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Galatians 4:4-7 - The Baby Stranger

Christmas 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:24
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Jesus became a stranger to His Father so that you could become His child

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Introduction

Christmas is a hard holiday to celebrate alone. The whole season is a celebration of a baby Boy, a Son—it’s impossible to separate the element of family from Christmas. And yet there are so many families that spent Friday separated from each other—military families separated by deployments, divorced families separated by custody schedules, children separated from parents by bitterness or grudges because of past sins against each other—this world that we live in is full of the estrangements and separations that come about because of the brokenness of sin in our lives. And there is not a family represented here today that does not know that kind of estrangement firsthand—all of us had someone missing from our lives on Christmas Day that we wished could have been there, but wasn’t because of the brokenness and sin in their life (or ours).
But as painful as it can be to consider the estrangements that keep families apart at Christmas, the Scriptures tell us that those estrangements all pale in comparison with the fact that we are all born estranged from God by our sin. And this is the other inextricable element of Christmas for us—that Jesus Christ was sent forth from His Father in Heaven, “born of woman, born under the Law,
Galatians 4:5 ESV
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And this is what I want to help us see this morning from this passage (as well as the passage that we read together earlier in the service, from Luke 2). What we need to understand here from these verses is that
Jesus became a STRANGER to His FATHER so that you could BECOME His CHILD
Paul was writing this letter to the churches in Galatia because they had begun to think that they had to go back and keep certain aspects of the Mosaic Law in order to be acceptable to God. They had to be circumcised, for example—they had been taught by false teachers that no Gentile could come to Christ unless they came through Israel. So they had to become a Jew first, and then they could become Christians. So Paul wrote this letter to demonstrate that the Mosaic Law was not a prerequisite to saving faith in Christ—it was in fact an imprisonment:
Galatians 3:23–24 ESV
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
And here in Galatians 4:4 Paul says that we don’t need to submit ourselves to the Law of Moses in order to be saved, because Jesus submitted Himself to the Law when He was born!
Galatians 4:4–5 ESV
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
We often talk about how Jesus was perfectly obedient to the Law of Moses His whole life—theologians talk about the active obedience of Christ, in that He actively obeyed all 613 of the Law’s commands, and His perfect obedience to that Law was counted towards us when we come to Him in faith for our salvation.
And when we read the story of Jesus’ birth we see that His obedience to the whole Law of Moses began right from the first days of His life. Turn back to the passage in Luke 2 we read earlier (p. 857 in the pew Bible). We see Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness to “perform everything according to the Law of the LORD...” (Luke 2:39). But what we need to understand is that when Jesus was submitted to the requirements of the Law surrounding His birth,

I. He was treated like a STRANGER to God (cp. Luke 2:21-22)

Look at Luke 2:21 with me:
Luke 2:21 ESV
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
When Jesus was “born under the Law”, it meant that
He had to be CIRCUMCISED
He had to receive the mark of belonging to the covenant people of God. Think about this for a moment—under the Law of Moses, circumcision was the indication that you weren’t an outsider, that you belonged to God’s people. If you didn’t have that mark, you were a stranger to God. Here comes Jesus, God the Son in human flesh—sent from God the Father to be born of a woman, to be born under the Law. And when God the Son in human flesh appeared in the Temple, He was not recognized as belonging to God until He received the mark of the covenant!
And think for a moment here that Jesus’ very first act of obedience to the Law of Moses resulted in shedding His blood. Circumcision is a bloody procedure, and as Matthew Henry puts it,
...Christ would undergo it for us; nay, therefore he submitted to it, to give an instance of his early obedience, his obedience unto blood. Then he shed his blood by drops, which afterwards he poured out in purple streams.” Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1829). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Jesus’ first act of obedience to His Father, like His last, would result in the shedding of His blood for us.
Not only was He circumcised in obedience to the Law, but
He had to be PRESENTED in the Temple
Look at verse 22:
Luke 2:22 ESV
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Imagine this—the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, who from before the foundation of the world had a relationship of perfect intimacy, felicity and fellowship with His Father, had to be introduced to YHWH! His mother and father had to bring Him into the Temple and essentially say, “LORD, we want to introduce you to our new baby boy, Yehoshuha!” If anyone ever had the right to forego the rituals of being introduced to the Covenant through circumcision—if God could ever respond to an introduction with, “Oh yes—We know each Other—we have known each Other for all eternity!”, it would have been Jesus! But He was born under the Law in order to redeem us from the Law—
Jesus became a stranger to His Father so that you could become His child!
Jesus was treated like a stranger to God—and more than that

