "I have made you the father of many nations"—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,(V) who gives life to the dead and calls into existence(W) the things that do not exist. (Rom.4:13-17, ESV)
Look at verse 16. The inheritance doesn’t depend on the law, but ON FAITH. Why? So that both the adherents of the law and those of faith (like Abraham) would receive the promised inheritance.
I have often heard a term used in books regarding this subject: and the term is called “primogeniture.” I’d like to propose a new word for this study, the word “panogeniture.” This word comes from the Greek word “pan” meaning “all,” and states that EVERYONE receives an equal share of the blessings God has in store for them the moment they believe.
Now, go back to Kostenberger’s quote at the beginning of the post. Does it make sense? Of course not. If Galatians is all about NO FAVORITISM, not even to the Jews, then why would the church at Ephesus, a part of the body of Christ, use a concept such as PRIMOGENITURE (FAVORITISM of one son over another) as a concept by which to measure the rule of New Creation (Gal. 6:15-16) and the blessings thereof? The Jews were first to receive the gospel, and yet, the Gentiles were given that privilege. Why would it be ANY DIFFERENT in terms of male/female leadership?