Of all the authors that I’ve chosen to disagree with, Cottrell is my favorite — because he’s the most honest. He admits that weak arguments are weak. He doesn’t accuse his opponents of bad faith or question their salvation. See his Gender Roles and the Bible: Creation, the Fall and Redemption.
Cottrell spends considerable effort dealing with Gal 3:28. Ultimately his argument is based on Jewish laws of inheritance. He points out that under the Law of Moses daughters did not inherit unless there was no son. Thus, for a female Christian to inherit the “promise,” that is, the promise of salvation by faith rather than works that God gave to Abraham, some mechanism must be found to get around this rule.
Paul deals with this by declaring that at baptism Christians “put on Christ” (3:27 KJV), and so God only sees Jesus when He looks at us, thereby allowing us to claim the inheritance of the promise.
Cottrell also points out that Gentiles and slaves don’t qualify to inherit from Abraham either — only male, free Jews. Thus, the commonality of the three pairs is the contrast in ability to inherit.
I’m inclined to (somewhat) agree with Cottrell to this point.
But then he concludes that therefore inheritance only applies to a Christian’s initial salvation — not to other aspects of our relationship with God. Thus, while men and women have equal access to salvation — clearly the subject at hand — they don’t necessarily have equal access to other elements of the Christian life. And here I must disagree.
Yes, it’s true that salvation is the issue. But among the many points Paul makes in Galatians is that whatever gets you into Christ is the same as what keeps you in Christ. Thus, not only do I not have to circumcised to become saved, I don’t need to be circumcised to stay saved.
Take, for example, 3:3:
After beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal with human effort?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
In verse 3 Paul declares that because we were saved by grace and faith at the outset that we must understand that we remain saved by the same means. In verse 5 Paul speaks in the present tense, saying that the Galatians presently have the Spirit because they presently believe (not because they believed when they were first saved).
The point is that the faith and repentance that allow us to become saved are the very things that allow us to stay saved. There is not one doctrine of how to become saved and another of how to stay saved. It’s all salvation and it’s all faith. Countless other passages are to the same effect.
And this is why Paul declares in Galatians that the gospel — salvation by faith — affects how we deal with our fellow Christians. For example, at the end of chapter 2, Paul rebukes Peters for refusing to associate with the Gentiles. Why? Because discrimination contradicts how we are saved. Paul reminds Peter,
We … know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
In short, Paul declares that the process by which we are saved tells us how we are to treat one another. God accepts Jews and Gentiles both based on faith. Therefore, we may not discriminate between the two. Of course, the same argument addresses how men and women are to relate to one another in Christ. Indeed, if God only sees Jesus when he looks at a woman, then who are we to see anything less?