5. The Cross And Christ’s Incarnation (Gal. 4:4-7)Related Media
Most of us try to organize our lives around a schedule. You schedule appointments, your school, your work, time to get together with friends etc. Soon you find that your week is filled up. But some people don’t make plans at all, or, if they do, they don’t stick to them. Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Corporation, once said: “I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who can’t seem to control their own schedules. Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride, ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation.’ It’s actually nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding, ‘You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project, and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?’”
Sometimes unplanned events occur that you can’t possibly schedule. Cliff Barrows served as Billy Graham’s lifelong associate and crusade song leader. In 1945, before he met Billy Graham, Cliff and his fiancée, Billie, had scraped together enough money for a simple wedding and two train tickets to a resort. On arrival, however, they found the hotel shut down. Stranded in an unfamiliar city with little money, they thumbed a ride. A sympathetic driver took them to a grocery store, owned by a woman he knew, where the newlyweds spent their first night in a room above the store.
The next day, when the lady overheard Cliff playing Christian songs on his trombone, she arranged for them to spend the rest of their honeymoon at a friend’s house. Several days later the host invited them to attend a youth rally where a young evangelist was speaking. The song leader that night was sick, and Cliff was asked to take charge of the music for the service. The young evangelist, of course, was Billy Graham and the two became lifelong partners. You can’t schedule such unplanned events.
When an unscheduled event occurs, you usually scramble to figure out how you can reorganize your life quickly. Perhaps it’s a health issue, or a death in the family, or a paper at school you forgot was due this week. Or, perhaps it’s the birth of a baby - sometimes babies do what they’re supposed to do and come into the world on time and sometimes they come unexpectedly. Unexpected interruptions come up and, sometimes, the timing of our plans has to change.
Herod hadn’t planned on or expected the birth of the Messiah. That was certainly an unscheduled event for him and he began to scramble. That’s why he “summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared” (Matt. 2:7). Mary hadn’t planned on Jesus being born that day, but all of a sudden “the time came for her to give birth” (Lk. 2:6).
When things don’t go the way you planned remember that God’s timing is always the best. He may have plans for you that you know nothing about. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season and a time to every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1).
We’re going to see in this study that God’s schedule is perfect. All the details are fixed and certain. He made his plan in eternity past and he is carrying it out perfectly. God’s plan is never late, nothing is ever unscheduled, and it won’t change because it’s a perfect plan. It’s God’s perfect plan of redemption. God’s plan was determined before the world was made and spans the entire history of the human race. His plan was so enormous that we can’t fathom its complexity. Yet smoothly and surely his plan continues to unfold. Just as surely as his Word is fully trustworthy, so his plan for the human race is fully trustworthy.
I have titled this message, “The cross and Christ’s incarnation,” the subject of which is “God perfect plan: Why Jesus came.” The overall point of this message is that the purpose for Christ’s coming into the world was to fulfill God’s perfect plan of redemption through the cross.
A perfect plan has three components: (1) The perfect time; (2) The perfect person; (3) The perfect purpose. The first element in any plan is usually the timing, the schedule. Accordingly…
I. God Awaited The Perfect Time: “When The Fullness Of Time Had Come…” (4:4a)
1. The “fullness of time” was planned from eternity past. God has an eternal calendar which includes a schedule for human history. Throughout human history God has been unfolding his plan for the world, but throughout human history people have ignored God’s plan. They turn a blind eye to his plan and turn their backs on him. Adam and Eve disregarded God’s plan for their bliss in Eden. The nation of Israel disregarded God’s plan for their happiness in Canaan. So, God has repeatedly warned, cajoled, and pleaded with people to repent, to be reconciled to Him, to trust him.
The fullness of time was planned in eternity past. And…
2. The “fullness of time” was revealed throughout the O.T. It was revealed in Genesis 3:15 when God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring: he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” It was revealed through the patriarchs, judges, kings, and Old Testament prophets (Heb. 1:2-3). And the years passed until the perfect time came, “the fullness of time” when God intervened in human history to execute his plan of redemption.
