December 25th, 2016
“Christ Born Under the Law”
Auxiliary Text: John 1:1-14
Call to Worship: Psalm 119:161-168
Service Orientation: What we needed for eternal happiness, peace and life was for someone to come who was human, like us; perfectly righteous, unlike us; and yet powerful enough to redeem the entire world, for all of us. Jesus was born under the Law to do exactly that. Immanuel is the greatest gift of all.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. —Galatians 4:4-5
- . . . the conclusion to which the apostle obviously wishes him to come, and to which his statements plainly lead, is this,–“What object can in your case be secured by subjecting yourself to the law? Ye are already in possession of, or at any rate secured of, all you can possibly wish in the way of dignity and happiness; ye are already the sons and heirs of God through Christ Jesus. Ye are already complete in Christ,–why go to the law then? What can it do for you which he has not done? What can it give you of which you are not already possessed?” (John Brown, An Exposition of Galatians, 202)
- (v. 4) Several factors present in the Roman Empire certainly aided the quick spread of the message of the gospel. The Greek civilization provided a language that had spread across much of the known world as the main language for all people. The Romans had brought peace throughout their empire and built a system of roads that made land travel quicker and safer than ever before. The Jews were expectant, eagerly awaiting their Messiah. Messianic fervor was at its height. Into this world came Jesus. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 125)
- (v. 4) But God’s preparation reached beyond the scrolls of the OT and beyond his covenant with Israel. It reached to the shores of Macedonia and marched with the troops of Alexander as they planted Greek culture and language from Asia Minor to the borders of India. Thanks to Alexander’s exploits, the good news of the Son was heralded through the known world in a language understood more widely than any other language had been before.
God’s preparation stretched to the banks of the Tiber and ranged around Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa with the architects and engineers of Rome as they strung their arched aqueducts and surveyed their straight highways. Roman transportation, Roman peace, Roman government tied the scattered ancient strands of the world into a network of political and economic cooperation that made the traveling of the apostles and the spreading of their message easier than at any previous time.
The scattering of the Jews was also part of God’s preparation. Their synagogues from Babylon to Antioch, to Alexandria, to Philippi, to Rome, became the beachheads where the Christian invasion gained a foothold on foreign shores after “the time had fully come.”
Along with all of these–the Greek language, the Roman politics, the Jewish dispersion, the OT prophecies–Paul had something else in mind: the proven futility of the old religion. (David Allan Hubbard, Galatians: Gospel of Freedom, 76-7)
- (v. 7) Paul alluded to slavery in order to show that before Christ came and died for sins, people were in bondage to whatever law or religion they chose to follow. Thinking they could be saved by their deeds, they became enslaved to trying–and failing–to follow even the basics. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 123-4)
- (v. 7) There was nothing wrong with the law given at Sinai, but when the Jews and the proselytes to the Jewish religion began to look upon law-observance as the way whereby salvation could be achieved, and when, with this in mind, the Jewish religious leaders began to add their own multitudinous rules and regulations to those previously received, that law became their tyrant, to which they became enslaved. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Galatians, 157)
The questions to be answered are . . . What is significant about Christmas? Why was it important that Jesus be Immanuel, God’s Son? Why did Jesus have to be born of a woman? Why was Jesus born under the Law?
Answers: Christmas is about God becoming man so He might live the life we were supposed to live under the Law and at the same time die the death we deserved to die under the Law. Jesus was born under the Law so He might completely fulfill the Law and thus set us free from the condemnation and punishment the Law demanded. God did it all because He loves us! Merry Christmas!
The Word for the Day is . . . Immanuel
What is significant about Jesus being born under the Law?:
I- Immanuel was born of a woman so He might take our place. (Gal 4:4; see also: Mt 1:18-25; Lk 2:1-18; Jn 1:1-14; 15:13; Rom 3:24-25; 5:6-11; 1 Cor 5:7; 15:3; 2 Cor 5:14-21; Gal 1:4; Eph 5:2; 1 Jn 4:2)
Christ’s birth: He became what we are…so that we could become what He is.
