God Sent Forth His Son
Galatians 4:3–7 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
When thinking about texts for Christmas sermons, there are certainly many passages of Scripture that one could turn to. But when pastor Emilio first mentioned to me about preaching for Christmas the first text that came to my mind was “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son”. And after looking up the passage and seeing all of the surrounding context to that statement of Paul that came to my mind I thought it was certainly to be the text and so here we are. The whole letter of Galatians is extremely important in what it teaches about the centrality and specificity of the gospel, but notice in our text for today the very pertinent points concerning specifically Christ’s first advent which will make up the major points for our sermon today.
1) In verse 3 we see our great need for Christ’s coming to this earth, namely this state of bondage that we are all find ourselves in
2) In verse 4 we are reminded of the precise timing and conditions surrounding the Son’s incarnation
3) In verses 5-7 we see the benefits and results of Christ’s coming to this earth, Paul lists for us some of the infinitely valuable gifts that accompany our salvations as a consequence of what began in that small town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
So as we begin to think about the birth of Jesus and Christmas in general, we must not begin our thinking with simply thoughts of a cute little nativity scene and baby Jesus snuggled up nice and warm with His parents while people come and lay down expensive gifts at His feet.
No, the unfortunate reality is that the story actually begins with a much darker, bleek and more terrifying picture. A scene which consists of all of mankind, including every single person here in this church today, being found in a hopeless enslavement and bondage to a very wicked slave master, namely, the Prince of the power of the air. The text and therefore the story begins with man being in a state of desperate need.
Galatians 4:3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
We need to begin our examination of this verse here by carefully noting Paul’s words to these churches in Galatia. As Paul is going to go on to describe this bondage and the hold that it has gained on poor souls, but first, it is of great importance to make sure that you see just who all Paul is including to be held in this bondage.
Paul is writing this letter to the churches of Galatia. These churches would have most certainly consisted of predominantly Gentiles. And every Jew knows that the Gentiles were by nature a sinful people. They are pagans, heathen, the unclean “goyim”. Of course they are held in bondage to the elemental things of the world….. But notice how Paul begins here in verse 3 by saying “So also we”. Paul the great Jew includes himself, along with all of his fellow Torah quoting Jews as having also been underneath this same hold of bondage.
And so what exactly is this bondage that Paul says everyone one was once bound too?
I think it’s helpful to reference here Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:8 which uses very similar language.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ”
Here Paul uses this same phrase, “the elementary principles of the world” along with other descriptors such captivating philosophies, empty deceptions, all of which are according to the tradition of men.
And as you think about this variety of different enslavements that Paul lists here in Col 2:8, notice at the end of verse 8, notice most importantly what all of these philosophies and traditions of men are in opposition to, Christ!
In other words it’s one or the other. It’s either the world’s way of thinking which enslaves you and keeps you in bondage or it’s Christ.
And likewise, just as with Galatians, the book of Colossians was also written to predominately Gentile Christians, who would have most certainly before coming to Jesus Christ have been given over to worldly philosophies and empty deceptions, but what about the Jews, what about what Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews said back in our text in Galatians 4:3? How is it that Paul lumps himself and all of his fellow Jews into this same situation of being held in this bondage to elementary things and principles?
What is the commonality and congruity between this bondage to these elemental things that all of the world is under both Jew and Gentile?
Foundationally both Jew and Gentile begin in the same place and have the same starting point and that is union with Adam, their federal head, their representative. And because of this union that all mankind shares with Adam, as Romans 5:19 says, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” we all start there as sinners. And as both Jew and Gentile alike begin as sinners they continue as sinners just as Jesus taught in John 8:34 “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
And I think these realities of both Jew and Gentile having sinful natures and therefore both continuing in sin is commonly recognized and acknowledged.
But what is maybe even more significant to note than simply the reality of sin in all, is the commonality of just how it is that every man who is held in his bondage to sin attempts to free himself from his bondage. It’s this vain attempt that all men make to free themselves from their bondage that makes up the greatest congruity and similarity between all false religion and false philosophy of both Jews and Gentiles
It’s the biggest aspect of what I think Paul is referring to here as this world encompassing empty deception, and elementary principle of the world which is known to us as works righteousness. Works Righteousness, also known as legalism, aka self justification, an attempt to make oneself good and righteous by keeping a set of rules or laws well enough that one could therefore attain to salvation.
