“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.”
Even so we,
Paul now applies the illustration of the first two verses to Christians.
when we were children,
The Galatians were bound in legalism when they operated by rules. People subject to rules function like children.
were in bondage
The law enslaved those under it from Sinai to Christ. The Greek indicates that they were in a permanent state of bondage to the law.
under the elements of the world
The word “elements” refers to any first thing from which others in a series take their cue. An element is a basic principle. “Element” was used for letters of an alphabet, the building blocks for writing. The book of Colossians uses this term for those who revert to legalism (Colossians 2:8; 2:20). In Galatians 4:3,9, Paul uses this term for legalism as constituting a yoke of bondage.
We see the span of slavery by the term “elements of the world.” The Mosaic law is elementary compared to life under grace. The Mosaic law tied people to rules and regulations that kept them in slavery to external compared to internal dynamics. People are always enamored with the external system of works. The externals of Israel’s laws had similarities to rules among Gentiles.
Life under grace has an internal dynamic.
When we place ourselves under the law as a way of life, this puts us into a state of bondage. It is like a Ph.D. candidate who goes back to grade school. He reverts to learning his ABCs while he knows many languages. To revert to the law after learning our rights in Christ is to revert from liberty to legalism. This is the same as going back to our childhood, spiritually speaking. This is like taking an adult and putting diapers on him. We spoon-feed people if we encourage legalism.