“God Sent Forth His Son”

In the fullness of time, when the earthly stage was perfectly set up for this great drama of redemption, God the Father proclaimed to the heavenly council, “It is time!” And so the Son of God came down to earth as a lowly human infant, “born of woman, born under the law.”

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 9:6-7; Galatians 4:4-7 (Text) Download PDF sermon

Meditation for Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011, During the Festival of Lessons & Carols

Isaiah 9:6-7

Isaiah 9:6-7

The Holy Scripture clearly teaches that the Son of God, the second Person of the Triune God, came down from heaven as a baby born to a human mother. He was fully and truly human in all respects, except for one thing: he was not born with a sinful nature like us, and therefore, he did not sin, not even once, in thought, word, or deed.

This is the great mystery of the Incarnation and Virgin Birth. Jesus was born of a human mother, but of God as his Father. His conception was not the result of a physical union between his mother Mary and her husband Joseph. As our Apostles’ Creed says, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”

We celebrate Christmas because it is the beginning of Christ’s incarnation. From eternity, God’s gracious pleasure was the redemption of sinful human beings and of his whole creation. And when the fullness of time arrived, Jesus was born, with human flesh and blood, becoming like us. In his birth, the mysterious union of Christ’s divine and human nature was completed. Finally, Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven accomplished our redemption from sin and death into eternal life.

This Lord’s Day on this Christmas season, we consider the theme “God Sent Forth His Son”:

  1. Its Perfect Timing
  2. Its Mysterious Completion
  3. Its Eternal Results

Its Perfect Timing

What does Paul mean by “in the fullness of time”? Together will other New Testament writers, Paul saw the first coming of Christ as the end of the old era and the ushering in of the new era.

Paul was pointing out to the Galatians that the first coming of Christ was at the appointed time when God would finally send forth his Son into the world to save his people from sin. From eternity past, God already conceived “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). God’s plan from eternity to send his Son—which included good and evil kings, nations, individuals, places, events, and even spiritual forces—would come to fulfillment on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem.

And so the Son of God came down to earth as a lowly human infant, “born of woman, born under the law.”We may think that it just so happened that Caesar’s decree that all must register on their own hometown was declared when Mary’s pregnancy was in full term. It just so happened that Joseph was from Bethlehem, the city of David, from which “shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Mic 5:2). It just so happened that wise men from the east followed the star to Bethlehem, of which Balaam prophesied, “a star shall come out of Jacob” (Matt 2:2; Num 24:17). It just so happened that Herod was king of Judea, a king so wicked that he ordered the massacre of infants to protect his throne, so “lamentation and bitter weeping” was heard all throughout the land (Matt 2:16; Jer 31:15).

But these things did not just so happened, because in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son into the world.

We may think that three centuries before Jesus was born, it just so happened that Alexander the Great conquered the entire known world then and implemented the use of the Greek language throughout his empire. So when the New Testament was written, all peoples of the world were able to understand it. When the apostles went all over the world to preach the gospel, they were widely understood by the Greek-speaking Gentiles.

We may think that it just so happened that the Roman emperors were able to build cities, buildings, roads, bridges throughout the empire. It just so happened that Rome tolerated the religion and culture of the peoples they conquered so that the Jews were able to practice the Jewish religion freely. It just so happened that the Jews were very religious, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were competing for religious supremacy in Palestine. And it just so happened that the Jews were so oppressed under the Roman yoke, so that the people longed for the “consolation of Israel” to deliver them from cruel foreign occupation.

But these things did not just so happened, because in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son into the world.

The apostles traveled easily on good Roman infrastructure without the need for visas. They preached in public places freely as long as the Jews were not harassing them. And the gospel of Jesus Christ was joyfully welcomed by God-fearing Jews and Gentiles who had for so long sought true religion. Before Jesus appeared preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” God sent John the Baptist, herald of the long-awaited Messiah, to prepare God’s chosen people by baptizing them for repentance. And they waited for this Messiah who would not only deliver them from their sins, but also from the hated Roman legions.

In the fullness of time, when the earthly stage was perfectly set up for this great drama of redemption, God the Father proclaimed to the heavenly council, “It is time!” And so the Son of God came down to earth as a lowly human infant, “born of woman, born under the law.”

Its Mysterious Completion

In our text, Paul affirms two things about the Gospel: First, Christ was “born of woman.” Second, he was “born under the law.” Both of these were mysteries, hidden before Christ was born, but now revealed to the world. Seven centuries before Christ was born, Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Matthew interprets his name as “God with us” when the angel announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph. Later, Isaiah gives us more detail about this son, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).

In the fullness of time, God fulfilled his promise of this Son who came down from heaven and “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). He was “the Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). How the eternal Son of God became incarnate—truly human flesh and blood—will be to us a great mystery until the arrival of the age to come. The One through Whom the universe was created entered the world as a tiny baby. How was this tiny baby conceived? Just as he did during the primeval day when he hovered over the waters and filled the world with life, the Holy Spirit overshadowed a virgin woman, creating life in her womb without the aid of a husband. A great mystery!

This babe in Bethlehem is God who became one of us, “made to be like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:14). He was true human flesh and blood, with true human soul. Yet, he is the image of the invisible God, in Whom the fullness of deity dwells. One Person with two whole natures, divine and human, accomplishing his mission both as God and man.

