UNICEF-the United Nations Children’s Fund-estimates that 353,000 babies are born every day-just over four babies each second. Birth begins a life of 70-100 years and impacts those whose lives overlap with the child’s. Every generation relates most profoundly with those who share their time in history. Jesus is the exception to that statement.
Many people wonder why Jesus didn’t come sooner and why mankind didn’t have the benefit of His birth, death and resurrection immediately after Adam and Eve sinned. The answer is that the time which was predicted in the Old Testament, and when it was proper that He should come, was complete. The exact period had arrived when all things were ready. It was the time when all prophecies centered in Jesus were fulfilled. It was proper that the world should be brought to see its need of a Saviour, and that a fair and satisfactory opportunity should be given to all men to try other ways of salvation and that they might be prepared to welcome Him.
It was also a time when the world was at peace. There was order under Roman rule. Because of roads built by the Romans, communication between various parts of the Roman Empire was faster and more secure than at any other time in history. The Jews were scattered throughout the Empire. They were familiar with the promises and were looking for a Messiah. They had synagogues where the Gospel could be preached. Thanks to the conquests of Alexander the Great, the same language (Greek) was spoken and understood throughout the Empire.
Figuratively speaking, God’s calendar had a day with a big star on it-then the time was right for Christ to be sent forth into the world. It was the proper time to make God’s plan of salvation known. It was the appropriate time for the people to be freed from the bondage of sin. The fullness of time was the fullness of God’s time to fulfill His promise to Abraham. That fulfillment was Christ’s birth. He accomplished His purpose of providing the way for all of us to become children of God. He came from God to stand beside us as we face evil. He became our brother so He could suffer the punishment we deserve for our sins. Jesus was born under the law so that He could fulfill every claim and demand of the law on our behalf. He fulfilled the moral law in His life and the ceremonial law in His death. Jesus had to be fully God for His sacrifice to be of the infinite worth needed to atone for sin. He also had to be fully human so He could pay the penalty for our sins.
From a human perspective, Jesus’ birth and life on earth were not confined to His own generation. Simeon declared in Luke 2:31 that Jesus appeared “before the face of all peoples.”-old people like Simeon and the very young. Because Jesus is the eternal Son of God, He is alive for every generation following His own.
God, the Creator of the universe, submitted to the rule of others so we could claim His holiness as if it was our own. Talk of being a child of God is common in Christian circles, but how often do we stop and take time to consider what a privilege being a child of God is and what that really means not only to us but to God? When we are heirs because of adoption by God, it means that God is well pleased when we become children of God, exercise our authority and enjoy the fullness of our inheritance.
In New Testament times, some 60 million slaves lived in the Roman Empire. When someone bought a slave, the buyer could either own and use the slave or set the slave free. When God purchases or redeems people through Christ, He does so to set them free. Because we are not natural children of God, we can become sons and daughters only by divine adoption. Because we have been adopted as God’s children, we have the spirit of Jesus-the Holy Spirit, which is in our hearts and reassures us of our relationship with God. He encourages us to speak with love and trust and total openness to God our loving Father, just like a child on his or her father’s lap.
When we receive Christ, His Spirit takes up residence in the core of our being, giving us an internal power that we never had before and transforming our hearts from hateful and rebellion to loving and obedient. Our hearts control our words and actions. It isn’t easy for us to accept ourselves; to love and be loved, to feel worthwhile to ourselves and others. It is a time of overwhelming grace when we accept the fact that God knows us thoroughly and loves us thoroughly.
When God adopts us, his reaction is similar to that of a little girl named Olivia. Olivia had always liked to hear how her parents loved her from the time they first saw her at the adoption agency. But as she approached her twelfth birthday, the fact that she was adopted didn’t seem so entertaining any more. “I don’t really belong to anybody,” she thought one day as she picked wild berries in a field near her home. “Sure, Mom and Dad took care of me since I was six weeks old, but I’m not a blood relative, so I’m not really a member of their family.”
As Olivia started home, a rather dirty, skinny little dog timidly approached her. “Hi, little guy,” Olivia said gently. “Did someone dump you along the road? Why don’t you come live with me?” It didn’t take much coaxing to get the hungry puppy to follow her home. I wonder if Mom will let me keep him, she thought. Nice word–Mom. I wish it were really true.
