In the Fulness of Time
BY DONALD HUBBARD
Nowhere in the New Testament would you find a more concise theological teaching as to the meaning and implication of Christmas than in Galatians 4:4,5:But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.Just what does this statement tell us about the event that occurred some 2,000 years ago?
First of all, it was a long-prepared event. Christmas was not an afterthought in the mind of God. The word "fulness" carries the idea of a ship being fully outfitted, with all its provisions on board, for a successful journey.
Secondly, it is a love-provided event. God sent forth His Son, the scripture says, "for God so loved the world." Christmas, then, is a love story. It is God telling believers, "I really do love you and am doing something about it."
Thirdly, it is a lowly-presented event. Here, we see the Son of God, the Creator of all things, being "made of a woman, made under the law". The Son of God emptied Himself of His glory and came forth in humiliation.
Finally, it is a life-producing event. The birth of Jesus Christ is not just another historical event. No, Christ came to redeem sinners, so that those of us who believe might become children of God and have eter
Now let's examine in greater detail each one of these nuggets of truth.
I. A long-prepared eventWhen I think of Christmas, I think about what it might be like, for example, in the home of a childless couple who have wanted to have a baby for years and years. One day, the doctor tells the wife that she is expecting. You can imagine the great excitement and anticipation in that home during the months that ensue.
And then finally, the wife gives birth to a baby. As soon as the couple see the infant, they say, "Welcome, child. We've waited for you for a long time."
In a sense, that's precisely what happened when Jesus was born. There was this great welcome as a multitude of angels praised God, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
They sang praises to God because that event had been long anticipated.
Before time began. How long? In I Peter 1:20, the apostle speaks of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb who was "foreordained before the foundation of the world".
Even before the foundation of the world, the loving Godhead had prepared the event that would take place on that first Christmas.
And in Genesis 3:15, we find God telling Eve that the serpent would bruise the heel of her seed, but that her seed would bruise the serpent's head. This is what we've called, theologically, "the first promise."
With the Lord Jesus being the woman's seed, that promise was made when the human race was still in its infancy. His coming was a long-prepared event.
Elsewhere in the scriptures, we find that this Messiah was to come of the Jewish people (Gen. 49:10), and of the lineage and house of David (II Sam. 7:12,13). Not only that, but He would be born in David's townBethlehem (Micah 5:2), and of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
No, Christmas was not an afterthought in the mind of God. God did not suddenly find Himself with a sinning couple in the Garden of Eden and then hurriedly develop something new to remedy the situation. Oh, no, not that. Christmas, my friend, was prepared a long, long time ago, before time had even begun.
Perfect Timing. Moreover, the promised Messiah would come to earth at a very precise point in history. "God sent forth his son when the fulness of the time was come." The long-prepared event took place only when God had fully outfitted the world, so to speak, for Christ's birth.
It was the right time politically. Rome had conquered the known world and now there was a one-world government. With a pax Romana (the peace of Rome, that is) in place, the way was paved both for Jesus to come and introduce the gospel and for the apostles to later send forth that gospel via far-reaching missionary journeys.
Linguistically, it was also the fulness of time. Two languages, Latin and Greek, were spoken in a wide
area of the world. And both of those languages, particularly the Greek, would be used in the writing of the New Testament.
In terms of human morality, it was the fulness of time as well. With people sinking into the big, dark stretch of blackness of sin and moral degradation, Christ came to bring a sunburst of God's light.
II. A love-provided eventIt says in verse 4, "God sent forth his Son." A rich elaboration of this statement can be found in I John 4, beginning with verse 7:Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.Unappreciated. Christmas, then, is a message of love. It is a very special message of God's love for you and me. Oh, I just wish that you and I and everyone else in the world could fully appreciate this love of God.
But how often we take God's love for granted. God gives every one of us, whether we believe in Him or not, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, the companionship that we enjoy, and the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset, to name just a few items of what we theologians call "common grace". And yet, most people never give God even a passing "Howdy", much less a "Thank you".
But God did not say to the world, "All right, world, because you've treated me this way, I'll now get even with you." Instead, the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
The long-prepared event took place only when God had fully outfitted the world for Christ's birth.
Did you ever stop to think that God actually gave Himself? More He could not give. Jesus came and ultimately died upon that cross at Calvary so that through Him, you and I might be forgiven of sin and have a relationship with Goda relationship that gives meaning and purpose and joy and blessing to our lives. That supreme love is what Christmas is all about.
