4747 στοιχεῖον [stoicheion /stoy·khi·on/] n n. From a presumed derivative of the base of 4748; TDNT 7:670; TDNTA 1087; GK 5122; Seven occurrences; AV translates as “element” four times, “rudiment” twice, and “principle” once.
1 any first thing, from which the others belonging to some series or composite whole take their rise, an element, first principal. 1a the letters of the alphabet as the elements of speech, not however the written characters, but the spoken sounds. 1b the elements from which all things have come, the material causes of the universe. 1c the heavenly bodies, either as parts of the heavens or (as others think) because in them the elements of man, life and destiny were supposed to reside. 1d the elements, rudiments, primary and fundamental principles of any art, science, or discipline. 1d1 i.e. of mathematics, Euclid’s geometry.
In the verse, the word “philosophy” is actually used, not “spirits or angels.” In addition to philosophy being used by Paul, which is about philosophy, the context is about “traditions of men,” that are conclusions from “elementary principles.” In Philosophy 101 you learn that ethics (or in this case religious ethics as “traditions”) are a conclusion from the rudimentary principles of metaphysics(reality) and epistemology(knowledge). To talk about ethics, as Paul does here, coming from elementary foundational principles of a human system, is as philosophy as it gets. In fact you can start any Intro to Philosophy book or college class with this statement, “Philosophy is the study of the fundamental principles, or ultimate questions about life.” The first two biggest questions are almost always about “starting point for knowledge,” and then the “starting point for reality.” With these two big fundamental principles laid down, then one can easily proceed to ultimate question about ethics.
The whole structure of this premise and those immediately around, is strong philosophy, or ultimate question language. Thus, “stoicheion,” due to context should mean what it normally means and not some other meaning, like “elementary spirits.” It means ultimate or rudimentary/first principles of a worldview. Think about the philosophy word, “epistemology.” It means, “first or starting principle of knowledge.”
Thus, the last part of the Strong’s Lexicon (1D) is best definition of this word, that fits the context of Paul’s premise. Paul is therefore, referring to the first and foundational principles of a humanly made worldview, and then the “traditions” men conclude from the first principles of their humanly devised worldview.
Paul is contrasting “human” versus “Christian” first principles, and then human conclusions from their humans first principles versus Christian ethics from its first principles.
Men have their own speculative statements of first principles of knowledge and reality, and from this they superstitiously conclude human traditions as their ethics. Their traditions are false, because their first principles of their worldview about reality and knowledge are false; and therefore, their traditions/conclusions are false.
Christians on the other hand, have Christ, who is hidden all the treasures of knowledge. The Scripture reveals the starting principles about knowledge(epistemology) and reality(metaphysics) to us, and from foundation, God reveals His commands(ethics) to us. Christians ethics are founded on reality and truth, whereas, non-christians ethics are founded on a delusion of reality and skepticism as knowledge.
This is from the forthcoming book: Systematic Theology
As said before, affirming God’s absolute sovereignty can be said in one simple deduction and applied in every instance. It is so simple a 2nd grader could do it. The whole section you just read could have been said in one page, if not for wicked, stupid and lazy people resisting the doctrine.
God is absolutely and directly sovereign over all things; thus, God is sovereign over x, y and z (etc.). Why do I need to hold people’s hands to apply this?
I often in this context, refer to this as “God’s causality over all things.” Or in philosophy, Christian metaphysics and ontology. The Scripture usually refers to this in two terms, God’s sovereignty, or God’s decrees. And in particular with the term “decrees,” we are dealing with what is the central issue or the biblical focus on God’s sovereignty. The reason for this is simple, it is a no-brainer, easy to affirm God is totally sovereign over this moment as I write, or as I do anything, whether I sin or do acts of faith. This is painfully easy to understand and affirm. However, sense we are not dealing with mere abstracted fatalism, or pantheism, but an intellectual God, then the core issue of affirming God’s sovereignty is knowing what He decreed. The focus is on an intellectual Mind that had a goal for what He wants and with perfect control over His mind and infinite understanding, set goals and worked the order of reality to accomplish His purposes and intentions.
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love,
having predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace that he bestowed on us in the beloved,
in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,
that he caused to abound to us in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in him,
for the administration of the fullness of times, to bring together all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in him
in whom also we were chosen, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
that we who hoped beforehand in Christ should be for the praise of his glory,
in whom also you, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also when you believed you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:3-14 LEB
An understanding of some basic logic and understanding of category statements could be helpful here. For example, if I say, “all fish are trout,” is categorically different than saying “all trout are fish.” (See picture for a simple circle diagram.)
When dealing with categories, if all the subject, (not just some) is numerically or by attribute belongs to the predicate, then subject is a smaller circle fully inside the larger predicate circle. Thus, the subject is universally contained in the predicate. The logic is simple.
