by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3 June 24, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(183)Thesis:Since several New Testament authors delight in casting themselves in terms of "slaves of Jesus Christ", we need to clearly understand what Paul's threat of "bondage" actually is.
Introduction:In our last study, I gave you a "nutshell" definition of "bondage": a lifeless forced compliance under threat of death. However, it is an undeniably clear fact that several New Testament authors seemed to delight in calling themselves "bondslaves" to God/Jesus. This sets up a potent argument that there is a "bondage" that is significantly fearful and horrifyingly evil and there is a "bondage" that is pretty much a fundamental characteristic of godliness. Since Paul's argument in Galatians is that "bondage" is "bad" and "freedom" is "good" and was at least one of the objectives of redemption (5:1 and 13), it stands to reason that we need a more comprehensive grasp of the nature of the "bad bondage" so that we may participate in the "good bondage" while remaining determinedly "free" of everything that brings death into the mix.
So, this evening we are going to look into what Paul meant by the phrase in 4:3 that "we ... were in bondage under the elements of the world".
I. In Terms of "General" Biblical Theology.
A. First, one of the four most critical descriptions of God's essential nature is that He is a Slave.
1. In the large perspective of Christology, the Holy Spirit sponsored four "pictures" of Jesus (the Four Gospels), one of which is that of "the Servant of Yahweh" -- the laboring bullock.
2. In three of those four perspectives, the future, eternal Kingdom of Yahweh is declared to be "a kingdom of servants" wherein the "greatest" is the one who plumbs to the depths of what it means to be a slave of others [it is impossible for the Kingdom to be a servant kingdom unless the King is, Himself, the greatest servant of all].
B. Second, in Paul's declaration that "Love" is the greatest abiding quality for those who will participate in the servant kingdom, he made everything that has one's "self" at the core of the motivations of life fundamentally, not only worthless, but evil.
1. 1 Corinthians 13:3 declares that the absence of "Love" makes a motive and/or action an absolute waste.
2. In John 15:13 Jesus declares that the "greatness" of "Love" consists in the level of loss to the "Lover".
3. In multiple places throughout the Bible, the actions of evil are deliberately tied to the absence of "Love".
II. In Terms of Paul's Concept in Our Text.
A. In our text, the "bondage" is "bad bondage".
B. The critical issue of "bad bondage" is its final outcome.
1. If "D"eath is the final outcome, every step along the way to this end is a result of "bad bondage".
2. Since "D"eath is the final demonstration of "L"ove, there has to be something that differentiates between "D"eath and the final outcome of "L"ove.
a. Biblically, "death" in all of its forms from "d" to "D" never means the cessation of "sensible" existence for those creatures that have "personhood" (angels, humans).
b. Biblically, the elements that make up the characteristics of "death" invariably begin with whether one's "loves" are achieved, and end with the emotional reaction that is attached to that issue (joy or grief).
c. Therefore, if one goes into "D"eath, but ends up with "J"oy because "L"ove has been satisfied, there can be no actual "D"eath for those whose "L"ove is legitimate.
3. Because "bad bondage" ultimately means the total loss of "J"oy, we can say that "bad bondage" is anything/everything that forces anyone to take a step in the direction of "D"eath.
a. This is why the nutshell definition involves "forced compliance".
b. This is why the nutshell definition involves the motivator of "the threat of death" (this is the exaltation of "L"ovelessness to the highest level of motivation).
C. Therefore, Paul's concept of "bondage under the elements of the world" involves "being forced by fear into absolutely ineffective action".
D. That means that we need to understand "the elements of the world".
1. Throughout this section, "bad bondage" is tied to "Law" and particularly the Mosaic form that was ordained by angels.
2. That bondage is described in such terms means that the "elements" are the individual dictates of "angels".
3. That Paul immediately turns to another descriptive phrase in 4:8 that describes "bad bondage" as "service to non-gods", we can conclude that "the dictates of angels" was turned into "dictates" of "angels" that had been, in turn, turned into "gods".
a. This is the most likely reason for calling them elements "of the world" since "the world" has long been a cosmic structure in which God has delegated the actual operation of the creation to "angels".
b. Thus, under the weaknesses of "angels" (chiefest of which are ignorance -- the lack of omniscience -- and lack of understanding -- requiring a serious "looking into" certain hidden realities about God), humans have been, by divine intent, subjected to "bondage" so that the "evil" of "bad bondage" could be unveiled.
4. And that Paul also included the description of such dictates as "weak" and "beggarly" in 4:9 means that such dictates are absolutely ineffective.