Redeemed from the Law

The Law was an interim stage with a termination point. Christian believers are no longer “under the Law,” instead, they are “in Christ” - Galatians 4:1-7

Jesus on the cross - Photo by Esau Gonzalez on Unsplash
In his 
letter to the Galatians, Paul points out that if Christians adopt the rite of circumcision, they will regress to that which is rudimentary, and to an earlier stage in Salvation History. The adoption of a Torah-compliant lifestyle means a return to a minority status and the reintroduction of social divisions - [Photo by Esau Gonzalez on Unsplash].

Having been redeemed, to resubmit to the requirements of the Law would constitute enslavement under the “elemental” forces of the old era, ones that were superseded by the arrival of the “seed of Abraham.”
  • (Galatians 4:1-7) – “But I say, for as long a time as the heir is an infant he differs nothing from a servant, though he is lord of all, but instead, is under guardians, and stewards until the day appointed of the father. So also, we, when we were infants, under the elementary principles of the world were held in servitude; but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, who came to be of a woman, who came to be under the law, that them who were under the law he might redeem, that the sonship we might duly receive; and because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, exclaiming: Abba! Oh Father! So that no longer are you a servant but a son; and if a son, an heir also through God.
Elemental principles” translates the Greek noun, stoicheion, a term for the basic components that comprise a larger whole. Its sense is something akin to “elemental, a first principle, rudimentary, basic.” In Greek literature, it refers to the elemental principles of art, science, and discipline. From that came the idea of “elementary principles.” It often refers to a single letter, a part of a word or phrase. It conveys the idea of something that is basic and simple.

Now that Jesus has come, to adopt circumcision is to regress to something that is basic and incomplete. It is comparable to an adult who, though he possesses his inheritance, chooses to return to his minority status under the custodianship of a pedagogue. Paul has 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 you have come to know God…how turn you back again to the weak and beggarly elemental principles (stoicheion) to 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 had delivered them. Likewise, Jesus freed Jewish believers from being under the regulations of the Torah. Its requirements were needed during Israel's minority but not after the promised Messiah had arrived. 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 the law.” Jesus was born a Jew under the covenant obligations of the Torah until the fullness of time came. Once more, Paul sets temporal limits on the Law’s jurisdiction.

Jesus came to redeem them “who were under the Law so that they could receive the adoption of sons.” This refers to Jews, and especially to Jewish Christians. The 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 this redemptive act is “adoption.” Men and women are not “children” of God by birth, but by adoption. All humans are God’s creation but not all are His children. Jews, likewise, became sons by adoption. They do not automatically attain that position because of their biological ancestry - (Romans 8:15-23, 9:4, Ephesians 1:5).

Throughout his argument, Paul is addressing a specific set of "works," the "works of the Law,” not good works in general. The “spirit of his Son” refers to the work of the Holy Spirit to mold the believer into the image of Jesus.

Paul concluded his entire argument in the statement - “So that you are no longer a bondservant but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” And since they are “heirs” apart from the “works of the Law,” why do they seek what the Law could never deliver?

Throughout the argument, the temporal factor is prominent. The Law was an interim stage with a termination point. Consequently, believers are no longer “under the Law.” Instead, they are “in Christ.”




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