Sabbath School Lesson Review 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 8
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 8 Friday
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian. For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ, 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring; heirs according to the promise.” And without hesitating, for there were no chapter divisions in those days, we should go right on. “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave though he is owner of all the estate. But he is under guardian;” see the immediate connection with the preceding verses.
We really shouldn’t pause between. “But he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children,” here we’re going to have a variety in the versions. Now I’m reading the Revised Standard of ’52; you may have something quite different. “When we were children we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law”, or “under law, to redeem those who were under the law”, or again, “under law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father’, so through God you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir.”
Now do those words seem clear in that paragraph? It seems that some words and phrases we’d need to compare with other passages to discover the meaning. For example, what does it mean to be a child in a setting like this? Surely it isn’t a matter of physical age only; the meaning that he’s emphasizing. Is it the equivalent of being a slave a little further down, as opposed to being an heir and being free? And then, what does it mean to be in bondage to elemental spirits?
We ought to read down to 11, I think, to make the comparison a little further. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage,” as opposed to the freedom of being an heir, being a son. “You were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods.” Is that equivalent to the elemental spirits, you see? “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?” See, three times. “Whose slaves do you want to be once again? You observe days and months and seasons and years.” Are those equivalent to the elemental spirits? “I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.” Now in Colossians, where Paul is talking about Gnosticism, the ‘elemental spirits’ translation seems to fit, because the Gnostics did have such beliefs.
But in the context here, how much should we include do you think? Let’s back up a little, first, though. He talks about being a child or a slave or in bondage to this phrase; these powers or these principles that we’re talking about. Have there been other references in the Bible, in the New Testament, in Paul particularly, to being like a child, to be in bondage to elementary things, elemental influences? Can you think of any? Now 1 Corinthians 13 would be very appropriate, wouldn’t it?
In 1 Corinthians 13:11—maybe we should look at these. I jotted down just a few. I know there are others. But especially where Paul has talked about the behavior of a child; that would be of first importance to us here for comparison, wouldn’t it? He’s been talking about love, and the person who loves perfectly is a grown up person. He’s not impatient, he’s not rude, he’s not arrogant, he doesn’t boast, he’s not even irritable. That’s the behavior of a mature, grown up person. But one has not always lived this way. In verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 13, he says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”
Have you ever seen the children lined up to go down the slide on the playground? Have you ever seen them say to each other, “Now, please, you go first? It would just delight me to have you go ahead.” You know how it is there. Or when it’s time for recess, and they go out of the door three at a time, do you ever see them giving way? Oh, some little saints sometimes do, and it’s very stunning; most unusual. “But we forgive them” we say, “They’re just little children.” But of course when 60 year olds act the same way, with a little sophistication thrown in, what does that say about us?
Are we not still acting like children and reasoning like children? Paul says “When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” And the context for childish ways is the list up above. See, when one is mature and grown up, one is patient, kind, not rude, one doesn’t boast. One isn’t arrogant, one isn’t even irritable. Now when one behaves like a child, one needs the protection and the guardianship of law, doesn’t one, to say “Now just a minute, line up and behave decently, and one at a time on the slide. And don’t push out the door now, let’s be civil, one, two, three,” and so on.
We have to have a law telling us to behave like Christians should. Well, other places—like in Ephesians 4, Paul speaks about childish behavior and the goal of growing up. In fact he speaks of this as the whole purpose for organizing the church. In Ephesians 4, where he begins in verse 11, “His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until,” the goal now! “Until we all attain to the unity”, and here I like the New English Bible best, “The unity that is inherent in our faith and our knowledge in the Son of God, and reach mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children.”
Now he describes the behavior of children. “Tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their crafty and deceitful wiles.” This is why children need protection. They need a custodian, a guardian, a paidagogos to protect them. They have to be sent off to havens of refuge. Our schools, you know, at least used to be out in the country; the cities are swallowing them up now. But in the beginning we put them out there to protect them. And many of us grew up in those places, and are grateful for the protection that we had. But it’s one of the conditions of childhood and childishness that one needs protection. “Why then the law?” Paul says, because we needed it.
We needed a guardian to make sure we went to school, that we stayed in school and that we went straight home from school. Ideally one shouldn’t need a law to tell us to be good, don’t push, don’t be rude, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t hate. It’s really embarrassing that we have to be told those things, maybe even more embarrassing for our Heavenly Father to have to say it to His children. But He was willing to add the law because we needed it; we were behaving like children. The next verse describes grownups; 15. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head; into Christ,” and so on.