But there is a greater mystery. The virgin woman who bore a Son echoes back to that fateful day in the Garden of Eden when Adam and his wife, the woman Eve, fell into sin by the serpent’s temptation. God then cursed the serpent and promised that the Seed of the woman would crush his head even after the serpent bruises the Seed’s heel (Gen 3:15).

This Seed would come down from heaven to offer himself a sacrificial Lamb of God “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Heb 7:26). From his conception, to his death, to his resurrection, and to his ascension, he remained in this sinless state. Why? It was part of his mission to perfectly obey his Father’s will, saying, “I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” and “My food is to do the will of my Father.”

Why is it his mission to perfectly obey his Father’s will? Because the First Adam failed in his probation when he disobeyed God’s covenant in the Garden of Eden, plunging the whole humanity whom he represented into sin and death. Now all mankind is under the curse of the law with no hope of redemption within themselves.

What is a holy and compassionate God to do? He sent his only-begotten Son to save his people from their sins. He would have to be born under the law because all mankind is under the law. He would have to be tempted in every way possible just like us, and yet be able to not sin in every thought, word or deed. And when his obedience is completed, he would obey all the way to his cruel death on the cross, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). He would submit himself under God’s law, not lawless or above the law. In his mission to perfectly obey God’s law and then to give his life as the Lamb of God without blemish, the Seed of the woman came down from heaven as the Second Adam to represent God’s elect.

Why is it required that our Redeemer come down from heaven and be a true and righteous man? Because who sinned but man, and man has to be punished. God’s wrath has to be satisfied by the broken body and shed blood of a spotless Lamb. Scriptures also say that this judgment against the whole humanity is eternal hell. How would one man be able to bear all the sins of all his people for eternity? Because, since he is also eternal God, he has the power of the Godhead to bear the eternal wrath of God. Because he has no beginning and has no end, his sacrifice on the cross is equivalent to our punishment in hell for eternity if the eternal Redeemer was not born in Bethlehem.

Now, we who used to be cursed under the law, in bondage to sin, death and eternal hell, are freed from the curse. Those who would believe in him “shall not perish, but have eternal life.” How? By being counted righteous by God because Christ would clothe us with his own perfect righteousness, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities… [to] make many to be accounted righteous” (Isa 53:5, 11). We are not righteous in ourselves, but because God has accounted us righteous in Christ, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Christ is the eternal, only-begotten Son of God, and by virtue of his perfect righteousness as a man, he represents us before the Father in heaven as the “firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15), the “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). He has the Father’s full inheritance as the King of King and Lord of Lords. And because he is firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29), we who are united to him are also firstborn children of God, “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:23).

Its Eternal Results

Although Christ is the only True Son of God, we who believe in him are also children of God by adoption. He was sent forth by God “so that we might receive adoption as sons.” John says that “all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). All sinners who have been given righteousness and are justified by God are not left alone, but are instead adopted into God’s covenant community, the church. They have new status, rights and privileges as children of God and as full members of God’s family (Eph 2:19). And because our adoption has been predestined by God before the creation of the world (Eph 1:5), we are assured that it will not be reversed.

Paul confirms that “because you are sons,” you have three privileges. First, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” As children of God, Christ has poured out his Spirit on you so that he may dwell with you forever, while he is away in heaven. What does the Spirit do for you? The Spirit gives you strength so you will not “fall back into fear.” He himself assures us as he “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15-16). The Spirit comforts, guides and teaches you into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13) in this sin-cursed, wicked world, full of sufferings and temptations, while you await the Second Advent of your Savior.

Second, as Jesus calls God his “Abba, Father” in heaven (Mark 14:36), you too have the right and privilege to call God also as, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6) It is through the Spirit of Christ that you are able to cry to God “Father!” through adoption (Rom 8:15). You now have full and direct access to God’s heavenly throne from where his mercy, grace and help are given. You can approach God in prayer in intimate communion with, “Our Father, who is in heaven.” You never have to fear God’s wrathful judgment again because he has poured out his wrath on your sins on his Beloved Son.

Third, as firstborn children of God, you have received an inheritance, “if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal 4:7), and again, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). What is included in this inheritance? Earthly riches and prosperity? Physical and emotional health? The good life? By no means! Paul says you are rightful heirs of all the covenant promises of God to Abraham, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). Already in this earthly life, you are already enjoying the firstfruits of your heavenly blessings: redemption, forgiveness of sins, sanctification, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. The Spirit is your seal and down payment, guaranteeing you of your full inheritance (Eph 1:13-14). Your inheritance will never be lost or taken away. And in the life to come, all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places will be yours in full and for eternity: perfect body and soul, with no sin, no sorrow, no tears, no suffering, no temptation. And most of all, you will dwell with God Immanuel forever in heaven.

Conclusion

Dear friends, rejoice in this: it is not by accident that you have believed in Christ, because God has ordained your salvation from eternity. In the fullness of time, he sent his Son to you as a baby born in Bethlehem to save you from your sins. Because you believed in Christ, God has counted you righteous and adopted you as children of God.

Therefore, rejoice! You can now draw near to God in intimate fellowship, and call him, “Abba, Father.” All of the riches of heaven and the blessings of eternal life are your inheritance in Christ. This promise is sealed to you for eternity by his Spirit who indwells you. May we all give honor and glorify our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas and forever more. Amen.

Related Articles:
  • No Related Articles