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The Fullness of Time

December 16, 2014 | by: Ron Wood | 0 Comments


   As we stand on the brink of another Christmas morning, I think there is a tendency for all of us to kind of go through the “routine” of Christmas. That morning will be characterized by the opening of presents, spending time with family, eating good food, and so on. As the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. We have to be diligent in constantly reminding ourselves of the reason that we celebrate this time of year. It is easy to get caught up in all the chaos that surrounds us and to minimize the importance of Christ’s birth. And I think that same temptation exists when it comes to hearing a message about the birth of Christ. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, or even if you are not a Christian but have just attended church for a while, you have probably heard numerous messages on the birth of God’s Son. And so the danger for familiarity to breed contempt exists here as well. But I want to emphasize for us afresh that this is a message that we should be able to hear every day of our lives and never lose the wonder of it. That God became man, that the Word became flesh, that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
   Galatians 4:4-6 tells us, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father!'" I want to walk you through a few of these phrases to help our hearts rejoice in and celebrate again the birth of Christ. So let’s begin by looking at this first phrase, “When the fullness of time had come”.
   Ever since mankind rebelled against God in the account that we see in Genesis 3, Scriptures lays out for us over and over again One whom God would send who would do what Adam failed to do, and that is to walk in perfect obedience to His commands. And this One who was to come would also take upon Himself the wrath of God that all God's elect deserved for their rebellion. For example, in Genesis 3, we see the promise of the skull-crushing seed of the woman who would defeat the serpent, that is, the devil. In Genesis 22, we see the offspring who would come forth from Abraham, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. In Exodus 12 and Leviticus 16, we see the need for One to come who would be like a spotless lamb to atone for the sins of His people, since it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away that sin. In Deuteronomy 18, there would come a prophet like Moses who would arise, but who not lead His people out of the slavery of Egypt into the promised land of Canaan, but One who lead His people out of the slavery of sin, into a city that has foundations, that is secure and stable and cannot be shaken, whose designer and builder is God. In Isaiah 9, we see the promise of a child being born to us, a son being given to us, upon whose shoulders the government would rest, whose name would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He would sit on the throne of David and rule over His kingdom from this time forth and forevermore. In Isaiah 53, we see the promise of One who would come into this world who would be despised and rejected by men, who would carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions, be crushed for our iniquities, and be cut off out of the land of the living for the sake of His people. And in Micah 5, we see the promise that a ruler would come forth for God from the tiny, insignificant town of Bethlehem. And all of these promises, and many more like them, find their fulfillment, or the beginning of it, when the fullness of time had come and God sent forth His Son into this world. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all these promises, as He Himself said in Luke 24:44, “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled.”
   So we see that in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, and that this Son was born of woman. This speaks to the reality that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. It is clear that the Son eternally existed with the Father in the fact that He was sent by the Father to be born of a woman. He existed before He was born. And yet we also see His full humanity in the fact that He was born. To get our minds completely around this concept I don’t think is possible. He willingly left the glory that He shared with the Father from all eternity and subjected Himself to the womb of a woman to be born in the fullness of time. And taking on the nature of a human, He was born under the law, just as every other human is born. All of us come into this world under the law of God, subject to that law. It stands authoritatively over us and essentially says, “Obey and live; disobey and die”. And since all of us are born into this world as sinners, none of us by nature can or desire to walk in perfect obedience to the Law of God. We have all violated that Law and stand under it condemned. We realize when we look at His law that we are liars, those who have not always told the truth; we are thieves, those who have taken what didn't belong to us; we are covetous people, those who are not content with what God has given us but are always wanting more; we are adulterers at heart, those who look lustfully upon others. We are all guilty of breaking God’s law. And the penalty for breaking the law of God, the wages that we receive for our rebellion, is death. There is a record of debt, as Colossians 2:14 says, that stands against us with its legal demands. And those demands call for our death. Nothing that we can do, are doing, or ever will do can erase that record of debt. No amount of church attendance, Bible reading, praying, trying to do good for others can take away the debt that we owe God. While all of these things are good, none of them are sufficient to satisfy the holy demands of God’s law.
