Thursday, 14 April 2016
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. Galatians 4:3
Paul has been speaking of the heir of an estate who is, until a certain point, no different than a slave within the house as far as authority and needing instruction is concerned. He may be the master of all, but he needs to be instructed, just as a slave does, in every step of his life. Paul now shows that his words were a metaphor for those who have not yet come to Christ. And so he says, “Even so we…”
The “we” is speaking of Jews under the law, but it is not limited to that. He is also speaking of the Gentiles who lived under their own systems of religion within the confines of the world. Each group was deficient in understanding what was needed to be right with God as Christians. In this state, “when we were children” is a time of being in bondage. Whether it is Jews under the law, or Gentiles without Christ, the bondage existed, and the bondage is sin.
The law didn’t take care of the sin problem, it merely highlighted it. Were it not for the provision of mercy within the law, meaning the Day of Atonement, there would be no hope for those under the law. As the Day of Atonement was a day of faith, then their annual covering was not of works of the law, but of trust in God for mercy. Only in Christ is that realized. The same is true with Jew or Gentile.
And so in that previous state, all “were in bondage under the elements of the world.” The word for elements is stoicheion. It means “properly, fundamentals, like with the basic components of a philosophy, structure, etc.; (figuratively) ‘first principles,’ like the basic fundamentals of Christianity” (HELPS Word Studies).
It further refers to “the rudiments with which mankind . . . were indoctrinated (before the time of Christ), i.e. the elements of religious training or the ceremonial precepts common alike to the worship of Jews and of Gentiles” (J. Thayer).
Both Jew and Gentile had worldly systems in that they did not transcend this world. Each participated in ritual sacrifices. Each had certain feast days. Each had systems which only pointed to spiritual and heavenly things. It doesn’t matter that the law was given by God and that the other religions were of man, they both fell under the same worldly types of workings.
It is for this reason that Paul uses the same term, stoicheion, to speak of these systems in a negative light in Colossians 2:8 and 2:20. In those verses, it is referring to any such worldly system – whether law or Gentile religion. The only difference is that the law actually pointed to Christ. Other than that, it was still only a type and a shadow.
If these things, even those under the law, are “worldly” then they need to be put aside when the “heavenly” and “spiritual” truly comes. In Christ, they are realized.
Life application: The Bible is about the redemption of man. How sad it is that people try to convince others that they need to do something which is of this world in order to be redeemed! Christ, the heavenly Man, is the way for us to be reconciled to God. Put away works of the law and be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus. Call on Him today!
Heavenly Father, it is a marvelous day because it is a day in Your presence. When things happen around us that seem confusing or disheartening, we can still find joy and a sense of peace when we turn to You. Is our hope in a sound economy? That’s temporary at best. Is our joy in an expensive house? That can go up in a blaze of fire. Is contentment to be found in another person? Their heart could stop in a … in a heartbeat. No. Nothing of this world can bring full contentment. Only from You is there joy everlasting. And so every day is a marvelous day when it is in Your presence. Amen!