Thursday, March 24, 2022

When the fullness of time had come

 Read Galatians 4

How many creation stories are there in the Bible?

There is, of course, Genesis 1.  In the beginning, God created… We all know that one.  It describes the creation on a cosmic or universal level.

Genesis 2 is a continuation of that account but at the same time it is an account all its own. This account gives us the order in the world that we know.

The two accounts were not reconciled into one when the oral telling of them was put into writing, probably at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. With a brief segue, one account transitions to the other.

 There is something of a third account in Genesis 5

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.

The purpose of this account seems to be less about creation and more about the continuation of humankind. It’s the first genealogy in the Bible that goes beyond one generation.

There is one more creation story.  Actually, there are several stories about the creation that offer different aspects, but just one more that covers it all.  You know it.  It begins like the first one.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And of course, we look forward to the New Creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

That’s a look at the creation stories, but how about the Christmas stories?

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are where we see those that we know best. We need both to get a good picture of what happened, but Luke’s gospel usually gets center stage in the Christmas play.

Mark’s gospel skips the creation entirely. What about John? We find a very succinct Christmas story in verse 14.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas!

So, there are our Christmas stories, or could there be yet another?

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

 Merry Christmas!

So why all this business about creation and Christmas?  I thought we were talking about circumcision and feasts and salvation by the law—which is no salvation at all.

Consider these words: But when the fullness of the time had come.

When it was just the right time.  When God’s clock said, now.  When all of the cosmic pieces fell into place…

We are self-aware beings.  That is, we know that we exist and we search for our purpose, at least some do. Because we know we are living creatures, we often examine ourselves.  We have a perspective on our lives. We are in awe of everything when we are young.  We know everything when we are a teenager. Sometimes, we find out that everything hurts when we get old.

For many of us, our minds tell us that we are still in our twenties and thirties.  Our bodies often disagree. One of my grandsons, Levi, likes to remind us that he’s big.

If we can be honest with ourselves, we know that we were totally dependent upon our parents for a long time.  Then we were allowed to do some things on our own.  We got a job.  We got a car.  We got a girlfriend and discovered it’s expensive to have a car and a girlfriend. But one day, we were pretty much making it on our own. Our parents were always there to help, but we wanted to make it on our own.

There came a time for us to leave the nest.

Mankind—humankind has also grown.  We were under the law for a time. The law was like a parent or guardian, but when the time became right, we were ready to live to the full.

The advent of the Messiah marked that time.  It was time for humankind to truly live. It was time to step out from under the law.  The law would no longer be a guardian who made the important decisions for us.  The law became a mentor—a lifelong guide—to help us navigate this world.

There was no longer a subordinate relationship to the law, for where there was such a relationship, we were also governed by sin.  The law is not bad and there is still sin in the world, but neither has power over us now.

I am crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

Paul notes a parallel between Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishmael was Abraham’s son, but not the son of the promise.  That son, came through Sarah.  We know him to be Isaac.

God still took care of Ishmael, but the promise of the Seed that would save humankind came through Isaac. Let’s hear Paul explain it.

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.  For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,

    you who never bore a child;

shout for joy and cry aloud,

    you who were never in labor;

because more are the children of the desolate woman

    than of her who has a husband.”

 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.  But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Consider Paul’s Christmas story once again.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

God sent forth his Son who was born under the law.  Christ Jesus was born under the law.  The law was guardian over humankind until Christ came.  Christ fulfilled the law just as he said he would.

We are liberated from the guardianship of the law, not to ignore the law but to receive the law as our mentor and friend.  God gave I for our own good and now because of the promise that we see first with Abraham and delivered through Jesus, we are no longer under—subordinate to—the law. 

The law is our mentor.  The law is our friend.  The law shows us where we fall short of the glory of God, but the law is not our governor.

We are made right with God by grace that we have been given by the blood of Jesus.  It is truly a gift that we receive by faith.

Now that we are God’s children, we know that he will not orphan us.  We will not run away and return to the governance of the law—the slavery of the law.

The commands of God are good and for our own good, but not our master.  We should obey them in response to this grace that we have received.  If we live to the full, we will fulfill his commands by loving one another.

The law will show us where we fall short.

The law will guide us in holy living.

The law will never get us to right standing with God.

The law will show us how much we need the grace of God that has been offered freely in the blood of Jesus.

The law is neither master nor governor of our lives.  We have been set free of the law’s mastery over us and now that we have received salvation by grace through faith, the law is our friend and mentor, but not our governor.

We live in an age—a wonderful age—where neither the law, nor sin, nor death, nor anything else on earth can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus. I’m wrapping up with Paul’s words to the Romans.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we get to Ephesians, we will talk more about what we have in him—Christ Jesus our Lord.  For now, start thinking of the law as your mentor or friend, but never your master.

We have not kicked the law to the curb.  The law is in our inner circle with the Spirit of God that lives within us as well as the full biblical witness that we know.

The time became right not only for us, but for the law as well.  The time was right for the law to become our guide to Godly living.

Now that we are set free from sin and death and know that nothing can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus, we can seek to bring glory to God with the guidance of the Spirit, the law, wisdom, and with the support of the body of Christ.

The law is not our governor and it is not a burden.  It is our friend and mentor.

Thanks be to God.


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