Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
June 24, 2012
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
1901 ASV Translation
3 So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world:
4 but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
- I. Being "Enslaved".
- A. At the most basic level, "slavery", as a negative notion, is an attitude (1 Corinthians 7:21-22).
- B. At its most basic level, this attitude has one particular focus: the presence, or absence, of the ability to act (a faith-based reality) in accord with one's deepest "loves" (Mark 10:44 makes "serving" a method for the acquisition of a greater objective -- you want to be "great"; then serve).
- C. At its most basic level of antipathy, this attitude stems from the inner conflict of having deep seated desires that are going begging because someone else is determining which actions will be taken and, thus, which values will be chased.
- D. At its most basic root, "slavery" is a condition of the Most High God; He is, essentially, a Slave. His own values put others ahead of Himself and that makes Him a "slave" to their best interests.
- E. At the point of Paul's use of the term as a strongly negative issue is only one final reality: slavery is slavery if the outcome is Death.
- 1. Death has two spheres of impact: internal conflict and external imposition.
- 2. It is the nature of Death to contain no "joy". Thus "pain" in the flesh; "fear" in the soul; and "denigration" in the spirit are the primary tools of Death. To the degree that pain, fear, and denigration exist, Death is present; to the degree that "joy" overrides pain, fear, and denigration, Death is defeated. Thus, the presence/absence of "joy" is the root internal characteristic and the presence/absence of pain, fear, and denigration are the chief catalysts of external imposition.
- II. Being "Enslaved" to the "Elements of the World".
- A. In our context, Paul identifies these "elements of the world" with "gods" (4:8).
- B. And, simultaneously, he calls these "gods" not-gods and characterizes them as both "weak" and "beggarly" (4:8-9). This obviously means they cannot produce the desired end(s) [the greatest "bondage" is taking actions that simply cannot bring the valued result].
- C. But throughout this context, the "bondage" is tied directly to the issue of "law". This strongly implies that the "elements of the world" are simply "dictates of the gods" that promise "joy" but actually give "pain, fear, and/or denigration". At the root, then, is this claim: this "joy" is the gift of "the gods" and it is given to those who please them according to their dictates. In other words, a chief characteristic of the "gods" is the centrality of the "god" in the objectives of the "slave": please me or die.
- 1. This may actually be the reason Paul insisted upon characterizing the Law as "ordained by angels" (i.e., "gods"). Nothing "ordained" by a creature can have omniscience behind it, and anything lacking in knowledge contains a significant danger of being less than "Loving".
- 2. Since the angels did not understand the Gospel at the time of the giving of the Law (1 Peter 1:12), it is impossible that they could have grasped the implications of "grace", let alone the divine nature involving "servanthood".
- D. In the strongest of all possible contrasts, Paul's "God" is not about forcing others to "please" Him; rather, He is and, consequently, His "mandate" is "be like Me, or die" because there can be no other criterion for Life/Death. And, interestingly, "being like Me" ends up meaning "serve like Me". It is not "serve Me"; it is "serve like I serve". Bottom line: genuinely embraced "Love" makes "bondage" an impossibility as a negative notion (it is impossible to have a negative attitude toward the doing of that which is wholeheartedly embraced).