RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD

The new Messianic Age dawned in Jesus Christ, and therefore, calendrical rituals and other Levitical regulations belong to the old order.

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul chided Christians for their desire “to return to bondage to the weak and beggarly rudiments” of the world, including calendrical observations. Since believers now live in the era of fulfillment, any resort to outmoded rituals is wholly inappropriate.

In the larger context, Paul was addressing both Jewish (“we”) and Gentile (“you”) believers. The main controversy was the effort by certain Jews “from Jerusalem” to require Gentile believers to undergo circumcision, and thereby “complete” their faith. However, once that door was opened, regulations governing the calendar from the Mosaic law inevitably became a contentious issue among believers:

  • (Galatians 4:8-11) – “But at that time, not knowing God, you were in servitude to them who, by nature, are not gods. But now, having acknowledged God, or rather, having been acknowledged by God, how do you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elementary principles to which you again wish to come into servitude? Days you do narrowly observe, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means, in vain, I have toiled for you!

According to the “apostle to the Gentiles,” believers were set right with God “from the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, not from the deeds of the Law.” To return to the requirements of the law was tantamount to declaring that Jesus died in vain – (Galatians 2:15-21).

Because believers are “from faith and not from the deeds of the Law,” they are true “children of Abraham” regardless of their ethnicity. They are not “under the Law” and, therefore, are free from its curse – (Galatians 3:8-12).

Paul used an analogy based on the adoption practices common in the Greco-Roman culture. Under the law, Israel was comparable to a minor child before his formal adoption when the child was under “custodians and administrators” appointed by the adoptive father. As such, he differed little from a household slave. 

Likewise, believers were “children” in bondage under the “rudiments of the world” until the time appointed when God sent his Son to redeem them. Consequently, they received adoption as sons, became heirs, and were no longer minor children. In his analogy, the law of Moses played the role of the “custodian.” But since the “adoption,” a status change occurred as attested by the receipt of the gift of the Spirit – In Christ, the role of the “custodian” had come to an end.

The Greek term rendered “rudiments” or stoicheion means “elemental, elementary, rudiment, rudimentary, basic.” It may refer to any first thing, the parts, or the building blocks that make up a larger whole. For example, according to Peter, the “elements” or stoicheia that make up the Cosmos will be burned with fire on the “Day of the Lord.” Simply put, the ‘ABCs,’ the elementary stages of any subject or parts of any larger thing – (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Paul equated a return to observing the rituals of calendrical cycles with resorting to the elementary principles of the world – returning to the old era rather than living in the new one inaugurated by Jesus. That would be regression, not completion. To submit to religious rules based on the cycles of celestial bodies was to submit to the “rudiments” of the old regime.

His warning was applicable to Jewish and Gentile believers. At one time, the latter were “in bondage to them that by nature are no gods.”  Calendrical observations as religious rites were as common among the pagan population of the Roman world as they were among the Jews, though differing in certain details.

Paul referred to the desire to “observe closely” days, months, and years.  This rendering represents the Greek verb paratéreō, meaning to “watch closely, narrowly observe; to keep scrupulously.” The same verb was applied in the gospel accounts to the Scribes and Pharisees who closely monitored his actions to see if Jesus would violate their dietary and Sabbath regulations – (Mark 3:2Luke 6:714:120:20).

In the Greek test, the clause rendered “days, and months, and seasons and years” is almost identical to the Greek Septuagint version of a passage from Genesis:

  • Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” – (Genesis 1:14).

The verbal allusion is deliberate. Calendrical observations characterized the old order, but not the new messianic age inaugurated by Jesus. Such practices were not Satanic or evil, but in Christ, they are outmoded, passé – (Galatians 1:1-6, 6:14-15).

For a Christian to submit to circumcision, calendrical rituals and the other “deeds of the Mosaic Law” is tantamount to returning to bondage under the rudimentary principles of the old age, which “is passing away” – (1 Corinthians 7:31). As Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians:

  • With me, however, far be it to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby, unto me a world has been crucified and I unto a world; For neither circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as by this rule shall walk, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” – (Galatians 6:14-16).

Thus, according to Paul, the new Messianic Age and the “new creation” dawned in Jesus Christ, and believers are summoned to live accordingly.

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