Olivia’s mother saw them coming and went out to meet them. “Did you bring company for supper?” she asked, dropping to her knees and stroking the little dog. “I wonder if he has a name? He doesn’t look like he’s got a home.”
“Can I keep him?” Olivia asked eagerly. “We need to find out if he has an owner,” Mom replied. “If not . . . we’ll see.” No owner was found, and Olivia’s parents decided she could keep the dog. She called him Bingo.
“Well,” said Dad one morning, “it looks as if your adopted dog is happy here with you, Olivia.”
“Adopted!” Olivia exclaimed. “Dad, he’s not adopted. He’s my very own dog!”
“Of course he is,” replied Dad, “but he wasn’t always your dog.”
A slow smile crossed Olivia’s face as the truth sank in. That’s right! she thought. Bingo and I really belong together, even if it wasn’t always that way–and Mom and Dad and I belong together, too. Bingo wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world, and neither would I!
“Being adopted isn’t a bad thing, you know,” continued Dad. “In fact, all of us who are Christians are adopted, too. We’re adopted into God’s family.”
Olivia giggled and gave her dad a big hug, “We’re one big, happy family of adoptees–even Bingo,” she said.
For God, adoption matters more than blood. Whatever family race or religion we inherited by blood, our real Parent isn’t finally the one to whom we’re genetically related, but the one who adopts us and makes us heirs to the greatest of estates-the heavenly Kingdom.
Although a human father cannot give his own nature to an adopted child, God can. The Holy Spirit, whom God places within us at the moment of salvation, confirms us as God’s children and stirs us to cry, “Abba, Father!” This term is found only two other times in the New Testament, and means “Dearest Father.” It is the Bible’s greatest argument against legalism.
God’s family includes second-class people, those who are never quite good enough to be members of a church, never included in the social elite, never with enough money to quite fit the mold. Some potential church members might be considered second-class people by church leaders, but God has no second-class children. God’s love reaches down, forgives us and accepts us freely and without reservation.
The bondage of the Law had to precede the telling of the Gospel. It was like the period of development by which children are trained for adulthood. The child is subject to the terms of a will by a loving parent. Eventually the child will be free, but for now the child is restricted by the parent’s rules. The child is no different from a slave.
Through this bondage children learn to trust their parents. Similarly, through the bondage of the Law we learn to trust God. It allows us to pray “Abba, Father” as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane because we know the joy of being not a servant but a child of God. Before we can receive our inheritance from God, we must respond in faith to His promise.
When a person is saved, the law moves to the side and love moves to the centre. The believer is no longer enslaved to the harsh master of sin, but becomes a mature son or daughter of God. This shift in a person’s essence from slave to child with full rights as an heir of God is immediate, although believers often do not understand it until later in their Christian experience.
When we have a relationship with God, things change for the better. We feel different about our time, money and gifts. We realize that they belong to God, and He allows us to be stewards of them. We can experience His love in each situation. That changes everything. How many Christians today have received Christ’s forgiveness but miss out on living in the freedom they have? We don’t have to live under the impression that we have to earn our salvation.
God is our redeemer and liberator. The goal is freedom-not a freewheeling looseness without purpose and direction, but the kind of freedom where we can be what we are created to be, where we can reach the goals from whose glory we have fallen short. There is no reason for us to return to a life of slavery. We can live in the freedom that Christ has brought us-and that is the best gift we can receive at Christmas or at any time in the year.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1628)
- “Part of the Family.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 78-83)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- John North, “Time with God.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Galatians 4:4-7.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Dr. Jack Graham, “What Would It Be Like if Jesus Hadn’t Come?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Harold Sala, “No Second-Class Citizens in His Kingdom.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor David McGee, “Our Relationship Changes Everything.” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
- “Living in the Freedom Christ has Given You.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Elisabeth Johnson, “Commentary on Galatians 4:4-7.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “A Man for All Ages.” Printed in Turning Points Magazine, Dec. 2017, p. 45
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights: Galatians/Ephesians (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: 2015; pp. 89-92)
- Quinn G. Caldwell, “Real.” Retrieved from www.ucc.org