God’s Timing in Giving His Son

A sense of timing is crucial–whether it is when to advance your queen in a game of chess, or how long to pause before the punch line of a story, or when to commit your tanks in a battle. In most of those cases we are responding to the actions of others. But, as Galatians 4:4–5 shows, God’s timing is his own as he sends his Son into the world.

God sent his Son for you. In the fullness of time, God sent Christ. God reveals himself as the sovereign Lord of history. The historical setting was ready for the incarnation. The Greek language was almost universal. Roman roads and peace made travel easier. Caesar Agustus sent out his decree at exactly the right time. God was working out even the smallest details. You see God’s sovereignty in the Servant passages of Isaiah 40–48. As Isaiah prophesies and celebrates the ending of Israel’s (yet future) exile, he describes Cyrus, by name 100 years before his time, as God’s servant, Isaiah 45:1ff. But in a deeper sense, Israel is God’s servant, Isaiah 43:1; 44:1. Yet neither the people of Israel nor the king of Persia are fully qualified to be the Servant of the Lord. Thus Isaiah sings of a greater Servant, Isaiah 42:1–9 (see Matthew 12:15–29), and Isaiah 53. This is not a god who makes last minute adaptations and deals with things in the nick of time. Rather, all is in his control, all is part of his plan. Take comfort in God’s sovereign character as you face the challenges that will come in 2019, the challenges of difficult times which might shake your trust in God, the challenges of good times, which might make you complacent. Serve this God, not because he stands helplessly in need of you, but because he has called you to be part of his glorious plan. The old time was full. An eon came to completion with the coming of Christ. He came to rescue you from the present evil age, Galatians 1:4. The old time, and its accompanying rules and regulations, has been fulfilled and done away. The details of the ceremonial regulations, having served their purpose, no longer bind you. The focus here is on Israel. Understand how the different elements in Israel’s story prepared for the coming of the great Prophet, Priest, and King. Thus you are no longer under the law as a tutor, vv.1,2. Picture the death of a father and the custodianship of a minor heir. You were in bondage to basic principles, v.3. This is a difficult verse, yet Paul is including both Gentiles and Jews, as he describes all people in the dependence and subjection that characterized all people before the coming of Christ. “When this moment, determined by the counsel of God had come, God sent His Son. The word translated sent forth comprises two thoughts: the going forth of the Son from a place at which He was before; and His being invested with divine authority. By this the profound and glorious significance of Christ’s coming in the wold is indicated.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, p. 155). Continue reading

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Clothed with Christ

The connection between you and your clothes is so close that giving the shirt off your back is a sacrificial and personal gift. In Galatians 3:26–29 Paul tells you that if you have been baptized with Christ, you have clothed yourself with Christ.

You have been united to Christ by your baptism. Your baptism is a sign and seal of your union with Christ. Your baptism is a sign of cleansing. As a sign, it points beyond itself, 1 Peter 3:21,22. The Old Testament covenant sign also symbolized cleansing. Leviticus 26:41 and Jeremiah 4:4 refer to a purifying of the heart. Your baptism is a sign of union. You are baptized into the Trinity, Matthew 28:19. Israel was baptized into Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2. Some thought that being baptized by Paul meant being baptized into Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:13! The heart of the Old Testament covenant was union and fellowship with God, Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33. Baptism is the Bible’s sign of union with Christ, Romans 6:1–3; Colossians 2:11,12; 1 Corinthians 12:13. In our text, you have clothed yourself with (put on) Christ. There is a close connection between you and your clothes. “[B]aptism signifies union with Christ in the virtue of his death and the power of his resurrection, purification from the defilement of sin by the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, and purification from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. The emphasis must be placed, however, upon union with Christ. It is this that is central, and it is this notion that appears more explicitly and pervasively than any other. Hence our view of baptism must be governed by this concept.” (John Murray, Christian Baptism, p. 8). Your baptism is also a seal of God’s faithfulness. Yes, it reflects your trust in Christ, but above all it is God’s mark, God’s guarantee. It is a seal like a king’s authenticating royal seal. Continue reading

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To Lead You to Christ

Did you have a bossy older brother or sister who ruled you while baby-sitting? That was the place of the Mosaic administration as Paul describes it in Galatians 3:23–25.

The law was put in charge of you. You were under the authority of a tutor. The law was your custodian. “Schoolmaster” misleads somewhat as a translation, since the primary emphasis is not education but custodianship. Other translations use “tutor,” or “guardian,” or “in charge.” Paul uses the word from which we get “pedagogue.” It referred to a slave who was entrusted with looking after and supervising a free-born child. “Babysitting!” Paul has the whole Mosaic economy in view. The law followed the patriarchs by 430 years, v. 17. It does not contradict the promise of the covenant with Abraham, v. 21. The law points out sin. It makes it obvious, vv. 19, 22 so that you see your need of Jesus Christ as Savior. Continue reading

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Law or Promise?

How reliable are promises? When God makes a promise, you can count on it! It won’t change. In Galatians 3:17–18 Paul contrasts two ways of salvation. The teachers in Galatia saw human efforts at keeping the law as the way to God’s favor. But Paul points you to the unshakeable promise of God.

God has made a gracious promise of salvation. God promised salvation to Abraham. God’s promise is unchangeable, v. 15. Paul begins with the concept of the covenant, an idea that is basic to Scripture. The Old Testament uses the word berith for covenant, a sovereign administration of law and grace. The New Testament term originally refers to a will, but also translates the Old Testament term. A human will, properly established is (or is supposed to be) unchangeable. How much more unchangeable is God’s covenant! That promise has its focus in Christ, v. 16. God made his covenant with Abraham. It included the land, an heir, and being a blessing to the nations, but the heart of it was to be a God to Abraham and his descendants. The God whose word is always truth underlines the certainty of his promise by taking an oath as he reassures Abraham of his covenantal faithfulness. The reference to Genesis 12:7 and the distinction between singular an plural stresses the authority and verbal accuracy of Scripture. “Seed” can be collective, but in this case it has its focus in one person, not just Issac, but ultimately on the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This promise is part of a covenant relationship, v. 17a, and thus it is permanent. Continue reading

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Abraham, the Man of Faith

DNA testing has become a popular way of tracing ancestry. The false teachers in Galatia considered descent from Abraham important. In Galatians 3:9 Paul tells you the good news that the true descendants of Abraham are those who share in his faith—regardless of their physical ancestry.

Abraham believed God. Abraham was justified by faith. The Judaizers had appealed to Abraham’s example. Their pride lay in being Abraham’s children, John 8:33. Indeed, Abraham was the father of the Old Testament people of God. To him, in the history of redemption God gave circumcision as the sign of the covenant. Therefore, said these teachers, you must be circumcised in order to be God’s people. But, Paul counters, Abraham was not justified by what he did. The Old Testament covenant sign was important (as baptism is today), but as a sign and seal, not as a work that earns righteousness, Romans 4:11. God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness, Genesis 15:6. This imputation (reckoning to an account) is described in Romans 4. All Abraham’s life was by faith: the promise of the land, his son, and the sacrifice of that son. Continue reading

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