So, the “fullness of time” was planned from eternity past. It was revealed throughout the Old Testament and…
3. The “fullness of time” came when Christ was born. First, Christ’s birth was the “fullness of time” because it was exactly at the time of our greatest need. Human beings had shown themselves to be utterly unable and unwilling to keep God’s law. Over thousands of years, the human race had proven that we are sinners in need of a Savior. “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Indeed, “At that time you were separated from Christ … having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
Second, Christ’s birth was the “fullness of time” because it was exactly the right time according to God’s timetable. That was the time for God to effect his eternal plan of redemption. This was the culminating revelation of God’s plan. This was the apex of his unfolding drama of redemption. This was the zenith of all God’s ways with man. This was the perfect time when God himself was going to intervene in human history by coming to earth. The task was too great for any mere mortal to speak or act on behalf of God – not the patriarchs, judges, kings, and Old Testament prophets. No, this was the time for God’s one and only Son to be born.
Third, Christ’s birth was the “fullness of time” because it was exactly the right time for God’s plan to be put into action. The time had come to which all redemptive history had pointed. The right moment arrived for God to disclose to the world how he would implement his plan of salvation, a plan that he had made known through the prophets but a plan that the human race had ignored. That’s why, when Christ was born, no one seemed to realize what was happening. The people of Jerusalem and Bethlehem didn’t know, even though their own Scriptures had predicted it long before.
When Christ was born approximately 2000 years ago, it was the perfect time for God to put into action his plan of redemption. And the perfect time for God to complete his plan will come again in the future. He acted once at Christ’s first coming and He will act again at Christ’s second coming. At Christ’s first coming, God revealed his grace; at Christ’s second coming, God will reveal his judgment and wrath. There is a limit set for God’s plan of grace. Yes, “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). God pleads with people today: “Behold, now is the favorable (acceptable) time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). And he warns everyone: “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). There is a limit set for God’s plan of grace. The question is: “Are you ready?”
So, God awaited for the perfect time to effect his plan. And…
II. God Appointed The Perfect Person: “…God Sent Forth His Son…” (4:4b-D)
This reminds us of the man in the parable who “planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower and leased it to tenants and went into another country” (Mk. 12:1). First, he sent a servant to receive the fruit if his vineyard, but the servant was beaten by the tenants and sent away empty-handed. Then, he sent another servant who was shamefully treated – stoned, wounded, and sent away. Then, he sent another servant who was killed, and many others – some of whom were beaten and some killed. At last, “He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours’” (Mk. 12:1-6). And so “God sent forth his Son” (4:4b).
1. Jesus, the perfect person, was “born of a woman” (4:4c). In his perfect plan, God sent his beloved Son, who was born of a woman. He did not come the first time in the way he will come the second time. At his second coming he will come in power and great glory. Then, “he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). Then “at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
But at his first coming, Jesus came in weakness and obscurity, “born of a woman.” Because he was born of a woman, Jesus was fully human. But Jesus was no ordinary man for he was both fully human and fully divine, both natures being distinct and yet at the same time united in one person. We call this his hypostatic union, the joining together of both his divine and human natures in the person of Jesus.
Jesus was no ordinary man because his conception was different from any other – the woman to whom he was born was a virgin. He was not conceived through the natural union of a man and a woman. He was conceived through the Holy Spirit: “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” the angel said to Joseph (Matt. 1:20). His conception guarded his deity and his conception guarded his holiness: he had no sinful nature. He was fully human and yet perfectly sinless as Scripture says: “He (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Thus, Jesus was the God-man. He was fully and truly God and fully and truly man. He was God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). This is a foundational, non-negotiable truth of Christianity. Consider the following biblical statements:
1. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
2. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
3. “6 Though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-7).
When he came into the world at his incarnation, Jesus voluntarily “emptied himself” by the position that he took (“taking the form of a servant”) and by the nature that he took (“being born in the likeness of men”). And he “humbled himself” by voluntarily submitting to death. He gave up life to “becoming obedient” to the humiliation of “death, even death cross.” He gave up divine superiority to take on human inferiority. He gave up his glorious position to become despised. He gave up his infinite riches to become poor. He gave up the independent exercise of his divine rights to become dependent and obedient, the perfect servant. Thus, Jesus voluntarily divested himself of his divine rights and privileges but without in any way ceasing to be fully God.