This is the great deception that man can justify himself by being good enough. And it doesn’t matter which set of rules you are trying to keep in order to produce a self righteousness, it is all in vain. It doesn’t matter if the rules you are trying to keep are those made up by Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Satan or even God. To attain justification by Law keeping is an empty deception. It’s the ladder of sand that all of mankind is attempting to climb.
And as you look around at all the world’s religions that exist today, they all boil down to some sort of Moralism: a general concept of being good enough and keeping a system of rules to get to heaven.
Islam, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism…….
So, whether it’s the example of the Jew seeking righteousness by keeping the written Law of God well enough or it’s the Pagan attempting to keep the works of the Law that are written on their hearts, we see the results of man’s very base, simplistic and unregenerate mind are the same.
Man takes the Law, which was intended to show one their lack and need, and attempts to use it to actually display his worthiness. Only the most spiritually childish person (which is why Paul includes this language of “while we were children” here in verse 3, only the most spiritually childish person would have such a low of God and such a high view of himself to think that his righteousness would be good enough for the holy God.
And so brothers and sisters, remember that this was also once all of our pitiful and inescapable states of bondage to the elemental things of this world.
This is why we all desperately needed there to be a Christmas. And praise God for the contents of the next few verses in our text!
That was our need, let’s now turn our attention to when and what God did to answer our desperate need.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law
Who could have imagined that I would one day love conjunctions? But this word ‘but’ here in the beginning of verse 4 makes the difference between my much deserved and certain eternity in hell and my now certain destination of a timeless existence in the presence of the triune God forever. The difference maker for all of us who are in Christ is that God acted. We were in our bondage under the elemental things of this world, “but when the fullness of the time came”………meaning, when God who is the sovereign over time, had orchestrated everything in this world to be just as He had planned it from the beginning of time itself He sent forth His Son.
We may wonder why 2000 years ago was to be the fullness of the times for Christ to come but there are several aspects of God’s providential workings that we can see by looking back into history that may help us to see some of the things God orchestrated to fulfill His purposes with Christ’s birth. One of the most notable I think was the fact that God had used Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. to spread Koine Greek the language of the N.T. to the entire Mediterranean region so that when the NT was written it was able to spread like wildfire and be understood by everyone in every area. The Romans helped with this also as they built extensive roadways connecting every major city of the Middle East which the Apostle Paul himself would one day use to spread the Gospel of Christ’s birth. But even more significant than God’s use of pagan nations to prepare for the coming of Christ, God had fulfilled the times of His promised Messiah to come from His word. God had since the first pages of Genesis been building up His people for this fullness of the time. God had been constantly and progressively revealing more and more about this fullness of the time to the point that the people of God were anxiously awaiting His coming.
As 1 Peter 1:10–11 illustrates,
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
God had also been training His people through the Scriptures for the fullness of the time, preparing them for Christ’s coming so that they would be ready.
Galatians 3:24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
For a couple thousand years God had been training His people through the Old Testament writings that they were not Covenant keepers, they were not law keepers but were hopeless law breakers who needed a Messiah to come.
And so after all of God’s sovereign preparation, when the fullness of the times had finally come…..
“God sent forth His Son”
This marks the fullness of the times. Time was created for this moment. Time is marked by this moment. God sending forth His Son is why we know this year as being 2014. Time itself is marked by this event, the sending of God’s Son.
It’s just 5 words, “God sent forth His Son” and in these few words is so much Theology and more specifically Christology.
First, Who did God send forth? His Son.
What does it mean to be the Son of God? Just what Hebrews 1:8 told us it meant…
“But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER”
God (the Father) is saying that the Son is God. And so we have the Father, who is Divine referred of course, now attesting to the Son’s likewise Divinity which in turn leads us to our view of God as Triune. Father, Son, and Spirit, 3 Divine persons, who communicate amongst each other, therein existing together, yet remaining distinct in their persons all making up the 1 being of God. The Trinity.
Even the Jews of Jesus’ day understood the implications of Jesus being the Son of God in this unique way.
John 5:18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
To be the Son of God is to be God.
