Faithlife Sermons

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*Galatians 4:4-7*
*The Fullness of Time*
 
“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!’
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”[1]
 
| I |
suppose conscientious preachers look forward to Christmas sermons.
The season provides opportunity to instruct people in one of the great doctrines of the Faith.
At the heart of the Christmas observance is the doctrine of the Incarnation—God became man.
Thoughtless individuals imagine that they may discount this doctrine by saying that the account is found only in the Synoptic Gospels.
However, such assertions reveal an abysmal ignorance of the Word.
The Letter to the Galatians is predicated upon the truth that God became man.
Woven throughout the warp and the woof of the Apostle’s Letter is this essential truth.
Nowhere is the doctrine of the Incarnation more prominently displayed than when Paul draws a contrast between the present freedom of the children of God and the present enslavement of those who are in bondage within the world.
Clearly, the Apostle understood that without this birth, without the Son of God becoming man, there can be no freedom—no salvation, no life, no hope.
However, our Lord */did/* leave His throne and become man that we may have life.
I invite you to join me in exploration of this marvellous truth as revealed in the words of the Apostle.
*The Son of God was Born at a Definite Time* — “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…”  These are indeed glorious words which show that the entry point of the Christian message is at the same time the turning point of history.
Even our dates confess this truth.
It is now *2007 ad*—*anno domini* … *the year of our Lord*.
Apart from the words which are penned here, life offers no future … no hope.
We are left without hope and without God in the world if this is not *2007 **the year of our Lord*.
But God has intervened in a way which brings effective and complete salvation—hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless.
That is the Christmas message.
What do you suppose Paul meant when he used the term, “the fullness of time?”
The thought conveyed in the original language, precisely captured by our translation, speaks of fulfillment, especially as related to time.
Even a casual acquaintance with the ancient world reveals something of the significance of word.
Christ was born during the era identified as *Pax Romana*.
The rule of one government insured worldwide peace imposed by conquering armies.
This peace extended over most of the civilised earth making travel and commerce possible in a way previously unrealised.
Great roads linked the empire of the Caesar’s, ensuring free and uninterrupted communications with the furthest outposts of civilisation and providing rapid access to all corners of the empire.
An even greater factor unifying the diverse regions of the empire was the all‑pervasive language and culture of the Greeks.
Greek was the */lingua franca/* of the empire, being readily understood and read throughout the whole Mediterranean world.
Not only linguistically, but also culturally, the ancient world was dominated by the prior educational conquests of the Greeks.
Therefore, politically, culturally and linguistically, the world was unified—conditions which ensured a rapid spread of the Good News concerning the salvation purchased through the death and resurrection of our Lord.
Religiously, that ancient world was sunk in a moral abyss so deep that even pagans cried out against it.
Spiritual hunger was everywhere evident as witnessed by the prevalent appeal within every social stratum for spiritual insight from religions introduced from the east.
The religions in apparent ascendancy within the empire were exactly those ancient religions which had once been confronted by the prophets of God when the Hebrew peoples first entered the Promised Land.
The philosophers made a contribution in a negative sort of way, casting doubt on the old pagan systems of religion as they looked for some sort of unifying power behind all the polytheistic systems which had previously prevailed.
The Jews themselves had made preparation for the coming of the Christ through the preaching of monotheism in multiplied synagogues situated throughout the empire, and by their anticipation of a Messiah who would right the world's wrongs.
That human longing for communion with God, that spiritual restlessness which pervaded all mankind insured a receptive audience once Christ was come.
These religious longings insured that, “the fullness of time had come.”
Theologically, several significant factors apply in our study of that phrase, “the fullness of time had come.”
Just as a father in that ancient culture would determine the time his child became a son, so that heavenly Father chose the time when the world was to pass from its childhood under legal supervision to a period of spiritual sonship.
In other words, God chose the time of transition from one dispensation to the next.
Events surrounding the earthly ministry of the Christ marked the transition from the Dispensation of Law to the Dispensation of Grace.
Daniel had clearly prophesied that the exact time of Messiah's advent could be calculated from the issuing of the Persian decree to rebuild Jerusalem [*Daniel **9:25*].
The Messiah was to come during the era of the fourth Gentile empire [*Daniel 2:31‑45*; *7:1‑14*].
First, Babylon, then Persia, followed by Greece and finally, Rome, had successively ruled over little Israel.
The Magi recognised the significance of the era in which they lived, understanding that “the fullness of time had come,” but Jewish religious leaders were ignorant of those same times.
As example of the inability of Jewish religious leaders to recognise the times, consider the following incidents drawn from the pages of the New Testament.
The first relates an incident which occurred when the Pharisees and Sadducees approached Jesus asking that He show them a sign.
Superficially, these religious leaders appear to be honest, but the Master, looking inward to their hearts, sees only wickedness.
They appear to seek confirmation of what they knew to be true, but they are dishonest.
“The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.”
And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.”
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah’” [*Matthew 16:1-4*].
Another incident when Jesus addressed the blindness of religious leaders is found in *Luke 19:41-44*.
“When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!
But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you.
And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’”
Paul recognised that the religious elite of the world was also spiritually ignorant.
“Among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” [*1 Corinthians 2:6-8*].
*The Birth of God’s Son Was a Determined Act* — “God sent forth his Son.”
When Paul says, “God sent forth His Son,” he uses a verb that refers to someone who is sent out from.
More particularly, the word refers to someone dispatched as an authoritative representative charged with a specific task.
In fact, we would not be out of line to translate this clause, “God sent His Son on a mission.”
Throughout the Scriptures we read that God sent His Son—and that act was considered and deliberate rather than capricious or reactionary.
What glorious verses the Apostle John has penned in his first epistle.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…
“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world” [*1 John 4:9, 10, 14*].
Jesus our Lord acknowledged repeatedly that He was sent into the world for a specific purpose and by the determined will of the Father.
Listen to a few of those instances.
“I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak” [*John **12:49*].
“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” [*John **14:24*].
“I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” [*John 16:5*].
“This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…  I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me…  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…  May [they] all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…  May [they] become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me” [*John 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25*].
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you’” [*John **20:21*].
I have frequently reminded you that our Lord's advent was planned before the creation of the world, a truth which finite minds cannot fully comprehend.
The teaching admits of no time before which God did not have in mind sending His Son as a sacrifice for sinful man.
We have grasped the essence of the Good News if we can but approach the thrill of this truth: from eternity, God was committed to sending His Son.
It is definitely not inconsequential to note the submission demonstrated in this act.
God the Father sent, and God the Son came.
Never are we more like Christ than when we demonstrate a submissive spirit.
However odious such submission may seem in the estimate of today's world, it is precisely a submissive spirit which Christ modelled and which God approves.
Because we have refused to recognise this truth, substituting our own wicked ideas, we suffer in the church, in the home, and in society at large.
Churches suffer as otherwise good people act as dictators or ignore the Word of God.
When the membership fails to submit to God’s will and Word, jostling for power over others, churches are crippled and hindered in their service for Christ.
Homes suffer as husbands abuse their positions of responsibility and as wives rebel against the headship of their husbands and as children reject parental responsibility for their welfare.
Nations are in turmoil as citizens demonstrate rebellious attitudes, reject constituted authority, and as dictators institute new and novel forms of tyranny.
What do you suppose would happen should each of us learn the repeated truths of the Word of God?  Would there not result in all the land harmony and peace on an unprecedented scale?
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