Then it happened: at the right time God made possible a new relationship. He broke through the gloom of paganism and legalism by sending his own Son into the midst of human life–“born of woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4). Total immersion in our kind of life–that is what these phrases mean. Jesus is no outsider to our circumstances. He became one of us, stirring in his mother’s body and then being thrust out to live under the discipline of law like all his fellows. (David Allan Hubbard, Galatians: Gospel of Freedom, 78)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is both God for man and man for God; he is God’s incarnate Son, fully divine and fully human. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 26)
He was made man, who made man. He was created of a mother whom he created. He was carried by the hand that he formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word. Without whom all human eloquence is mute.” — St. Augustine
Other children do not exist in any real sense before they are conceived in the womb. It is by means of conception and birth that they come into existence. But God’s Son existed already from eternity with the Father (Jn 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). He existed–and exists forevermore–as to his deity. Accordingly, the fact that he was now sent forth must mean that he now assumed the human nature (Jn 1:14), which was wondrously prepared in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). Thus he now became, and would forever remain, the possessor of two natures, the divine and the human, united indissolubly in the one divine person. From the very beginning Christ’s human (as well as his divine) nature was without sin and filled with positive holiness (Mk 1:24; Lk 1:35; Jn 4:34; 6:38; 8:29, 46; Acts 3:14; 22:14; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pt 1:19; 2:21; 3:18; 1 Jn 2:1; 3:5). And so it will remain forever. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Galatians, 158)
II- Immanuel was born under the Law so He might redeem us from the Law’s condemnation and punishment. (Gal 4:4; see also: Mt 5:17; Rom 8:1; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15)
Jesus was born of a woman–he was God yet also human (Gn 3:15; Lk 1:26-38; Jn 1:1, 14). Paul balanced his amazing claims about Jesus’ divine nature with his reminder of Jesus’ human character. Born under the law. Jesus was a human; thus he was voluntarily subject to the structured universe that he had created (Jn 1:3-5) and that had been marred by human rebellion. More significantly, Jesus lived as a Jew, subject to God’s revealed law. In keeping with this, Jesus was both circumcised and presented at the temple (Lk 2:21-32). Yet while no other human being has been able to perfectly fulfill God’s law, Jesus kept it completely (Mt 5:17; Heb 4:15). Thus, Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice because, although fully human, he never sinned. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 126)
All other religions say, “Let’s go to God.” Christianity and the message of Christmas is “God came to us.”
Mark here how carefully Paul defines Christ. Christ is the Son of God, and of a woman, who, for us sinners, was made under the law, to redeem us who were under the law. In these words he comprehends both the Person and the office of Christ. His Person consists of His divine and human nature. This he shows when he says: “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” Christ, therefore, is very God, and very man. His office he shows in these words: “Being made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 240)
The message to Mary and the message of the incarnation was that God is greater than we thought. Many think God is too great to become a single, weak, unique, human being. God cannot become a weak, unique human being, humanists say, because . . . it makes Christ too central—They resist the centrality of Christ, that God became one human being. Judaism and Islam say it for a different reason. They say that God is too great to have become limited like that. But no.
This passage tells us that what makes Him The Most High is that He was able to become most low. In fact, to disbelieve in the incarnation, in the name of the greatness of God, is actually to diminish His greatness.
One writer put it this way and I think it is fascinating: “The power of the higher just in so far as it is truly higher can come down to include the lesser. And everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is virtually the test of its greatness.
Now listen . .. Think! Think! . . . You can become kittenish with your kitten but your kitten will never talk about philosophy with you. . . . Everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is the test of its greatness. The inability of the lesser to enter the greater is a proof of its lesserness.
Hitler could never understand Lincoln but Lincoln could understand Hitler. . . . wisdom always understands foolishness (because wisdom sees the foolishness in yourself) but to foolishness wisdom is utterly incomprehensible
Unselfishness knows selfishness’ number but to the Selfish the deeds of the unselfish are completely incomprehensible.
