GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE KING OF THE NEW YEAR!
TEXT: Galatians 4: 4-5: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
Dearly Beloved In Christ On the Dawning of a New Year:
One of the wisest bits of advice I’ve ever received came from my old Pastor Schulz, now in heaven. He told me: “The Lord makes things clear over time.” I’ve used that advice in my own life and repeated it to many of you on occasion. It stands the test of time because it’s totally true. We humans are an impatient lot. We want answers and we want them yesterday. We have problems and we want them resolved 10 minutes ago. Our nature doesn’t want to “wait on the Lord” because that means we cannot be in control. And none of us likes that! But, the fact is: we’re not in control. We don’t know everything. Only God does. So, waiting on the Lord is really the only thing we can do. Watching Him unfold answers and solutions is a study in patience and wisdom. It also builds our faith.
Long-time church goers have heard this lesson many times. I must confess that I never fully grasped its meaning until my sainted professor, Glenn Reichwald, once explained it in history class. His take on that phrase: “But when the time had fully come” went something like this.
“Gentlemen, that phrase is pregnant! It is full of meaning. Just think about how God used all the divergent aspects of history and brought them all together to make Christ’s birth happen at exactly the right time. First, all those OT prophecies about Israel being reduced to a stump, a shadow of its former self had to be fulfilled. This was to humble that prideful nation and prepare their hearts. It took years and centuries, but it finally occurred. Judah was a hiccup in the Roman Empire. Next, think about the spread of the gospel. Before this time frame, the known world was fragmented. Even 200 years before Christ’s birth, you had various powers vying with each other. Carthage was the sea power, Rome was just starting to gain territory, Greece was fragmented in factions, Egypt was a rump state, and the Middle East was at war with itself fought between various generals of Alexander. How could the gospel be spread in such chaos? It wasn’t safe to travel. People didn’t want to hear about anything other than how to survive. But now, with Rome ascendant, the Pax Romana ruled the known world. Trade and commerce flourished. The sea lanes were safe to travel. Roman roads had been built everywhere. Judah chaffed under Roman rule and wanted to hear of God’s salvation and Rome would help make it all possible.” Yes, all that and more is wrapped up in those words: “When the time had fully come.”
Some faithful believers had adopted and were living that phrase: “The Lord makes things clear over time.” Anna and Simeon in the temple were two of them. They trusted in God’s timetable for their soul’s salvation instead of their own. Do you?
Now, let’s go on to this: “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law.” What does that mean? Again, with hindsight and Scripture, we know what it means. Christ, the second person of the Trinity, God eternal, the creative Word of God was made flesh. He assumed a human body along with a human soul. The OT law stated that this Messiah would have to have earthly parentage from King David’s direct lineage. Jesus fulfilled that. St. Matthew tells us that Jesus’ legal father, Joseph, came from David’s line. St. Luke informs us that Mary, Jesus’ human mother, also was a direct descendent of David. So, in human terms Jesus fulfilled the Law of the flesh with Mary and in legal terms of the day he fulfilled the requirements of the political law of the time. But, there’s more!
Jesus especially was the embodiment of the requirements of God’s Law! Since He was perfect, He came to fulfill and keep every single commandment of God’s Law for us. All those commands that we break daily, Christ kept. All of God’s legal punishments for sin, culminating in death, Christ fulfilled. Yes, He ultimately died on the cross to take away the eternal sting of God’s perfection vs. our imperfection. This is what He was born to do. This is why He came. And Jesus kept God’s plan for our salvation. So, when you trust in Jesus completely, when you give your life over to His control, all of His goodness and salvation is transferred to you!
How do we know that? Listen again: “To redeem those under law that they might receive full rights as sons.” Redeem means to buy something back for a price. The price for our souls, the price for freedom from the weight of our sins was His life for ours. God cannot and will not cancel out or ignore any violation of His holy will. God doesn’t simply “wave a magic wand” over us. To do so would be for Him to deny part of His essential nature: justice. Thus, “the wages of sin is death.”—That’s justice. But instead, God did something amazing in Christ! He sent us a champion, a substitute, to take on our sins and our violations of His holy will and to die in our place! He became guilty so that we could be judged not guilty! This is the meaning of redemption.
And all of this culminates in our receiving from His gracious hand “full rights as sons.” That is, legal heirs of heaven and legal heirs of God’s goodness and grace while we still live on this earth. My friends, we are blest far above all other people. We possess an eternal claim on heaven simply by believing and trusting in Christ’s pregnant work of saving us!
Happy New Year? Indeed, it is! How can it not be for you, God’s child? So, as you venture into the unknown of 2017, keep this day and this message etched firmly on your soul. Come what may, the Lord will make things clear over time! Don’t be afraid to “wait on the Lord.” Don’t be afraid when answers and solutions to life’s troubles don’t appear immediately. In the end, it will all work out for your eternal good as St. Paul informs us in Romans. Meanwhile, patiently learn wisdom from your journey into the unknown. For sometimes what we learn during and by that journey is just as valuable as the end result. Amen