Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas in the Epistles - Galatians

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:1-6 represents one of the richest set of verses on Christmas you will find anywhere in the New Testament Epistles.  As you explore the New Testament, you discover its design to be intentional:

1. The  Gospels Present Christ
2. Acts Preaches about Christ
3. The Epistles Explain Christ
4. Revelation Portrays the Exalted Christ

With the Epistles as the main focus of this short blog series, we zero in today on Paul's letter to the Galatians to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

How the Bible centers upon the Person of Jesus Christ
More than any other New Testament Letter, the section here in Galatians makes the first coming of Jesus Christ as matter of timing.  What is remarkable about Galatians 4:1-6 is how it is a mini-Bible in its own right:

1. The Old Testament Age: Genesis to Malachi - Galatians 4:1-3
Throughout the Old Testament the usage of pictures, patterns and people were used by God to point to the coming Person of the Son.  The Old Testament in the New would be unfolded, since the New Testament in the Old was infolded.

2. The Gospels - Galatians 4:4
The fulness of time had arrived.  Between Malachi and Matthew existed a span of 400 years.  Timing was indeed everything.  Politically the world saw the rise and fall of four major world empires: Babylon, Persia, The Greco/Macedonian Empire and the Empire of Rome, which was in power by the birth of Jesus.  From the days of Alexander the Great in 333 b.c, the arising of the Greek Language as the primary trade language of the day would pave the way for the writing of the New Testament.  With the rise of Rome to power and its program of "Pax Romana", the Roman Road system would come to snake its way throughout the Mediterranean world, making it possible for future missionary endeavors by the Apostles.  All of these developments are just samples of how the "fulness of time" signalled the perfect timing of God the Son's coming to this world in human flesh.

3. Book of Acts and the remainder of the New Testament: Galatians 4:5-6
Galatians 4:5-6 reads - "so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."

Though Galatians was Paul's first letter written, it signalled what would be one of the central themes of New Testament Christianity - namely how people are to be born again by faith and made to live as adopted sons of God.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts pointed to the birth of the Church.  In the nearly 20 sermons recorded in Acts, 10 of them center upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Overwhelmingly the Resurrection was the central doctrine of the early church.

However were it not for two other key doctrines: namely Christ's substituionary death on the cross and His incarnation, we would not have any Gospel message at all.  By His incarnation as God in human flesh, the Gospel message is unreservedly exclusive in its claims of Jesus Christ being the only way to Heaven.  If God's true nature is revealed exclusively through Jesus Christ, then no other religion can claim the revelatory character of Biblical Christianity.  Furthermore, by His death on the cross, we see that apart from the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.  It was the mission of the cross that would define the chief reason as to why He was virgin born. (Matthew 1:21,23)

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