Therefore, if God is truly Great, this makes perfect sense, In fact, now we know how great He is. The greatness of God is greater than we ever thought. The Most High has become the most low. (Tim Keller; “The Deity of Jesus”)
III- Immanuel had to be God’s Son and under the Law to be perfectly righteous and omnipotently powerful enough to perform the work of allowing us to become sons of God and heirs of Christ. (Gal 4:5-7; see also: Isa 53; Jn 1:12-13; 3:16; Rom 8:12-17; 2 Cor 5:21)
This change in the Christian state was highly important, and its importance is marked by the manner in which it was accomplished. It was not accomplished by a mere revelation of the Divine will by an ordinary messenger either angelic or human. It was accomplished by the only begotten Son of God becoming incarnate, and subjecting himself to the law that he might deliver his church from under it. To bring his ancient church out of the slavery of Egypt and put them in possession of liberty and peace in Canaan, God raised up Moses and Joshua; but to deliver them from the thralldom of the law, and to introduce them into the glorious liberty of God’s children, “He sent forth his Son.” (John Brown, An Exposition of Galatians, 193-4)
In order to save us Jesus Christ had to be in one person both divine and human, divine in order to give his sacrifice infinite value, to deliver us out of the realm of darkness, and to transplant us into the realm of everlasting light (Isa 9:1, 2, 6; Jn 1:1-4; Col 1:13, 14); and human because since it was man who sinned it is also man who must bear the penalty for sin and render his life to God in perfect obedience (Rom 5:18; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-17). It stands to reason that the Redeemer must be a sinless man, for one who is himself a sinner cannot satisfy either for himself or for others (Ps 49:7, 8; Heb 7:26, 27; 1 Pt 3:18). There is, accordingly, something special and something common about Christ’s birth. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Galatians, 159)
From slaves to sons and daughters–that is the biography of all who trust in Christ. At the right time, by sending his Son, God made it possible for the world to grow up, to come of age, to enter into full freedom, to enjoy the privileges of sonship. (David Allan Hubbard, Galatians: Gospel of Freedom, 79)
Our inheritance, then (as Paul says in Eph 2:7), is incalculable. And if a man could comprehend the great excellency of this matter, that he is the son and heir of God, and with a constant faith believe it, this man would esteem all the power and riches of all the kingdoms of the world but as dung, in comparison with his eternal inheritance. He would abhor whatever is high and glorious in the world; in fact, the greater the pomp and glory of the world, the more he would hate it. To conclude, whatever the world most highly esteems and magnifies, that should be, in his eyes, most vile and abominable. For what is all the world, with all its riches, power, and glory, in comparison with God, whose son he is? A man who could believe this would desire to be taken out of this life and to be with Christ (Phil 1:23). (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 258)
Once a man has accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the only ground of his salvation, and has drawn near with confidence to the throne of grace, addressing God as “Abba! Father!,” the shackles of bondage to law have been thrown off. No longer is man a slave. He not only is a son now (4:1, 2), but knows that he is. For him the way to the Father’s heart is no longer blocked. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Galatians, 162)
The Father’s object in commissioning his Son was that, in the most comprehensive sense, the latter might purchase those free that were under law; and not only that but also: that we might receive the adoption as sons. Cf. Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph 1:5. Plainly, then, the purpose of the Father in sending his Son, and of the Son in condescending to be born “of a woman, under law,” was that we might not only be delivered from the greatest evil but might also be crowned with the choicest blessing. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Galatians, 160)
In Roman culture, a wealthy, childless man could take a slave youth and make that slave his child and heir. The adopted person was no longer a slave. He became a full heir to his new family, guaranteed all legal rights to his father’s property. He was not a second-class son; he was equal to all other sons, biological or adopted, in his father’s family. That person’s origin or past was no longer a factor in his legal standing. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 128)
The scope and value of our “sonship rights” in Christ accumulate almost beyond our comprehension. These rights, given to us freely through faith in Christ, include:
* We are no longer debtors, nor cursed (3:13).
* We have received “new life” (2:20).
* We are part of a new family (4:5).
* We have received the Spirit (4:6; 5:25).
* We have experienced a supernatural birth (Jn 1:12-13; Gal 4:28-29).
* We have the promise of future resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:23).
* We have the promise of a place in the future (Jn 14:2).
* We will be with Christ in eternity (Jn 14:3).
* We enjoy the same special relationship with God previously limited to Israel (Rom 9:4; Gal 3:28).
* We receive inestimable riches predestined for us by God through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5).
Do you know your rights? In your relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they are yours to claim. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 126)
Jesus was not home for the holidays. Instead, He was down here on earth doing the dirty work that needed to be done so we could one day call heaven our home.
IV- God gave us this great gift of Jesus being under the Law because He loves us. (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:5-10; 8:30-39; 2 Cor 9:15)
I have used many words to declare that a Christian must assure himself that he is in the favor of God, and that he has the crying of the Holy Ghost in his heart. This have I done, that we may learn to reject and utterly to abandon that devilish opinion which taught that a man ought to be uncertain of the grace of God towards him. If this opinion be received, then Christ profits nothing. For he that doubts of God’s favor towards him must doubt also of the promises of God, and so consequently of the will of God, and of the benefits of Christ, namely that He was born, suffered, died, and rose again for us. There can be no greater blasphemy against God than to deny His promises, to deny God Himself, to deny Christ. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 253-4)
How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least of these?
How many gods Have poured out their hearts?
To romance a world that is torn apart?
How many fathers gave up their son for me?
Only one did that for me.
Worship Point: Worship Immanuel, the greatest gift of all.
