Redeemed and Adopted

The Law was an interim stage with a termination point. Disciples are no longer under its jurisdiction, but now, are in Christ

In Galatians, Paul argues that adopting the rite of circumcision constitutes regression to something rudimentary, a reversion to an earlier stage in the redemptive history of God’s people. If Gentiles adopt a Torah-compliant lifestyle, they will return to bondage and once more experience the social divisions inherent in the Law.

For the disciple of Jesus, enslavement under the “elemental” forces of the old era ceased with the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who came “in the fullness of time” to redeem those who were “under the law.”

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash
[Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash]

As Paul makes his case, the 
temporal aspect becomes prominent. The Law was always an interim stage between the original promise and the arrival of the “seed of Abraham” when the covenant promises would find their fulfillment.

  • 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).

ELEMENTAL THINGS


In the passage, the Greek term rendered “elemental” translates the noun stoicheion. The word 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, it refers to the elemental principles of art, science, and discipline. From it comes the idea of “elementary principles.” It may refer to a single letter, a part of a word, or a phrase. It conveys the idea of something RUDIMENTARY AND SIMPLE.

Since Jesus came, adopting circumcision is regression to something that is rudimentary and incomplete. It is comparable to an adult who, though he possesses his full inheritance, chooses to return to his minority status under the custodianship of a pedagogue.

CALENDARS AND CIRCUMCISION


By “elemental principles,” Paul means at least some of the regulations of the Mosaic Law. This is borne out by his usage of stoicheion in verses 9 and 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 disciple to submit to the regulations of the Torah is tantamount to returning to the elemental teachings of the pagan society from which God delivered him 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” arrived.

Since the Law places anyone who does not do all the things that it requires under the “curse,” inevitably, returning to the obligations of the Law means coming under its “curse” once more.

Therefore, non-Jewish believers should not submit to the rituals that Jewish disciples are no longer required to keep, especially circumcision and calendrical rites and regulations.

REDEMPTION & ADOPTION


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 again, Paul sets temporal boundaries on the jurisdiction of the Mosaic regulations. There are to continue only until the “seed” comes. And for the individual believer, that time arrived when he became a disciple of Christ.


Rainbow over field - Photo by Eugene on Unsplash
[Photo by Eugene on Unsplash]


Jesus came to redeem those “who were under the Law so that they could receive the adoption of sons.” This refers especially to Jewish believers in him.

And 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).

For the disciple, the result of this redemptive act is “adoption.” Believers are not “children” of God by birth, but by adoption. All human beings are His creation, but not all are His children - (Romans 8:15-23, 9:4, Ephesians 1:5).

IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE


Because Gentile believers become His sons, He sends the “Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This rounds off the argument that begins at the start of chapter 3 where Paul reminds the Galatians that they received the Spirit while they were yet in an uncircumcised state - (Galatians 3:1-4).

And what greater proof of the acceptance of Gentiles into God’s covenant community can the Galatians possess than the gift of the Spirit?

Thus, all who are “in Christ” are “heirs” of the covenant. And since they are “heirs” apart from the “works of the Law,” why seek what the Law can never deliver by obligating oneself to its requirements, especially since doing so places one under its “curse.”



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