There’s another place very much like it in Hebrews 5, where Paul talks about the behavior of children and what they need. And because they need such protection, they don’t appear to be very free, they are almost slaves to the law, but they need it. He’s been talking about Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, and he pauses, disappointed that he can’t complete his explanation, and in 5:11 he says, “About this subject we have much to say, which is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s work.” You know that’s the same word, the elemental spirits. It’s the same word, the elements, the ABC’s.
Don’t some versions have ‘the ABC’s ‘? Does Phillip’s have it? I know there’s one. The New English has “ABCs”. This means the elementary things, as in the version you read from on Galatians. “You still need someone to teach you the first principles of God’s work. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness” for he’s a child, and being unskilled, he needs lots of protection. “ But solid food,” like the explanation of who the king of righteousness was, (and we still don’t know, do we?) “But solid food is for the mature.”
King James says ‘perfect’—the same word in the Greek. The word for perfect means mature, grown up. Solid food is for the grownups, for the mature. Now here is a description of mature, grown up people. “For those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” See, they have spiritual discernment. They’ve had practice distinguishing the false from the true, and they can be like Job. And God can say to Satan, you can do anything you’d like to those people. Their faculties are trained to distinguish good from evil. They will discern your deception, and they will not be deceived; they will not let me down.
It’s children who need the protection, don’t they? He goes on to say, “So therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ,” that’s a different word there, “and go on to maturity, not laying over and over again,” and here are the ABC’s, that follow. “And this we will do if God permits.” It’s because of our need that we’ve had such a multiplication of law to protect us. Not to deprive us of our freedom, but to protect us during the days of our ignorance and immaturity, lest we, by our lack of self‐discipline and orderly behavior, lose our freedom prematurely.
God has not given us His law to deprive us of freedom, but to protect us, lest we lose it before we have grown up enough to use it responsibly. So now going back to these elements mentioned in Hebrews 5:11. The elementary things; the elementary teachings. How much should be included, do you think, in Galatians, where he says “Once, when we were children, we were slaves to the elementary things”? The word ‘spirits’ is an interpretation. And as I mentioned, it fits quite well in Colossians, but here it’s just ‘the elementary things’, “We’re slaves to the elementary things.”
Now the other things he mentions that a child is enslaved to, having mentioned the weak and beggarly elementary things in 9. He then says “You observe days and months and seasons and years, and you worship things that by nature are no gods.” All of those things are mentioned. What do you think he’s driving at? When they were children they didn’t realize their freedom. They were in bondage to these elementary things. Now one question that needs to be raised; do you think he’s talking to former Jews or former Gentiles, or maybe both? You see, to a Jew, the elementary things might be one thing, to the Gentiles it might even include these elementary spirits that had come in from Gnosticism. And the hearers wouldn’t have long to think about this. And Paul was trying to make himself very clear to them.
Do you think they would understand immediately what he was driving at? The contrast here between realizing that we’re sons of God, to be filled with the Spirit of Truth and Love that sets us free and helps us to grow up and offer to guard the intelligent obedience that frees sons, and so on, contrasted with what they had been doing before. What do you think is the contrast here?
Remember when we discussed this a long time ago, if one has no understanding of the great controversy over the character of God, if one does not realize that God’s enemy has accused Him of being unrighteous, unloving, untrustworthy before the hearing of the whole onlooking universe, then one is not inclined to read Romans 1 that way. And so many versions limit it to “The gospel is the plan to save us.” Now it does include that.
But the plan to save us means nothing if God is the kind of person Satan has made Him out to be. I wouldn’t want to be saved by Him; I’d be happier living where we are. It’s only if God is the God that the good news and the truth, the message of Jesus, the life of Jesus, prove Him to be, it’s only then that it’s desirable to be saved. So the good news is at its heart, the truth about God; the righteousness of God. So Christ exalted the character of God.
The whole purpose of His mission on earth was to set men right through the revelation of God.” And as we discussed before, there’s the simplest language to explain the plan of salvation. There are some much more complicated Latin terms. But at its heart, the plan of salvation is to set men right, and this is done through the revelation of God “So in Christ was arrayed before men the paternal grace,” there’s Paul’s great term, “and the matchless perfection of the Father.
In His prayer, just before His crucifixion, Christ declared ‘I have manifested Thy name, I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work that Thou hast given me to do.’ ” What work? “When the object of His mission was obtained, that is the revelation of God to the world,” That’s the gospel, that’s the good news, that’s the truth, isn’t it? “The Son of God announced that His work had been accomplished, and that the character of the Father was made manifest to men.”
Now no writer has emphasized that like Ellen White. That’s what’s so unique and distinctive, I believe, about the Adventist way of looking at the plan of salvation. We put it in the setting of the whole great controversy over the character of God.
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