Enslaved to Elementary Principles
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 8 Monday
Read Galatians 4:1-3- thoughts?
What do you hear? What does it mean? Let’s paraphrase it in simple language:
Galatians 4:1 What I am trying to explain to you is that as long as the heir remains immature, he is really no different from a slave because he needs someone to supervise his behavior, make his decisions and guide his actions, even though he owns the entire estate. 2 He doesn’t have self-governance so he needs the guardians and trustees to protect him from himself until such time he can handle his own affairs. 3 Likewise, when we were childlike in character and immature in our thinking we had no self-control and were slaves to selfish impulses.
So in the first part of Galatians chapter 4, Paul elaborates on the metaphor of a young heir who is a master of his father’s estate by title, but as a minor he is required to be under the supervision of guardians and managers until he reaches maturity and “is little more than a slave in practice.” The quarterly asks how this story should help clarify what the role of the law should be in our lives now that we are in Christ?
We just talked about this yesterday, in terms of the tooth brushing law. We know that God’s laws do not change, but as we grow up and mature, does the role of God’s law in our lives change? How?
When we come to realize God’s law is not like man’s law, it is not a list of imposed rules, that God’s laws are the protocols upon which reality works and upon which life is constructed to operate, and that deviations are destructive to the deviant…then we come to an understanding of the underlying principles behind the laws, we are in agreement with them, and we become an active participant in God’s purposes. I think the role of the law – particularly the written/moral law – in our lives should continue to be a diagnostic instrument to highlight aspects of our character that still need healing. And when we fully understand the natural laws we have highlighted in this class, we can use them to predict the future. Has anyone here been able to do that? Gravity? Plastic bag/respiration? Exertion? Liberty?
OK, back to Paul’s child heir metaphor in Gal. 4:1-7 –
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; 2 but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. RSV
What are these “elementary principles” of the world that enslave us as children?
Phillips translates these as dead and sterile principles, others call them “Ruling Spirits” (Good news Bible) whereas New Jeruselem bible describes this as “Elemental things” and the 1902 Revised has them as beggarly rudiments. 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?
11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:11~15
11 About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11~14
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6: 1~3
Reading this in the Remedy shed some light for me:
1 What I am trying to explain to you is that as long as the heir remains immature, they are really no different from a slave, because they need someone to supervise their behavior, make their decisions, and guide their actions—even though they own the entire estate. 2 They don’t have self-governance, so they need the guardians and trustees to protect them from their immature self until such time as they can handle their own affairs. 3 Likewise, when we were childlike in character and immature in our thinking, we had no self-control and were slaves to selfish impulses. 4 But when the time was right, God intervened and sent his Son–born of a sin-infected human mother, as a real human baby, with a humanity weakened by the law of sin and death– 5 in order to purify, cleanse and purge humanity from the infection of selfishness and fear. He did this in order to heal and restore those diagnosed as “terminal“ by the written law, so that we might receive all the blessings of sons and daughters of God. 6 Because we are children of God, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts to restore Christlikeness of character so that we genuinely call out to God, “Daddy, Father!” 7 Rejoice! You are no longer childlike, needing the supervision of a slave, but are adult children, wise and mature; and as mature children–heirs with Christ of all that is promised!
So these ceremonial laws and practices were only symbols – mere shadows of what was to come – they were always meant to point to Christ, and never intended to take his place. Paul is pointing out how immature it was for the Galatians to go back now and try to regulate their lives around these rules and rituals instead of around Christ – when they were able to experience the real thing! He wanted them to grow and progress from drinking milk to eating solid food like mature Christians who are acquainted with the ways of righteousness (Hebrews 5:11).
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