Text: Galatians 4:4 “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…”
How often have you heard the saying, “Timing is Everything?” Think about dinner guests who are supposed to arrive at a certain time and you have prepared the meal for just that moment: What happens to that hot meal when your guests arrive an hour late? Or think about those Black Friday bargains that are limited in quantity: Those half price televisions are available when the store opens, but if you arrive a couple hours later that probably were already sold out. When I was in college there were those term papers that were due on a certain date: What happened when you were a week late before turning yours in?
And what about those 100 yard dashes in the Olympics? What happened if a person took off before the signal? Or if they delayed their start?
Whether it be in the home, in the classroom, in politics, in war, or just about any other area in life—Timing is everything!
As we begin our Advent season—the time of year dedicated to anticipating the Coming of Christ that first Christmas, Paul reminds us in this passage in Galatians 4 that even with the coming of the Messiah, Timing was everything!
The NIV translation begins Galatians 4:4 with these words, “But when the set time had fully come…”
Let’s spend some time examining the message in these words:
I. IT WAS A TIME PRE-DETERMINED BY GOD.
a. I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but your pastor is a very time-conscious person. I like for things to start on time. If we advertise our service is to begin at 10:30, you can fully expect to find me walking to the pulpit at 10:30. At the same time, I like things to be done in an orderly fashion. Just like in life first comes the baby, then the toddler, and then the child and teenager and finally the adult, so there should be a natural sequence for things to happen. You don’t have a graduation before you start school.
b. And as I study the Bible’s account of God’s Plan for our salvation, I see a progression of things leading up to the climatic event of the Cross—the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Before a person can fully understand the New Testament, he or she must read the Old Testament and see how God’s plan unfolded from the time of the fall, through Noah and the flood and the call of Abraham on through the establishment of Israel as a nation. And then, its fall and captivity and continued oppression by foreign governments. That sequence of events in history with God speaking through the prophets giving warnings and promises led up to the fulfillment of the ultimate promise—A Messiah who would be the Savior and King. And Galatians 4:4 reminds us that things didn’t just happen by chance and happenstance—no, God had a plan that He was following. Historians tell us that at the time of the birth of Christ, there were several things that came together making the timing perfect: The Roman Empire was established. After centuries of small kingdoms and warring empires, Rome had finally conquered the civilized world. There were still many countries, but they were all subjects of Rome, controlled by Roman Governors and Roman Legions. They were all united under one dominating government headquartered in Rome. There was Roman Peace—A peace that was the result of all those countries and regions of the world coming under the sovereignty of Rome. And rebellion was quickly put down by the very effective and skilled Roman Legions. There were the Roman Roads that united the empire. The Roman Empire had perfected the building of roads that could weather the elements and handle the rapid movement of the Roman war machines. Those roads also greatly improved the transportation of merchandise throughout the empire contributing to a prospering Commerce. And the statement was true: All Roads led to Rome! And there was one common language—Greek. Yes, the various regions had their own languages and dialects, but Greek was the universal language. No matter to what region you traveled and no matter what the local dialect might have been, everyone also knew the language of the empire—Greek.
c. It was the coming together of all these things at one time that made this era of history so unique. And Paul reminds us that all this was the result of God’s Plan. He had a set time for sending His Son into the world.
II. IT WAS MOMENT IN TIME REVEALING GOD’S INFINITE LOVE.
a. Whatever else we may say about the coming of Christ into our world, we must acknowledge that it was the fulfillment of God’s Love that is without measure! From the time of the fall in Eden’s Garden, mankind’s story has been one of greed, selfish pride, and self-will in rebellion against God’s Will. And God put up with it. Yes, there were moments of wrath and judgment. There was the Flood that destroyed all except Noah’s family. There were the descendents who forgot God and did what was right in their own eyes. There were the Nations of Israel and Judah that turned against God and were judged. And even at the time of Christ, we see the Jewish religion was plagued with greedy and self-righteous people. Remember it was the religious community that delivered Jesus into the hands of the Romans to be crucified. And, for all that, God stuck with His plan to save the world. The Gospel in a Nutshell that we all memorized as children reminds us that the Plan of Salvation is a product of the love of God: “For God so loved the world, that he gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
b. At that moment in History, God could have allowed the Romans to totally destroy the rebellious Jewish people. A few years later, they nearly did that, but not before God had provided for their salvation (and ours) through Jesus Christ. What was it that prevented Him from doing just that? What kept him from totally destroying Creation after the fall in Genesis and starting all over? What was it that caused Him to put up with mankind’s sin and disobedience over the centuries? It was God’s love that sustained mankind and it is God’s love that caused Him to send His Son into the World. In Acts 17: 30, in the account of Paul’s sermon to the Athenians, He described the wickedness of mankind and how they sought to worship false gods. But then we read, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Underlying that statement is the fact of God’s love. John went so far as to write in 1 John 4:16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love…”
c. So that set time, that time God had planned to fulfill His provision for our salvation by sending His Son into the world, was a monument in time signifying God’s infinite Love for His creation—and specifically for you and me!
III. IT WAS A TIME THAT PAVED THE WAY FOR OUR MOMENT IN TIME.
a. In the broad umbrella of Christianity, there are various views concerning our salvation. John Calvin advanced the view that since God is sovereign, He has predetermined our salvation. Some of us are predestined to eternal life and some of us hare predestined to hell. And the extreme view of that says we have no choice in the matter—it is predetermined. And a large number of Christian denominations embrace that view of Predestination to some degree or another. But there is a another part of the Christian world—a part that includes the Church of the Nazarene—that understands the Bible to teach that, while God is sovereign and has the final word, He has given us a freedom to choose to accept or reject His Plan for our Salvation. And that means, when we are confronted with the realization of our own sinfulness and our lost condition, we must make the decision to receive God’s provision into our hearts. That entails believing that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the Cross in our place so that we could be forgiven and brought back into a right relationship with God. He did this by choosing to take our sin upon Himself and die in our place. Implied in that acceptance of His atoning sacrifice is the necessity for us to turn away from our sinful lifestyle and choose to obey His commands—commands that are summed up in the two great Commands to Love God with our entire being and to Love our neighbors as ourselves.
b. Timing is everything. And the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 4:7, “God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today.’ This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted; ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” And Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 wrote, “For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.’”
Today is the beginning of Advent—the season just prior to Christmas when we are challenged to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. It is a time of soul searching and spiritual evaluation as we seek to make sure our hearts are ready for Christ to dwell within.
God sent Jesus “at the set time.” I would tell you that God has brought you to this place in your life for the set time of accepting His Salvation. Are you ready for Jesus to take up residence in your life?
The birth of Christ was indeed a miracle—the miracle of the Virgin Birth. Allowing Jesus to come into your heart as your Savior and Lord is also a miracle—The miracle of a transformed life—one that no longer is controlled by sin but instead is transformed into a new creation!
May you experience the Miracle of the Moment during this Advent and Christmas season!