And if you look carefully again at the language used here to describe the sending of the Son in Galatians 4:4, we see Jesus’ Divinity is further attested to by the grammar’s necessitating His preexistence in the words “sent forth”
The 2 words “sent forth” come from 1 compound word in the Greek “ἐξαπέστειλεν” Root: ἀποστέλλω= send away Prefix:ἐξ=out
BDAG: “send someone off to a locality or on a mission, send away, send off, send out”
So where was the Son before the manger in Bethlehem? From where was he sent forth? He was with the Father in heaven, and was then sent forth to earth for His mission. This reality, that the Son of God preexisted His birth in Bethlehem is important. Many pseudo Christian churches, in an attempt to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, teach the false Christology that Jesus became the Son of God at His birth in Bethlehem. They do not want to believe the Biblical teaching that God the Father and God the Son have eternally coexisted as distinct persons sharing equally the nature of God. But even here in our text today we see the reality taught that God sent the Son.
Brothers and Sisters, when you think about the sending of the Son here at Christmas time, remember as well the great sacrifice of condescension that this was for the Son of God. Yes, God the Father sent the Son, but in that sending is also the willingness of the Son to come. In what has been come to be known as the Covenant of Redemption, that pact that was made between the Father, Son and Spirit before even time began, all three persons of the Trinity, in unity agreed that the Son would come into the creation that was to be formed. And so even as the Son was agreeing to this mission that He would embark upon, remember where He was and what all He had before willfully taking on His mission to come here, namely, His existence as a Divine person in the glories of heaven.
Paul refers to the Son who came from the glories of heaven, as the Lord of glory in 1 Cor 2:8. In John 17, we see Jesus praying after having already been on this earth for over 30 years for the restoration of His place in glory. John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Philippians 2:5–7 being one of the greatest texts that presents this willingness for the Son of God to condescend to us despite the exalted position that He had in Heaven prior to His birth.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
What a Savior we have brothers and sisters. The Son of God being willing to empty Himself by taking on an additional nature, a human nature which would of necessity veil the glory that He had while in Heaven.
And Paul back in our text in Galatians 4, goes on to note as well this particular aspect of the sending of God’s Son. The taking on of an additional nature in the words, Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, BORN OF A WOMAN, born under the Law
The Son of God, who before that first Christmas had only one nature, and that nature was Deity; existing in omnipresent Spirit. But the miracle of Christmas is that this Son was sent forth, taking on an additional nature of mankind and was then born of a woman.
This was a miracle indeed. And Charlie Holmes was right in the letter that he recently wrote to our church, for those who got to see it, “This incarnation of the Son was the greatest miracle of all time”. This miracle was prophesied of in shadow form in texts such as Genesis 3:15 and explicitly in texts such as…
Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God with us).
The Son of God being born of a woman just like you and I were. The Son of God confining Himself to dwell in the uterus of a human woman for 9 months. What a strange and amazing miracle this is. This miracle is so incredible that millions upon millions of people, like the Muslims for instance, are perishing every year to a Christ less eternity because they cannot find the grace to believe that a transcendent God could or would condescend in such a way as this, to be born of a woman.
But as amazing as this work of God is it is one that is of necessity to believe. We dare not underestimate or doubt God and be found under the rebuke of Habakkuk 1:5, a rebuke that the apostle Paul quotes as having direct relevance to believing the claims concerning the miraculous nature of Jesus Christ’s work in history in the sermon he preached when at Pisidian Antioch in….
Acts 13:38–41 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. 40“Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: 41‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.’ ”
No we would not have either while we were under our bondage to the elemental principles of the world, have believed a report such as the Son of God becoming a human being, but by God’s sovereign grace we believe what to the world is the foolish and unbelievable.
And Paul mentions one more description of the incarnated Son in Galatians 4:4 before he moves into the purposes of His incarnation.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, BORN UNDER THE LAW
The Son was born under the Law. Not only was Jesus born under the universally binding moral law of God that both Jew and Gentile are duty bound to keep but Jesus was born at such a time so as to be born a Jew. And as such, He was born under the Old Covenant Law as well.
First, Jesus displayed for us in His life God’s moral perfections, perfect love for God and man. Jesus was born at the fullness of the times when these laws had been inscripturated, leaving no room for man to doubt what God’s holy standard was, a Scripture that was intended to show man how far from God’s glory he had actually fallen was then flipped and used by God to display how glorious Jesus Christ actually was.
Second, Jesus willfully put Himself under then, not only the moral law, but also the additional civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. Jesus likewise with perfection kept not only the letter of the law but as well the spirit of it as He willfully subjected Himself to the civil requirements of living in Israel, the temple sacrificial system as well as keeping the holy days; the Sabbaths and Festivals. And in so doing Jesus kept and fulfilled all of the Laws that were added to prepare people for Himself, all of the types and shadows He actually fulfilled in Himself. He kept every law that God has ever required of any man whether Jew or Gentile. And that for a very specific purpose as our text goes on to say.