II. He was treated like a SINNER against God (cp. Luke 2:22-24)

The Law of Moses required that whenever a woman gave birth to a son, she would be ceremonially unclean (unable to enter any holy place or touch any holy thing) for seven days, followed by a thirty-three day period in which she was neither clean nor unclean. At the end of those forty days she was to present herself to the Temple to be cleansed. (This, by the way, is why Mary and Joseph did not return immediately to Nazareth after Jesus’ birth, and why they were staying in a house in Bethlehem when the Magi visited—it was easier just to wait until after her purification at the Temple before returning to Nazareth.)
But look again at the wording of Luke 2:22— “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses...” Not just Mary’s purification—but Jesus’ as well! Jesus, the sinless Son of God was “born under the Law”--
He had to be PURIFIED
right along with his sinful mother! Even though He had been conceived by the Holy Spirit Himself and was free from the sin inherited through Adam’s race, even though He was perfectly spotless and pure and utterly without sin, He still had to go through the same purification as every other baby—as the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 8:3, God sent His own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh”—though He bore no guilt, He was purified from guilt so that He could be your purification from guilt!
Not only did Jesus have to be purified from guilt He did not bear, but in verse 23 we see that
He had to be REDEEMED
Luke 2:23 ESV
23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)
This verse is a quotation of Numbers 18:15
Numbers 18:15 ESV
15 Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the Lord, shall be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem.
and it is further explained in Exodus 13:
Exodus 13:14–15 ESV
14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
Because God took all of Egypt’s firstborn in order to rescue Israel, all of the firstborn of Israel belonged to God—in order to keep your firstborn, you had to “buy him back” from YHWH. Think for a moment about all of this—as Mary’s firstborn son, Jesus had to be “bought back” from YHWH as a remembrance of how YHWH delivered Israel through… the death of the firstborn of Egypt.
And that deliverance of Israel from Egypt was itself a picture of how YHWH would someday deliver His people through the death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! Jesus submitted to the Law of Moses that treated Him as a sinner, that required Him to be “redeemed” from the LORD as a remembrance of the strong hand of YHWH that delivered them from bondage— Jesus was “born under the Law
Galatians 4:5 ESV
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Even from the very first days of His life, Jesus became a stranger to His Father so that you could become His child! Because He was treated as a sinner,

