When The Time Was Right – December 24, 2023

Galatians 4:1-7

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 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. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the angel Gabriel came to the city of Nazareth in Galilee and visited a young virgin named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came with the news that she was to give birth the Son of God (Luke 1:35) who would have a kingdom with no end (Luke 1:32-33). An angel also appeared to her betrothed husband, Joseph who was told that she would give birth to a son and he was to call His name Jesus, “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). All through the Old Testament, from Genesis 3 forward, all of creation and all of humanity had been pining from the effects of sin. The promise that God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 of one day providing a solution to the sin problem was fulfilled in what came to pass that first Christmas. The Son of God came as a baby who was born in a manger so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

In Galatians 4:1-7 the Apostle Paul speaks to the significance of Christmas. What has Jesus accomplished? What is the true significance of Christmas? Why did it all come to pass as it did, when it did? In these seven verses, Paul gives to us God’s perspective on the whole matter through three things that God has accomplished for all who believe, “When the Time Came.”

In verses 1-3 the Apostle Paul talks about what the reality of existence is for all of humanity apart from the saving work of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without Christmas, we were all “dead in” our “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We were separated from God. We are described as, “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). In these verses, Paul describes that life in comparison with that of a child and slave of Roman society. A child really had no rights until they came of age, even if they were heirs to the inheritance of a whole estate. Until that time, they were under “tutors and governors” or managers who taught, guided, and exercised authority over them. Instead of kind, caring guardians, without Christ all people were “in bondage under the elements of the world.” This phrase describes false forms of manmade religion and even demonic deception (Galatians 4:8-10; Colossians 2:8, 20). It describes the exhausting yoke of legalism and religious ritual that brought no true deliverance from the power of sin. The first thing that Christmas accomplished was delivering us from that existence. Jesus came to set people free from sin. John 8:36 says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Just like a child who came of age and left the “tutors and governors” behind, through Christ believers are able to leave behind the “elements of the world” and become children of God. God saves us from sin.

Next, Paul tells us how. The “fulness of time” describes the right time in the plan of God. God had a determined time at which He sent His Son into the world to accomplish His redemptive purposes. What made that time (2,000 years ago) right? First, it was the right time theologically. The promises of the Old Testament had been given and the stage was set for their fulfillment. God had also commissioned the birth of the forerunner to the Messiah, John the Baptist. Second, it was the right time religiously in Israel. The Jewish people had learned at least one important lesson from Babylonian captivity and that was that there was only One God that they were allowed to worship. Their chastisement brought them to a place where they would reject all false gods and were ready to embrace the Messiah that had been promised throughout the Old Testament. Third, the time was right culturally. Alexander the Great made the propagation of the gospel message to the whole world possible by taking Greek culture and language to the world. This untied the world culturally and made communication and interaction between people all over the world possible in a way like never before. Fourth, the time was right politically. The Romans had established the Pax Romana or “Roman Peace” that enabled free travel throughout the empire. It also gave more freedom and rights to individuals throughout the empire and set the stage for the spread of the gospel. At just the right time, God sent forth His Son. Jesus came into the world during this time. He came in the right way as One who was “made of woman” referring to the promise of the “seed” of the woman in Genesis 3:15. It also indirectly calls to mind Mary, the virgin promised to bear the Messiah (Isaiah 7:14). He was also “made under the law” as a Jew. He was perfectly subject to the law of God and came from the lineage of Abraham, Judah, and David to fulfill all of the requirements of the Old Testament. He came and did all of this to “redeem” those under the law and make them sons. The law condemned all of humanity because all are accountable to God’s perfect standard. Jesus fulfilled the law for all who place their faith in Him and He atoned  for our sins on the cross. God redeems us for Himself.

Lastly, Paul tells us in verses 6-7 that God has promised believers an inheritance. By being made sons, we are heirs with Jesus. That means that we share in His inheritance, which is everything. This is why Paul could write to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “All things are yours.” Believers inherit God (Revelation 21:3-4) and inherit the world (Revelation 21:1-22:5). All of this is possible because of what God did at Christmas when He gave the gift of His Son.

Of course, Christmas without Easter leaves us still in our sins, but without Christmas there would be no Easter either. Jesus came into the world and that is worth celebrating. The eternal God took on human flesh and lived among us (John 1:14) so that He might die in our place and reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:20). What is Christmas about to you? Is it about Santa Claus, trees, reindeer, snowmen, presents, or even family? Or is it about the One who came to make you a child of God? At just the right time, God sent His Son for us. Merry Christmas!