22 July 2021

Redeemed and Adopted

OVERVIEW - The Law was an interim stage; by design, it had a termination point. Christian believers are no longer “under the Law”; instead, now, they are “in Christ.” 

Elemental - Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash
In the fourth chapter of
Galatians, Paul argued that adopting the rite of circumcision constituted regression to something rudimentary, a reversion to an earlier stage in Redemptive History. If Gentiles adopted a Torah-compliant lifestyle, they would return to bondage and experience the social divisions inherent in the Mosaic Law - [Elemental Things - Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash].

Enslavement under the “elemental” forces of the old era ceased with the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • And I say, so long time as the heir is a babe, he differs nothing from a servant, though lord of all, but is under tutors and stewards till the time appointed of the father, so also we, when we were babes, under the elemental things of the world were in servitude, and when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, who came to be of a woman, who came to be under the law, that those under the law he might redeem, that the adoption of sons we may receive; and because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father!' so that you are no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ” – (Galatians 4:1-7).
The Greek term rendered “elemental” translates the noun, stoicheion, which refers to the basic components that comprise a larger whole. Its sense is something akin to “elemental, first principle, rudimentary” - (Strong’s - #G4747).

In Greek literature, stoicheion refers to the elemental principles of art, science, and discipline. From this came the idea of “elementary principles.” It could refer to a single letter, a part of a word or phrase. It conveys the idea of something rudimentary and simple.

To adopt circumcision now that Jesus had come amounted to regression to something rudimentary and incomplete. It would be comparable to an adult who, though he possesses his full inheritance, chooses to return to minority status under the custodianship of a pedagogue.

By “elemental principles,” Paul had in view the regulations of the Mosaic Law. This is borne out by his usage of stoicheion in verses 9-10 where he describes Jewish calendrical observances:
  • But now that ye have come to know God…how turn you back again to the weak and beggarly elemental principles (stoicheion), unto which you desire to be in bondage over again? You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.”
For a Gentile to submit to the regulations of the Torah is tantamount to returning to the elemental teachings of the pagan society from which God has delivered him already through faith in His son. Likewise, Jesus freed Jewish believers from being under the “curse of the Law.” Its requirements were needed during Israel's minority, but not after the promised "seed" had arrived.
Since the Law placed anyone who did not do all that it required under the “curse,” inevitably, returning to the obligations of the Law meant coming under its “curse.” Therefore, non-Jewish Christians should not submit to the rituals that Jewish followers of Jesus were no longer required to keep.

God sent forth his Son, having come to be from woman, having come to be under law.” Jesus was born a Jew under the covenant obligations of the Torah, until the fullness of time came. Once again, Paul set temporal limits on the jurisdiction of the Law.

Jesus came to redeem those “who were under the Law, so that they could receive the adoption of sons.” This clause refers to Jews in particular, especially, to Jewish Christians. Their need for redemption implies that being “under the Law” was tantamount to bondage. Paul’s previous statement is conceptually parallel:
  • Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, CURSED IS EVERY ONE THAT HANGS ON A TREE: that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” - (Galatians 3:13-14).
The result of Christ’s act is “adoption.” Men and women are not “children” of God by birth, but instead, by adoption. All human beings are His creation, but not all are His children. Jews, likewise, became “sons” by adoption - (Romans 8:15-23, 9:4, Ephesians 1:5).

Because Gentile Christians became His sons, He sent the “Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This statement rounds off the argument that began at the start of chapter 3 when Paul reminded the Galatians that they had received the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state - (Galatians 3:1-4).

Throughout his long argument, Paul was addressing a specific set of "works," the "works of the Law," and not good works or human effort in general. The phrasing, “spirit of his Son,” refers to the work by the Holy Spirit to mold the believer’s life into the image of Jesus Christ. What greater proof of the acceptance of Gentiles into God’s covenant community could they possess than the gift of the Spirit?

The Apostle concluded his entire argument in the statement, “So that you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” Thus, all who are “in Christ” are “heirs” of the covenant with Abraham. And since they are “heirs” of the Promise apart from the “works of the Law,” why seek what the Law could never deliver by obligating oneself to all of its provisions?

Throughout Paul’s argument, the temporal aspect is prominent. The Law as “custodian” was always an interim stage between the original promise and the arrival of the “seed of Abraham,” and thus, it had a predetermined termination point. Consequently, believers are no longer “under the Law,” but instead, they are “in Christ.”

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