Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
June 17, 2012
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
1901 ASV Translation
3 So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world:
4 but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
- I. In Bondage Under the "Rudiments" of the World.
- A. Paul clearly says that his "bondage" was being "under the law".
- B. Paul's application of his analogy involves his claim that "...we were children...": in what sense?
- 1. At the most restrictive level, the "we" who were children are the Jews (the only people who were ever under "the" law from Sinai).
- 2. The issue brings up the history of the Jews from Sinai to Christ as a period of childishness on the part of the nation. The convoluted reality of "the people of God" being both blessed (reaching the apex under Solomon) and cursed (as evidenced by both the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities and the on-going subjugation under Greek and Roman military and legal authorities) does argue that those "people of God" never got it together in terms of theological clarity and understanding. And this, after all is said, is actually the bottom line of the kind of maturity that is required of those who are trusted to exercise "lordship over all".
- a. The "problem" here is that Paul is arguing in a "national" sense rather than an "individual", or "personal", sense: the "we" is a nation of people, not individuals. This is clear from the fact that "the fulness of the time" can never be equated to any particular individual. No two individuals reach "the time set by the father" at the same time. Since Christ came as the One Who set the "redemption event", and that event is the "occasion" by the Father of opening the way for the "adoption of sons", the only way Paul's argument makes sense is if he conceives of world history as that of "a" man rather than the history of individual men. This becomes problematical when the "generic" reality is applied to any given individual.
- b. The "wiggle-room" in this concept is this: the "nation" is the "heir", but no specific individual within that nation is in view. Thus, the "nation" has a future, but the individuals within that nation at any given time in history, both before the "fulness of the time" and afterwards, only have such a future if those individuals arrive at the same particular place of both understanding and faith as the nation. In other words, only those who are "of Christ" are the "seed of Abraham" and, thus, "heirs". Nationally, not even Israel reached "the time set by the Father"; only the "Israel of God" (Paul's "the children of promise" concept in Romans 9:7-9 is in play here) actually arrived at the "maturity" required by the Father.
- 3. The larger question is how Paul can consider both Jews and Gentiles as "having arrived" at such theological clarity at the point of the coming of the Son of God. His wording implies that "arrival" has to do with "redemption". In other words, the "freedom" of heirs is not so much tied to personal progress in a life of faith as it is to the personal grasp of what it takes to enter into redemption. Granted, the foundations of maturity are involved in the "redemption by faith in Another", but to understand we must move away from the ideas that normally exist at the "maturity" level. Instead, we must see the establishment of the principles of such, currently non-existent, maturity at the point of "redemption" as the "day set by the Father". In other words, Paul can say that the Galatians are "heirs" who have moved beyond "childishness" if they "believe" in faith-based redemption even though they are giving large evidence that their grasp of such a redemption is extremely marginal, having departed from Him Who called them into the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6). Clearly Paul sees the Galatians as having come to "the day set by the Father" because they have begun to enter into the freedom to which they have been called (Galatians 5:1 and 13).
- C. But he calls this bondage a matter of being "under the 'rudiments' of the world.
- 1. What does he mean?
- a. First, he is addressing the issue of "faith" and its specific content. Being "under" (i.e. "in bondage") is, at root, simply a matter of what a person believes. Faith in lies produces slavery and faith in truth sets one free no matter what the outward circumstances.
- b. Then, there is his terminology...
- 1) He uses the word to refer to "ordinances" (Colossians 2:20); and "weak and beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9).
- 2) The author of Hebrews referred to "the first principles of the oracles of God" (5:12) and further identifies them as "milk" doctrines that even babies can grasp.
- 3) Peter says of certain "elements" that they will "melt with fervent heat" (2 Peter 3:10/3:12) and indicates that this "melting" will result in a "new heavens and a new earth" in which righteousness will "deeply settle" (3:13) so as to be a most fundamental characteristic.
- 4) A summarization of these uses indicates that most, if not all, complex organisms are the result of the combination of many individual, "simple", parts, the combinations of which create the complexity (like the entire color spectrum devised from the three basic colors [red, blue, yellow]). Likewise, Paul considered the maturation of the Kingdom to be the result of "basic elements" that, when properly combined, will produce the "righteous Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15). What this means in our context is that the "Law", produced by angelic ministers, lays out the most basic realities of "righteousness". These most basic realities double down upon the fact that relationships between persons (divine, angelic, or human, in any combination) thrive when persons treat persons in judicially recognized, legitimate (righteous), ways and die when persons treat persons in judicially recognized, illegitimate (unrighteous), ways. Thus, the Ten Commandments zero in on four basic requirements upon men who seek a legitimate relationship with God and six basic requirements upon men who seek legitimate relationships with other men. In the same way, the author of Hebrews 5:12 deliberately identifies six "elemental doctrines" in 6:1-3 that, properly understood and applied, lead to "perfection". He calls these "the principles of the doctrine of Christ". We could legitimately modify that into "...the first principles...". Thus, because Paul clearly sees "laws" as "individual statements" of what harmony between persons requires, he presents "Law" as a compendium of "rules" that overtly declare "righteous reality". But this "Law" is "spiritual" and humanity is "carnal" in such a way that there is no way to mesh them into a fruitful production of the Kingdom of Light and Love (Romans 7:14).
- 5) To answer our question, then, Paul meant that the "rudiments of the world" were the individual principles of righteousness expressed by "Law" in the form of "tutors and governors" (i.e., compelling forces that work against the "child" in his/her naturally self-focused way of thinking and, thus, "force" compliance upon the child against his/her own willingness and/or desire. The problem is that "forced compliance against one's will/desire" does not produce the joy of life.
- 2. Why did he call the "legal" issues a matter of "rudiments"?
- a. First, because he wished to indicate the fact that "bondage" typically consists of "forced compliance" over a broad spectrum that makes "Life" impossible because of the magnitude of conflict between the "child" and the "rules".
- b. Second, because those "rudiments" are identified in respect to "the world" and not to "Christ" (Colossians 2:8). In other words, "the rudiments of the world" are going to be those basic principles that "the world" has established and recognizes in its "carnal" state. These have no hope of producing "Life" whatsoever. Most fundamentally, "the world" ignores the most fundamental realities of "Christ": Love, Wisdom, Grace, and Righteousness. "The world" is most fundamentally self-serving at its core and "legalism", backed by punitive power, is its response to the need for harmony ("Peace") in the creation.