105. The Challenge of the Christ of Christmas. Galatians 4:4-5

Over the last week millions of people all over the world went to Christian services to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. What was so significant about His coming into the world at this time almost 2000 years ago?  What does His coming tell us? Paul reminds us in Galatians 4:4-5.

 1.   GOD’S TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT. Verse 4. v.4, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.” The time was right, from God’s point of view, for Jesus to be born as a human baby at that first Christmas.  We can say humanly speaking, it was an ideal time for Jesus to come to earth. The different cultures had prepared the way for His coming. For example:-

A.  The Roman Empire. The communication system was highly developed. Roads had been built throughout the Roman Empire. It was safe for trade to be conducted in various places, for the Roman army kept watch over the main trade routes. Because of the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, there was political stability in the world under the Roman Empire. It was a relatively safe time in which to live and to travel.

B. Greek Culture. The common language of Greek was known and understood by most people. The Old Testament had been translated into a Greek version so that many could understand the way God had been active in history in the lives of His people. Even New Testament documents were written in the common language of the day, so that most people could understand them.

C. Jewish Culture. The Dispersion meant that many of the Jews had been scattered throughout the world. Synagogues had been established even in small towns where the Jews could gather together to read and study the Old Testament Scriptures. Many Jews were praying and expecting their Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, to come.

BUT, there was a spiritual vacuum.  The gods of the Greek and Roman cultures hadn’t satisfied. The Jews felt restrained by the law. It pointed out what was right and wrong but did not give power to do the right. They were not free politically either. They were subject to the Roman authorities, and not just to God. They didn’t like it one little bit. People were looking for something to happen. In many ways it was a time similar to our own day, in which we’ve become disappointed with the things of the world. In human terms we despair at the seeming incompetence and apparent arrogance of world leaders. We are amazed that humans could so easily thumb their noses at God in rejecting His rule over their lives. Many today too are looking for something more real and satisfying than what they are presently seeing and experiencing.

IT WAS AT THIS TIME THAT GOD SENT JESUS INTO THE WORLD.   Here was the power of God and the love of God in action. Jesus came into the world He had made, in the form of a baby. It wasn’t easy for the people of that day to recognise who Jesus was as the Messiah and the Son of God. They failed to see how God’s purposes were being fulfilled in the birth or the death of Jesus. A crucified Messiah? Foolishness to the Greeks! Crucified in weakness? A stumbling block for the Jews! Paul quoted the scripture from Deuteronomy 21:23 when he wrote in  Gal 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”. If Jesus had been crucified, then of course He must have been under the curse of God in their eyes. He was, but it was for our human sin not for His. Paul put it in Romans 5:6, “while we were yet helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” And Peter expressed it, 1 Pet 2:24, Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sins and live to righteousness. ” The death of Jesus was planned from all eternity and happened at exactly the right time in human history.

But note:  We see these truths now in retrospect. We see the way all things came together at that particular time for the Christ to come. However the people of that day may not have seen it at the time, as we see it now. The coming of Jesus back then may have been on an ordinary day in an ordinary year for most people.

You and I don’t always see the significance of what God is doing at any particular time. Some people came to the Healing Service in the Cathedral in Sydney, not realising that their lives would never be the same again as God ministered to them in love and healing power. It can be the same when the people of God come together in many different places around the world. He can touch their lives so that they are changed forever. It could be on a very ordinary day that you have an encounter with God. In retrospect you may see it as the most significant day on your life. But why did Jesus come?

2.   WHY GOD SENT JESUS. V.5

i. To set us free from the condemning law. Gal 4:5  to redeem those who were under the law.   “Redeem” means to set at liberty those who were previously bound. The law of God promised life to those who perfectly obeyed it. It also promised condemnation to those who disobeyed it in any way. It said “Do this and you will live” and promised death to those who didn’t obey it perfectly. But Jesus came to fulfil the law by living a perfect human life, and by dying a perfect human death for sinners. Christ redeemed them by His death. Now we are able to come to God through Him. The writer to the Hebrews put it, Heb 10:19  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh. Now through Him we are able to live in a personal loving relationship with God

ii. To enable us to be adopted as His children. Gal 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Jesus died for us that we might receive adoption as His children, through faith in Him. He came and died so that we might live in a relationship of love, not law, with God Himself.  John wrote of the coming of Jesus that He came to bring light, life and acceptance to the world,  John 1:9  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Grace! Freely forgiven and accepted in Christ. Truth! Reality! The real God offering real love to real people as they opened up to Him.

At that first Christmas Day God sent His Son into the world as a gift to be received by faith. Millions throughout the world and through the ages have done so over the succeeding years. But the number of Christmas Days is coming to an end. Jesus will return to pass eternal judgment on all who have ever lived and on those who are alive at His coming. The basis of the judgment is what they have done with God’s gift. Those who have received God’s gift of Jesus will live with Him in bliss for ever. Those who have ignored God’s gift will not.  A frightening prospect! But one that can be averted by putting one’s faith in Christ.

As I write these words it is New Year’s Eve. 2012 is coming to an end in about 2 hours. It is a very special time for me. It was at this precise moment in 1958 that I was struggling with the question, “What should I do with Jesus? Should I continue to reject Him? Should I humble myself and invite Him to be my Saviour and my Lord?” I made a decision. It was the most important decision I ever made or will ever make! I decided to repent on my sins and to ask Jesus to come into my life to be my own personal Saviour and Lord. There in that little flat in Griffith Street, Tweed Heads-Coolangatta in Australia I knelt beside my bed and prayed asking God to forgive me and inviting Jesus to come into my life. Life has never been the same since. Different! In every way! Coming to understand the written word so much more clearly. Coming to love the Living word, Jesus, more and more dearly. Knowing that the Almighty God has a plan and purpose for me in His world. Knowing His strength to be able to do it. Knowing I am loved by the God who so loved the world (including me) that He gave His only Son to come and die for me so that I might have life, in abundance! I received God’s Christmas gift back in 1958 and have never regretted it. But a question for you to  answer. Have you received God’s Christmas gift, the gift of His Son to come and live in you by His Spirit, so that you can become part of the family of God? It’s a question that only you can answer. And answer it you must! Soon!

Blog No.105.  Jim Holbeck.  Posted on New Year’s Eve, 2012.

 

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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