1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,
2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.
3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 However at the time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?
10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
In verses 1-3 of today’s passage, Paul uses a “human terms” analogy to describe how we are not the slaves of a Rich Man, but his children. However, notice that it says we were children (verse 3); this does not mean that we are no longer His sons and daughters, but rather that we are grown and mature…or, at least are supposed to be. 1 Corinthians 14:20 tells us, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature,” and Ephesians 4:13 states (starting mid-sentence), “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” I’d like to share three key passages that reveal to us how to mature in Christ – to study His word, and to purge sin from our lives: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” Hebrews 5:11-14 “Concerning him [Christ] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes of only milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” 1 Peter 2:1-3 “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
In verses 4-6, we again see another mention of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law. We have discussed this very recently, so I won’t go into it too much again, but I would like to refer you to an amazing series of studies by a former pastor of mine at this address http://rondaniel.com/library/03-Leviticus/Leviticus.html (they’re published online; you don’t even have to download anything). He shows how every aspect of every sacrifice in Leviticus, often viewed as one of the more “tedious” books of the Bible, directly points to Christ. When I read these studies a couple of years ago, I understood for the first time what it really means when the Bible says that Christ fulfilled the Law. Returning to the text now… :-) Also in verse 6, we see the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, speaking for us. This reminded me of Romans 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches our hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” What an amazing concept – that when we don’t know what to say, God speaks for us!
Finally, in verses 7-11, Paul states that when we put ourselves under the Law, we are enslaved to the elemental. We have discussed this concept before as well, so I’d like to focus on the idea of being slaves who need a Redeemer. In the Old Testament, if a person racked up an enormous debt that they couldn’t repay (like sin, for us), they had to become a temporary slave to the person they were indebted to. Essentially, they paid in labor. But, a relative could become their Kinsman Redeemer, paying the price in their stead to rescue them from this self-inflicted slavery (see Leviticus 25:47-55). Just the same, we racked up a debt we could not pay, and Christ paid off that debt with His death. We sold ourselves as slaves, and He took our place to break our chains.
A few discussion starters for today:
1 – How can we apply the command to live as mature Christians? What are examples of mature Christian living?
2 – Every word of the Bible was written to teach us something. What have the generally lesser-liked books of the Bible (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Job, the Prophets, Revelation, etc.) taught you? How can we convince Christians who avoid such books of their importance?
3 – When I was reading the book Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs (great Christian story for you gals out there, by the way), one character asks another, “What do you call God?” She responds, “I call Him Lord. I used to call Him my friend.” That got me thinking about what names of God mean the most to me, and that’s when I became obsessed with the concept of God as my Kinsman Redeemer. What do you call God? Which of His names are most meaningful to you?
As always, these are simply discussion starters. I’m simply leading a Bible study, not delivering a sermon. :-) So please, help me make this a dialogue rather than a monologue. :-)