22 July 2021

Rudiments of the Old Era


The Messianic Age dawned in Jesus, and calendrical rituals and other Levitical regulations belong to the old order

In Galatians, Paul chides believers for their desire “to return to bondage under the weak and beggarly rudiments,” including calendrical observations and circumcision.

Since they now live in the age of fulfillment, resorting to outmoded rituals is tantamount to returning to a state of slavery.

Did not God send his Son in the “fullness of time” to redeem those who are under the law, “that we might receive the adoption of sons”? And “because we are sons, He sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.”

Therefore, followers of Jesus are no longer under the custodianship of the Law. With his arrival, a fundamental change in the law and shift in the status of God’s people occurred – (Galatians 4:1-6).

FULLNESS OF TIME


His arrival marked the “fullness of time,” the moment when we ceased to be minors and became full heirs of the covenant promises. To now return to the “rudimentary things” of the old order such as calendrical rituals is the opposite of progress, a return to the “shadows” of the old order even though we now have the substance of what those things foreshadowed!

In the larger context, Paul is addressing both Jewish (“we”) and Gentile (“you”) believers. The main controversy is the effort by men “from Jerusalem” to require Gentile believers to undergo circumcision, and thus “complete” their faith.

However, once that door is opened, issues surrounding the requirements of the Mosaic law regarding the calendar inevitably come into play:

  • (Galatians 4:8-11) – “But at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to them who, by nature, are not gods. But now, having acknowledged God, or rather, having been acknowledged by God, why are you reverting again to the weak and beggarly rudiments to which you again wish to come into bondage? Days you do narrowly observe, and months and seasons and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means, in vain, I have toiled for you!

By God’s grace, believers are set right with God “from the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, not from the deeds of the Law.” To return to the rituals of the Levitical regulations effectively declares that Jesus died in vain - (Galatians 2:15-21).

Because believers are “from faith and not from the deeds of the Law,” they are true children of Abraham regardless of their ethnicity, and they are not “under the Law” and its curse - (Galatians 3:8-12).

ELEMENTARY THINGS


Paul uses an analogy based on the adoption practices of the Greco-Roman culture. Under the law, Israel was comparable to a minor before his formal adoption when the child remained under “custodians and administrators” appointed by his adoptive parent. As such, he differed little from a household slave.

Likewise, believers were “children” in bondage under the “rudiments of the world” until the time appointed when God sent his Son to redeem them. Consequently, they have been adopted, and as sons, they are heirs and no longer minor children.

In his analogy, the law of Moses plays is the “custodian.” But since the “adoption,” a change in status occurred as attested by the receipt of the gift of the Spirit. In Jesus, the role of the “custodian” is terminated.

The Greek term rendered “rudiments” or stoicheion means “elemental, elementary, rudiment, rudimentary, basic” - (Strong’s - #G4747).  It may refer to any first thing, the parts and building blocks that comprise a larger whole.

For example, according to Peter, the “elements” or stoicheia that make up the Cosmos will be burned with fire on the “day of the Lord.” Simply put, the term denotes the ‘ABCs,’ the elementary stages of any subject or parts of any larger thing – (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Returning to the observation of calendar cycles is reverting to the elementary principles of the old era rather than living in the new one inaugurated by Jesus. Rather than completion and maturity, this is a regression to an earlier state of immaturity.

CALENDARS


Paul provides an example of the “rudiments” of the old order, the observation of “days, months, seasons and years.” Submitting to religious rites and regulations based on the cycles of celestial bodies is to return to the “rudiments” of the old regime.

Why are you reverting again?” Paul uses a verb in the progressing present tense, one that means to “revert, turn back.” By resorting to calendrical rituals, the Galatians are returning to bondage under the “weak and beggarly” practices of the old era.

And “beggarly” adds emphasis to the point. What they are doing will only impoverish them spiritually.

His warning is applicable to Jewish and Gentile believers. Previously, the Gentiles were “in bondage to them that by nature are no gods.”  Calendrical observations as religious rites were as common among the pagans of the Roman world as they were among the Jews, though differing in key details.

Paul refers to the desire to “observe closely” days and years.  This represents the Greek verb paratéreō. It means to “watch closely, narrowly observe; to keep scrupulously” (Strong’s - #G3906).

The same verb is applied in the gospel accounts to the Scribes and Pharisees who closely monitor the actions of Jesus to see if he will violate their dietary and Sabbath regulations - (Mark 3:2, Luke 6:7, 14:1, 20:20).

In the Greek text, the clause rendered “days and months and seasons and years” is virtually identical to the Greek Septuagint version of the description from Genesis about the divisions of time:

  • Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” – (Genesis 1:14).

The verbal allusion is deliberate. Calendrical observations characterize the old order, but not the new messianic age. Such practices are not necessarily evil, but in Christ, they become outmoded, passé.

With the inauguration of the New Covenant, the old one has become “obsolete, aged” and is “about to disappear” - (Galatians 1:1-6, 6:14-15, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Hebrews 8:13).

For a follower of Jesus to submit to circumcision, calendrical rituals, and the like, means returning to bondage under the rudimentary principles of the old era. As Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians:

  • With me, however, far be it to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby, unto me, a world has been crucified and I unto a world; For neither circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as by this rule shall walk, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” – (Galatians 6:14-16).

Thus, the Messianic Age and the “new creation” dawned in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work, and his disciples must live accordingly.



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