The final points of our text, the purposes of Jesus’ incarnation.
Galatians 4:4–7 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
From verses 5-7 I counted four purposes for Jesus’ incarnation and subsequent law keeping. And let’s begin with the first one listed.
5 “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law”
Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was part of a great transaction. Through Jesus’ life and later death He was actually making a purchase. He was redeeming all of those whom the Father had given Him, all of those who would believe in Him whether Jew or Gentile, he was redeeming those who had been under law. And in order to carry out this redemption for those who were under law, Christ Jesus had to put Himself under that law. In other words, the redeeming work that Christ accomplished was distinctively substitutionary. Christ Jesus in our place.
In Galatians 3:13 Paul further explicates the details of this redemption.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—
Here we now have added another aspect of Christ’s obedience for us. We’ve already seen how Christ was actively obedient for us in that He put Himself under the Law in order to keep it in our behalf and now here in Galatians 3:13 we see the other aspect of Christ’s obedience, it is an aspect that has come to been categorized by theologians as His passive obedience, the fact that He became a curse for us. He hung on a tree for us, taking our curse upon Himself.
Christ Jesus took the punishment that we deserved, the curse that we were under because we could not do everything the law demanded of us.
Remember that Paul already reminded us in Gal 4:3 that we had all begun our lives under the bondage of the elemental things of the world, that base thinking that we could justify ourselves by our good works, our law keeping. Well God’s law had actually already addressed that kind of faulty thinking back in Deut 27 from which Paul quotes in
Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.”
In order to be justified by the Law, one must perfectly keep all of the Law, we didn’t and Jesus did, for us. A gift given to us by His grace!
Christ Jesus became cursed for us, a free gift to you Christian, Merry Christmas!
But that’s not all. Not only do we get redemption from our bondage to sin through the sending of the Son, but the redemption in our text leads to another gift of God……..
Galatians 4:5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE ADOPTION AS SONS.
Adoption into God’s very family. Can this be true that we are actually brought into the family of God? Indeed it is! Could one receive a greater and more perfect Father than the God of the Scriptures? For those who have not had good earthly Fathers, they can appreciate this gift and rejoice exceedingly in the adoption that they have received in Christ. And for those who have had godly Fathers in this life you have received but a glimmer of the love, protection, and security that you will have for all of eternity in the embrace of our heavenly Father.
Redemption from sin, adoption into God’s family, it goes on…..
Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
This text just keeps getting better and better because with adoption Paul reminds us, comes the gift of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit here referred to as the Spirit of the Son takes His rightful place in the work of our salvations. The Father sent the Son for redemption. The Son came being born under the law, taking the curse of the Law in our behalf and the Spirit then in turn fills us, sealing us and ensuring us that we are in fact children of God. And the Spirit so ensures us of our adoption by not prompting us to cry out to God as simply our Master although He is this, because we have been adopted we speak to God with a most intimate cry, that of Abba, Father. Abba being an Aramaic term that is so intimate of a word that this is how the unique Son of God cried out to the Father when in His garden prayer before going to the cross and He was at the height of desperacy to be heard and comforted. And some how we are brought into this relationship with God the Father by which we now speak to Him with the same intimacy that His eternal Son speaks. Unbelievable indeed.
Let us close with the last verse in our text, a summary statement in a sense of all that we have been reminded of today with one additional gift for us at the end.
Galatians 4:7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
The therefore at the beginning of this verse looks back to everything God has done through the sending His Son, we are no longer slaves to Satan and to our sin, but we have become sons of God. And just as the reception of the Spirit is a result of our sonship so now too we are told that we have become also become heirs. And this along with everything else that God has been revealing to us today is likewise on the verge of being too amazing to believe. We are now adopted sons, heirs of God’s estate, heirs of God’s kingdom. Everything that is His will be shared with you as well.
How can we ever look at this temporary and passing world the same again having just been told what we have about where we stand with God because of what Christ Jesus did for us? How can we not praise our Savior with genuine worship because of what He was willing to do for us? How can the gifts that we receive during Christmas compare to the gifts that God has given to us in Christ? May the gifts you get this year for Christmas grow strangely dim to you. May they not in the least be distract you from truly being satisfied by the gifts of God’s grace; redemption, adoption, the Spirit, and becoming an heir.
2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!