   And listen, that is the reason that the Son of God was sent into this world. He was born of woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those who were under the law. If there was any hope of sinful people like us standing right in the sight of a holy God, the only option was for God to take on flesh. Out of all humanity, Jesus alone fulfilled the Law of God, walking in perfect obedience to it. Jesus Himself said in John 8:29, “I always do the things that are pleasing to (My Father)”. He alone has loved God with all His heart, all His soul, all His mind and all His strength and loved His neighbor as Himself. Additionally, the Father Himself testifies of Jesus audibly from heaven by saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. He could not say that about any other person who has been born, who is in this moment being born, or whoever will be born. Psalm 14:2-3 says, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” And this is why it was necessary for us for God to send forth His Son. In order to redeem us from the penalty that the Law demands, Christ Himself had to first be born under that law and walk in perfect conformity to all of its demands. And having walked in perfect obedience to that Law, He continued that obedience to His Father by going to the cross and bearing the wrath of God for all who would repent and believe this good news. That record of debt that stood against us, Colossians 2:15 goes on to say, was nailed to the cross. So, what we see here and from the rest of Scripture, is that in order for Christ to redeem us He had to obey the Law perfectly and also bear the curse that the Law demands. And He redeemed us by shedding His innocent blood. The apostle Peter tells us that we were ransomed not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.
   So Christ comes into this world to redeem us, to buy us back from the slave market of our sin, to set us free from the bondage of our sin. And oh what an unspeakable display of love this would be if that was all that Christ did! But it isn't! Redemption is not an end in itself but is a means to a greater end.Verse 5 says, “…to redeem those who were under the law, SO THAT we might receive adoption as sons”. Don’t miss those two words, “so that”. We needed to be redeemed SO THAT we could be adopted, so that we could be brought into the family of God. Listen, we were all on death row, so to speak. The sentence that placed us there was perfectly just. All the charges against us could be substantiated. There was no breach of justice at all. And as we await our just execution, a loving, holy Father sends His willing, perfect, law-keeping Son to die in our place and fulfill the demands of the law. After this Son dies and rises again, for it was impossible for death to hold Him, we are declared righteous in the sight of the law and can now legally walk out of that “prison” a free person. If that was all that happened, we ought to be the most grateful people in the entire world and seek to sing the praises of the one who came and died in our place and for the love that was displayed to us. Now, all analogies fail when we try to explain the gospel because it is so astounding that there is nothing like it to adequately compare it to. But, in a general sense, this is what happened to those of us who are in Christ. However, the story doesn't end there. We are not just set free from that prison and the condemnation of the law, but we are set free in order to be adopted into the family of God. This is what has happened in the gospel. This is why Christ was born, so that we could be redeemed from our sin in order to be brought into the family of God as a son or a daughter of the living God.
  Verse 6 goes on to say, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” In order to assure us that we are sons and daughters of the living God, God sends forth His Spirit to testify in our hearts that God is now our Father. And don’t miss the dual nature of God’s sending here. First, He sends His Son into this world and then He sends His Spirit into our hearts to confirm for us that God is pleased with what the Son has accomplished on our behalf. This holy and righteous God no longer stands against us as a just judge to call us into account for all of our rebellion, but now stands with us as a loving Father who sent His Son to live and die in our place and His Spirit testifies to us that this is true and real.
   At Christmas we celebrate the first advent of the Son of God. But that same Spirit who has been given to us testifies to not just of the reality of His first coming, but of the promise of His second coming. The apostle Paul was inspired to write in Romans 8:22-23 that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” When the Son of God appears again, we will know the fullness of our redemption and our adoption that we now know in part.
   So as you, by faith, peer afresh into that manger this Christmas season, remember that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Let us find ourselves on our knees, giving glory to God for the inexpressible gift of His Son, Jesus, our Emmanuel, God with us. And let us be joyfully expectant for that day when He comes again to take us home to glory to enjoy Him fully and forever.

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