III. A lowly eventGalatians 4:4 says that the Son was "made of a woman". That interesting expression is highly significant. Mankind needed a Savior, but how was God going to provide them with a Savior that could be identified with man and yet separate from man in terms of being sinless? There was only one way.
God would select a young virgin and use her body to give birth to Christ, who is God Himself. The Lord's virgin birth is attested both in the gospels of Matthew and of Luke. The Matthew account starts with the genealogy of Christ that goes through the kingly line of David, thereby emphasizing Jesus' sovereignty. He is the King of the Jews.
Luke, on the other hand, shows that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and was given birth by the virgin Mary. Christ was "made of a woman"; He has no human father. Hence, in the Lord Jesus reside two natures. He is at once fully God and fully man.
Luke goes on to show that Jesus was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem. By the way, let's not be too critical of the innkeeper. It was not that he wanted to be unkind. The scripture simply says that there was no room for them in the inn.
Caesar Augustus had called for a census that required every man to register at the place of his birth. The entire Roman world was set into motion. When Joseph came with Mary who was great with child to Bethlehem, the inn was already crowded with these people who had returned to register.
But it was certainly in keeping with the humility of our Lord Jesus that when the Son of glory became flesh, He was born in a lowly manger.
IV. A life-producing eventOur text in Galatians 4 continues, "Born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
Jesus was born to live on earth under the demands of the law. And He did indeed fulfill all of the demands of the law, having kept every command perfectly. He also came to redeem those who were under the law, who were under the wrath of God.
He came in order that we might have a special relationship with God, and that relationship, our text says, is "the adoption of sons". As a result, all those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are children of God, not slaves.
How was God going to provide a Savior that could be identified with man and yet separate from man in terms of
Christ Himself once said, "I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly." What kind of life is Jesus talking about? A spiritual life that only the children of God enjoy.
True Christmas SpiritLet me ask you: How have you been exercising this gracious right of Sonship? What does Christmas really mean to you? I don't know, I suppose I get frustrated the older I become, when I see so much commercialism involved with Christmas. Maybe you and I could receive a lesson from a family that I read about not too long ago.
This Christian family had been preparing their home for Christmas with all of the customary festivities. The wreath had been hung on the door. Bits of greenery had been distributed throughout the house, some candles in the windows, and a tree had been trimmed.
One afternoon, the mother all at once stopped to think, "How can our Christmas observance this year remind the children of Jesus Christ and of the difference in life that Jesus Christ makes to those who believe?"
After discussing it with her husband, they decided that they would, as they had done in prior years, place the manger scene (comprising little inexpensive plaster-of-Paris figures) in the family room, but with one difference. They would leave the crib empty.
True meaning. They then gath
ered the family together and said: "Look, Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus. To show our love for Him, let's have ready for Him a lovely, soft cradle of hay. Here's a little box of pre-cut little pieces of straw. Every time one of you does something out of love, take a little piece of straw from the box and put it in the crib. Do this on an honor system and see if we could fill up the crib for Baby Jesus by Christmas."
The difference in their household became absolutely electric. The emphasis no longer was upon toys and gadgets and dolls; it was on how to demonstrate the love of Jesus.
That evening, the mother found that her two little children, Adam and Shannon, had emptied the dishwasher and stacked the dishes. Inside the crib, there were two little pieces of straw.
And without their parents knowing it, Adam and Shannon made a special Christmas card for the grandparents. Never mind about the misspellings and never mind that the crayon sometimes got outside of the line, it was very special because it came from their heart. Some more little pieces of straw went inside the crib.
It was almost infectious. They became conscious, sensitive to the needs of others, of how they could demonstrate the love of Jesus this Christmas.
When Christmas came, there was plenty of straw in that crib. They gathered together as a family and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. And that afternoon, they cut a birthday cake that the mother had baked because, after all, it was His birthday, wasn't it?
Conclusion. When we talk about Christmas being a life-producing event, what we mean is that Jesus Christ came in order that you and I could live. Not live in a physical sense, but live in a spiritual sense. He enables us to see beyond the things of this world and to discover that what really matters is to have our sins forgiven and to love one another.
Let's allow God to so live and love through us, that maybe we, to continue the expression, would routinely be taking the little pieces of straw and putting them in the crib. What better way is there for us to say "Happy Birthday" to Christ? And what better way is there for us to show Him our gratitude?
Christmas is Christ, isn't it? Let's make sure He has a joyous birthday observance not only on Christmas, but every day of the year. o
Dr. Donald R. Hubbard is the Senior Minister of Boca Raton Community Church, 601 N.W. 4th Avenue, Boca Raton, FL 33432.
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