Christmas 1906 was going to be a cheerless day for the Lars Ericksons. In poor health and out of work, Lars had reached the point where he didn’t care if Christmas ever came of not. Depressed and irritable, he made poor company for his faithful wife, Anna, and his five-year-old daughter, Greta, as they sat around their coal stove on a cold December evening.
Little Greta, seated on the floor, was busily at work with her scissors, cardboard, and paste, constructing a crude little “manger set,” which she had spread out on the carpet in front of the stove.
“How do you like it, Daddy?” she asked.
“Fine,” he answered disinterestedly.
“And how do you like the manger?”
“I can’t see it from here,” was his grumpy reply.
Looking up into her daddy’s face, she said, with a wisdom of which he herself was not aware: “If you want to see the Christ Child, you’ll have to get down on your knees.” (Herman W. Gockel; My Hand in His, 170)
Gospel Application: It is the work of the Holy Spirit Who brings faith as well as the promise of salvation and the inheritance.
If any man feel in himself a love toward the Word of God, and willingly hears, talks, writes, and thinks of Christ, let that man know, that this is not the work of man’s will or reason, but the gift of the Holy Ghost; for it is impossible that these things should be done without the Holy Ghost. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 247)
Whoever feels any love or desire for the Word, let them acknowledge with thankfulness that this affection is poured into them by the Holy Ghost. For we bring not this desire and affection with us, neither can we be taught by any laws how to obtain it; this change is plainly and simply the work of the right hand of the Most High. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 247-8)
Having the Spirit of Christ means that we belong to Christ. Faith in Christ includes the reception of the Holy Spirit as part of the same transaction between us and God (see Eph 1:13-14). We do not experience Christ’s redemption apart from receiving his Spirit. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 129)
We must not judge therefore, according to the feeling of our own heart, but according to the Word of God, which teaches us that the Holy Ghost is given to those that are afflicted, terrified, and ready to despair, to raise them up, and to comfort them, that they be not overcome of their temptations and afflictions, but may overcome them, and yet not without great terrors and troubles. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 252)
Although it appear not before the world that we have been renewed in spirit and have the Holy Ghost, yet our judgment, our speech, and our confession declare sufficiently that the Holy Ghost with His gifts is in us. For before we could judge rightly of nothing. We spoke not as now we do. We confessed not that all our works were sin and damnable, that Christ is our only merit, both before grace and after, as now we do, in the true knowledge and light of the gospel. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 246)
Spiritual Challenge: Live in line with the Gospel.
Here we may see what great infirmity is yet in the flesh of the godly. For if we could be fully persuaded that we are under grace, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ and are the children of God, then, doubtless, we should be joyful and thankful to God for this inestimable gift. But because we feel contrary emotions, that is, fear, doubt, anguish and heaviness of heart, we cannot assure ourselves hereof; indeed, our conscience judges it a great presumption and pride to challenge this glory. If we will understand this thing rightly, and as we should, we must put it in practice; for without experience and practice it can never be learned.
Let every man, then, so practice with himself, that his conscience may be fully assured that he is under grace, and that his person and his works do please God. And if he feel any wavering of doubting, let him exercise his faith, and wrestle against it, and labor to attain more strength and assurance of faith, and so be able to say: I know that I am accepted and have the Holy Ghost, not for my own worthiness, work, or merit, but for Christ’s sake, who of His love towards us made Himself subject to the law and took away the sin of the world. In Him do I believe. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 249-50)
Paul almost seems to say, “Because you’re God’s kids, start acting that way!” Despite their doubts and confusion at that time, God still regarded the Galatian believers as his children. How did Paul know this? How could the Galatian believers claim this? Because God sent the Spirit of his Son into their hearts. As God had sent the Son, so he had sent the Spirit (Paul used the same Greek word for “sent,” exapes-teilen, in 4:4). God sent his Son to bring redemption (4:4-5); God sent his Spirit to mark us with his seal as “the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people” (Eph 1:14 NRSV). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Galatians, 128)
So What?: Christmas as a real space/time event only has substance if you understand the reality of Jesus being born under the Law. Otherwise, it is merely a silly holiday giving credit to a fat guy in a red suit glorifying snow, reindeer and little men with funny ears.
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; if our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; if our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, So God sent us a Savior, his Son.
Let’s look at the Christmas story. Born in a manger, OK. What’s the moral of that story? Natural childbirth? What’s the moral? Homelessness is fine? What’s the moral? Listen. There is no moral. The story is this: the arm of the Lord. The ideal has broken into history–it’s become real. (Tim Keller message, “Indestructible Truth”)
If Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under the tree. — Charlotte Carpenter