The first one is false, the other is true. In Genesis God established categories of the things He created. Thus, even if we mix in some specific induction, we know as infallible truth, God created fixed categories for animals, fish, vegetation, and etc.. We know there are many types of each in each of the broad categories. Thus, we know to say, “all fish are trout,” or, “all birds are sparrows,” is false, for there are many types of fish and birds, not just trout and sparrows. Thus, to casually flip the subject and predicate, of categorical truth claims is against Biblical teaching.
This is important to remember, because we are dealing with the ORDER of God’s decrees. It is important not to flip things around. If God decrees “x” as first, then it is not second or seventh. Congratulations, we just left second grade and now we can finally move on to forth grade teaching on God’s sovereignty. It is not bear control. An intelligent Mind ordered the world for His own goals. As we saw with an early circle diagram from 1 Corinthians 3, the order of multiple categories is crucial.
People who keep saying—God is in control, God is in control of my life, God is in control of this situation and even those who affirm with more boldness, God is in control and He is even the author of sin and evil—are spiritual infants. They never left second grade. They are mentally stunted. The question is, “how is God in control,” and “what has God commanded you to do, in light of His control of it.” Just saying God is in control, is of little help if it is applied like pantheism or fatalism. The decrees of God show His control is determinism in accordance to His own good purposes. Knowing God is in control is not boiled down to having a pagan, “Zen state of mind” about life; it is not boiled down to being calm. God was in sovereign control, when He directly and absolutely caused all those people in the gospels to be sick, blind, dead, leprous and demon possessed. What did Jesus do about this, as a man born under the law of God? He healed, resurrected and set those people free by the power of God. He commands us to do the same. If you do not do this, then the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is both wasted on you, and it shows you never believed above an infant level understanding of God’s sovereignty.
To say God is in control is not an ethic. It does not tell you what to do. However, if we say God has used this sovereign control, to DECREE us to be children of God, and DECREED we have bold access to His throne of grace, well then, this actually has huge implications for the person stating it. To say God has used His sovereign control, to DECREE for us to have power over sickness and demons, has huge implications. This shows us how God is in control. And some basic ordering of His control. It gives us understanding about our definition of Christians. God is not pantheism. His control over the world is explained and understand as His ordered decrees about all things.
What good is it for a sinner to realize they are a born a sinner by God’s control over their life, and say, “well, God is in control”? Do they forget God has used His control over reality to DECREE that there is salvation in Jesus Christ, and for those with faith, then a new life, a new soul and a new world is theirs for the taking.
In my experience, when I hear Christians say, God is in control or God’s Will, it has more in common with pagan fatalism than it does with God’s decrees of determinism. They are spiritual perverts and liars. God has used His sovereign control to DECREE that the elect are to be victorious (in everyday life difficulties) over sin, besetting sins, sickness, diseases, terrors of the night or day, demons and poverty. This so-called Christian appeal to, “God is in control,” is in reality an appeal to fatalism, and thus they let the sickness and demons roll right over them. In such acts these spiritual losers, are prostrating themselves to demons and their doctrines. These people are part of Reformed churches as much as they are part of Pentecostal churches. They falsely claim to assent to God’s sovereign control, but in reality they are liars. They believe in fatalism, and use this equivocation to negate the commandments of God. God’s specific descriptions of His sovereign control in His decrees, because of their detailed nature, are often accompanied with commands. That is, with detailed decrees, which are usually about the church, God gives commandments about the specific descriptions of reality He has ordered. For example, God had decreed salvation for the elect in the atonement of Christ. God therefore commands repentance and faith in the gospel. God is in control, even when He directly caused the elect to be born sinners. However, by the decree of God, the elect believe what God has revealed. They believe by faith in Jesus they are saved. And so they are. Also, God has decreed healing to be part of the atonement for the elect. With this specific description of God’s decree, God then commands us to have faith to be healed. God is in control, even when He directly caused the elect to have sickness and troubles. However, by the decree of God, the elect believe what God has revealed. They believe by faith in Jesus they are healed and delivered. And so they are.
Fatalism comes in and negates these commands, because God is in control, or, God’s will. Because God is in control, and thus, is ultimately in control over the fact you are sick and diseased, thus, you will pray, but what will happen by God’s control, will happen. This sounds humble and religious to spiritual perverts, but not to God. It is applying a demonic doctrine of fatalism over God’s determinism. God has used His sovereign control to decree that those with faith, will be healed, will cause Satan to depart and be victorious.
Fatalism is used to negate the details of God’s sovereign decrees. These people might be those who are quick to point out how the religious leaders in the gospels negated the commands of God by their traditions. Well, fatalism is a human made doctrine with its own traditions. Our religious leaders of today, mask their human doctrine with a biblical sounding topic—God’s sovereign control—but their wicked and sinister goal is to negate the commandments of God with it. They are sons of hell, leading others to be even greater sons of hell than they are.