III. You are treated as a CHILD of God (Gal. 4:6-7)

Jesus was born under the Law in order to free you from your failure to keep God’s righteousness! Because Jesus was treated as an outsider,
You BELONG in Christ’s FAMILY (cp. Ephesians 2:19)
Everything that has separated you from God—all of your sin and rebellion, all of the violence and anger and lust and hatred and complaining and jealousy and pride—every way that you failed to measure up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness has been satisfied in Him! So when you come in repentance, turning away from that old life of sin and rebellion and trust in His perfect obedience, you are no longer estranged from God--
Ephesians 2:19 ESV
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
Galatians 4:6 says that God gives you the Spirit of His Son into your heart so that you can call Him “Abba! Father!” “Abba” is a term of endearment, a term of intimacy with God. Sometimes when you invite people to church you’ll hear them say something like, “Oh, God and I haven’t been on good terms for a while now” or “Me and the Big Guy have some catching up to do” or “If I came to church the roof would probably cave in!”
Is that where you find yourself this morning? That you have an uneasy relationship with God? Like some of the Christmas gatherings on Friday that were tense and awkward because of longstanding grudges or the memory of harsh words or sinful behavior, perhaps you come into God’s presence with that same kind of awkwardness because of your past behavior—you can’t be comfortable in God’s presence.
Friend, if that’s you today, then this is the Good News that Jesus’ birth under the Law has for you—because He perfectly kept that Law (even when it presumed He was guilty of sin when He wasn’t), you can now be declared innocent of sins that you are guilty of! Not because of your own goodness or your own ability to “be a good person”, but because the blood that Jesus shed in obedience to His Father did not stop with a few drops at His circumcision when He was 8 days old—the blood He shed in obedience to His Father at the Cross (where He paid the price for sins He never committed, dying in agony for your crimes against His Father!) pays the price for your redemption, so that you can be free of those sins, free of that guilt and shame, and free to call on God as Father!
Jesus became a stranger to His Father so that you could become His child—when you confess your sin before God, ask Him to forgive you on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross for you, you not only receive the Spirit of God that calls Him “Father”, but
You RECEIVE Christ’s INHERITANCE
for all eternity!
That’s what Paul says in Galatians 4:7
Galatians 4:7 ESV
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
When you receive the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to dwell in you, giving you the right and the ability to call God “Father”, you also receive all of the consequences Jesus received for His perfect obedience to His Father! The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus has entered into heaven itself “now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:24).
Christian, consider this—
You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through his blood; if you are justified, it is through his righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because he is [your] sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in... Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in him” Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.
You have all of this, Christian, because you have been adopted as a child of God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Because He was estranged, you belong to the family of God! Because He was treated like a sinner, you are treated like a son! You have all the riches, all the glory, all the eternal reward in Heaven that Jesus won by His obedience, and when you come by faith to Him, He gives it all to you!
In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he connects this marvelous reality of Christ’s trading our sin for His righteousness with our reconciliation with Him:
2 Corinthians 5:20–21 ESV
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Do you see what He is saying here? Because Jesus was born under the Law—because He was treated as a stranger and a sinner—you will be received as a son and an heir of God! All of the estrangement and broken relationship between you and God because of your sin is taken away because of Christ’s work—He became sin so that you would become righteous.
And if you have received that reconciliation by Christ, then that means that you can offer that same reconciliation to others! Paul goes on in the next verses of 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 6:1–2 ESV
1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
If the Spirit of Christ in you has enabled you to call on God as Father, that same Spirit dwelling in you can heal the brokenness and estrangement that exists between you and others in your life—only this Gospel can heal those wounds, only the innocent blood of Jesus can wash away the bitterness of guilt and shame between you and someone else. But it doesn’t start with their repentance; it starts with yours. When you come to understand how much you have been forgiven, you realize that there is nothing you cannot forgive.
Jesus was born under the law so that you could be free from the Law—He was estranged from His Father so you could be reconciled to Him and to each other. Jesus drank the bitter gall on the Cross so that you could be free of bitterness forever. He suffered unbearable shame there so that you could let go of yours. He absorbed blow after blow of hatred and violence so that you could leave the violence and hatred and anger of your past behind for good. Don’t hold on to those things anymore—let them go, let Jesus take them from you and drop them in the sea of forgetfulness, and come home to His Father’s family—your Father’s family! Come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Read Genesis 17:14. An uncircumcised male was considered “cut off from his people”; in other words, a person could not belong to God if he was not circumcised. Jesus did not just belong to God’s people—He is God. Why then did He need to be circumcised?
Luke 2:22 says that Jesus had to go up to the Temple to be “purified” along with Mary His mother. Why is it strange that Jesus had to be “purified from sin”? Read Romans 8:3 again. How does this verse help you understand why Jesus was treated as if He were a sinner?
Some people struggle to call God “Father” because of the nature of their relationships with their earthly fathers (some fathers sin against their children, some children sin against their fathers.) How does believing the Gospel enable you to be comfortable calling God “Father”? Spend some time this week thanking God for bringing you into His family through Jesus Christ!
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