It was necessary for our salvation that the Savior of men should be a perfect man. As John MacArthur puts it: “He had to be God to have the power of Saviour and He had to be man to have the position of Substitute” (Galatians, 108). The debt of our sins had to be paid and it could only be paid by a sinless, perfect person. This idea is echoed in Cecil Alexander’s old hymn: “There was none other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” To satisfy the justice of a holy God, there had to be a perfect sacrifice, and the perfect sacrifice had to be a perfect person. The only perfect person was our Savior, Jesus. Thus, even when Jesus came into the world, he had before him the cross. The cross was central to his mission in the world, “for even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
First, then, Jesus, the perfect person, was born of a woman. And …
2. Jesus, the perfect person, was “born under the law” (4:4d). He was born under the same conditions as those who were finding it impossible to be justified by the law. Like any other person, he had the obligation to obey and be judged by the law. But unlike any other person, he perfectly kept and satisfied the law of God because he was perfectly sinless.
So, in putting his plan into action, first, God awaited the perfect time. Second, God appointed the perfect person. And third…
III. God Achieved The Perfect Purpose: “…To Redeem Those Who Were Under The Law” (4:5-7)
Every plan has to have a purpose, a goal…
1. God’s purpose was to change our standing before Him (4:5a). He did this by sending forth his Son “to redeem those who were under the law” (5a). To “redeem” something means to buy it back, just as slaves were sometimes bought back from slavery. Because Christ was born under the law and perfectly kept the law, he is able to redeem all who were born under the law and were held in bondage by it, being unable to keep it themselves. We could not meet the holy demands of God’s law. We stood before God condemned; our mouths were shut. We had no defense before God, no advocate. We were guilty and enslaved with no hope of freedom until “God sent forth his Son” into the world to “redeem those who were under the law.”
That’s what God revealed to Mary: “You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That’s what God revealed to the shepherds: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). That’s what God through Paul revealed to the people in the synagogue: “38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts. 13:38-39).
God sent forth his Son with the express purpose of redeeming us from the slavery of our sinful flesh and bondage under the law. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). If we believe in him, the condemnation of sin in the sacrifice of Christ prevents our personal condemnation. It changes our standing before God. That’s why Jesus came into the world, to redeem us from our bondage to sin and, thus, change our standing before God. And he did that at the cross.
By faith in Him and his atoning sacrifice, we are redeemed from the curse of the law, bought back from Satan’s power to the power of God, ransomed from death to life. Our standing before God changed. That was God’s purpose - to change our standing before Him. And in addition…
2. God’s purpose was to change our status before Him (4:5b). God sent forth his Son “so that we might receive adoption as sons (5b). That’s a change of status. Adoption in this context doesn’t mean what it does today in our culture. In the Greco-Roman culture, a certain time was set when the male child in the family was formally and legally “adopted.” The word used here for “adoption” literally means “to place as a son.” So, at this pre-appointed time, the male child was placed in the position of a legal son and given all the privileges of that position. This legal ceremony did not make him a member of the family - he always was a member of the family. Rather, it gave him legal recognition as a son under Roman law.
There are two Greek words that are both rendered simply as “son” in our English translations, but they are in fact different. One word refers to a child by natural birth (teknon) and the other refers to the same child who has now been legally declared a son in the eyes of the law (huios). Here in Galatians 5:5, Paul uses the term “huios” to describe this legal “adoption as sons” with full rights and privileges. Paul’s point here is that, as adopted sons and daughters, we have a new status before God. We who were slaves to the law have been redeemed from its grip and now, as free men and women, we have been adopted into God’s family with all the privileges and responsibilities of sons and daughters.
This new status brings with it a family relationship the like of which we could never have previously had with God. Our status has been changed from slavery under the law to redeemed children adopted into God’s family. Now, because we are God’s children, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (4:6). Notice this beautiful sequence: Not only did God send forth his perfect Son into the world to change our standing before God by redeeming us (marvelous as that is) and to change our status before God by adopting us (marvelous as that is), but also he has sealed that new standing and signified our new status by sending “the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (6a). Thus, we are brought into an entirely new relationship with God, a relationship of intimacy and security that a slave could never have with his master, but which we enjoy with God as his children.
Now we know God in an entirely different way. Now we can call God “Abba! Father!” The question as to what this expression means has been debated over the years. First, it’s important to understand that “Abba” is an Aramaic word which simply means “Father.” Some commentators make a distinction in meaning between the two words by defining “Abba” as a term of intimacy or familiarity (like our English word “daddy”) and “Father” as a more formal form of address. But further research would indicate otherwise. In fact, the N.T. writers who use this combination of words (Mk. 14:35-36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) are simply giving the Greek translation, “Father” (ὁ πατήρ) of the Aramaic term, “Abba.” While “Abba” does convey a relationship of familiarity and intimacy, it also conveys a relationship of submission and obedience, as does our English word “Father.” We see this in Jesus’ address to his Father: “35 And going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, ‘Abba, Father (ὁ πατήρ), all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mk. 14:35-36). In this context, “Abba, Father” clearly reflects Jesus’ relationship with his Father in terms of both intimacy and submission. Similarly, in our passage in Galatians 4:6, the idea is that of submission (as in redeemed slaves) and intimacy (as in adopted sons). Now we are “no longer slaves but sons” (7a). Now, we enjoy a paternal relationship with God of security, submission, intimacy, warmth, comfort, confidence, affection, joy, peace. Now we have a brand new relationship with God through Christ. That’s why he came into the world. (Help for this research derived from (1) Karen Engle, Faithlife, www.logos.com/grow/what-does-abba-really-mean; (2) The NET Bible, translation footnote, Gal. 4:6).
This new status not only brings with it a family relationship, but also…
The new status brings with it a family inheritance. Because of Christ’s redemption and our adoption into God’s family, we have become heirs of all that his children are entitled to inherit. If we are sons and daughters of God, “then (we are) an heir through God” (7b). We are brought into the family inheritance. Near where we live there is a Toyota car dealer whose slogan is that when you buy a car from them, “Your part of the family.” I’ve often thought that if that’s the case, then let me see the will; what’s the inheritance? Well, that’s not what they mean, obviously. What they want to convey is that, when you buy a car from them, you enter a new and personal relationship with them. As it says in Rom. 8:16-17, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
When we become part of God’s family through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24) we receive the family inheritance. God has appointed his Son the heir of all things according to Hebrews 1:2, and now through faith in Him, all that is Christ’s by right is ours by inheritance because we are God’s adopted children. As Colossian 1:16 says: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” And we come into the benefit of that through faith in him.
What, then, is the nature of our inheritance? Our inheritance is that we have been “3 born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). Or, as Ephesians 1:11-14 puts it, “11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
What we see in this passage is that the cross is central to God’s plan in sending his beloved Son into the world to accomplish our redemption. If you trust him, you can be part of his redeemed family. This is why Jesus came into the world – to be our Saviour and to bring us into this new relationship with God, our Father.
To implement his perfect plan of redemption…
1. God awaited the perfect time.
2. God appointed the perfect person.
3. God achieved the perfect purpose.
I can’t think of any better plan than that. The timing was perfect, the person was perfect, and the purpose was perfect. As a result the unsolved riddle of the previous centuries before Christ is solved. The unsolved riddle was: “How can a man be in the right (just) with God?” (Job 9:2). Now the solution is clear: “God sent forth his Son... to redeem those who were under the law.”
Remember our theme statement: The purpose for Christ’s coming into the world was to fulfill God’s perfect plan of redemption through the cross. The question today is: Have you received the redemption that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you ready to meet Him? Don’t let other plans hold you back so that you miss him when he comes again. Many things in our lives can distract us from what’s important.
Don’t wait until some other time to make your own plan to meet God. What’s important is to follow God’s plan by receiving Christ as your Savior and committing your life to following, loving, and serving him. What’s important is being ready now. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready to meet him? Don’t think that you have to stop doing this or start doing that first. Don’t say you plan to attend to it when you’re older. Don’t say you’ll think about it after you’ve sown your wild oats, or after you get married, or when your kids are grown up.
Are you ready for the return of Christ in accordance with God’s perfect plan of redemption? Have you made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and his substitutionary, atoning death on the cross? The One for whom there was no room in the inn will one day declare: “Come, for everything is now ready” (Lk. 14:17). Those “rooms” (Jn. 14:2) which he has gone to prepare for those who love him will then be complete. Are you ready? There is still room in God’s house, but it is filling fast. Soon the last soul will be saved and the entry door will be shut (Lk. 13:25).
For those of us who have made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, this reminder of why Jesus came - God’s perfect plan: “The Cross and Christ’s Incarnation” - should warm our hearts, fill us with hope, renew our commitment, cause us to watch and be ready, for the coming of the Lord draws near.
Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)