The Time Is Ripe (Galatians 4:1-7)

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (New International Version)

The three greatest persons in biblical history – Abraham, Moses, and Jesus – are connected. God entered into a covenant with Abraham and promised to bless everyone on the earth through his progeny. God gave Moses the Law as a sort of school teacher and guide, alongside Abraham’s covenant. God fulfilled the covenant promise in Jesus. Thus, everyone who is led and tutored toward Christ, inherits all of God’s promises.

Under the Law

The Apostle Paul, speaking to a group of new believers who were confused about the relation between the Law and Christ, helped them understand with a metaphor. It’s like a boy who is the heir to a great estate. Someday, it will all be his. But now, he’s too young to possess it. So, during his childhood, he’s subject to trustees who oversee the estate, and teachers who instruct him in how to actually use the wealth once he actually inherits it.

While the boy is in the middle of the guidance, he’s not in control of much, just like the servants on the estate. The child will remain in this state until his time comes, until the date in which his father says he can take possession of the inheritance.

Before Christ, people were under the Law. They were heirs to God’s great kingdom promises. Yet, they needed the Law to guide and instruct them until it was time for them to receive the inheritance. Much like a present day kid in school, they see themselves in a sort of bondage, even though it’s a necessary part of their lives.

It’s bondage in the sense that the Law, the schoolmaster, has no power or ability to give the inheritance nor to save them from their current condition. In other words, the Law is good, yet lacks the potency to actually deliver one from sin, death, and hell.

What’s more, the elemental spirits of the age, namely Satan and his wicked spirits, wormed their way into the process of guidance and twisted the Law for their own advantage, to keep people in bondage. Just as the guardian of the boy may mistreat him in ways his father never intended, so the devil has exploited the Law in order to have it be a tyrannical presence over people.

Whereas God intended the Law to reveal humanity’s sin and drive them to a Savior, evil uses the Law to shame people and drive them to despair. The Law was meant for good, to be a gracious leading of people to the Messiah; yet Satan co-opted the Law to bring condemnation to folks and keep them under his insidious thumb.

In Christ

But when the time was ripe, God sent the Son so that people would be done with their guardians and inherit divine promises. To use yet another metaphor, when the scaffolding on a building has served it’s intended purpose in construction, it’s taken down; it’s no longer needed. It would be weird if the shiny new building were erected, and the owner decided to keep the scaffolding beside the structure.

The Law of Moses had done its work of preparing people for Christ. So, God sent Jesus, the Son, to redeem humanity, to transform slaves into sons and daughters. The Lord adopted us and granted us full rights as children of the King.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.

Galatians 3:13, CEB

Jesus is uniquely qualified to be such a Redeemer of humanity. He is God’s Son, born of a human mother. Therefore, as both divine and human – the God Man – Jesus is the person for whom all the covenant promises of God have their fulfillment.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one through whom God created the universe, the one whom God has chosen to possess all things at the end. He reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power. (Hebrews 1:1-3, GNT)

In Christian trinitarian theology, God is Three in One, the Holy Trinity. God sent the Son into the world, of which believers celebrate the incarnation of Christ each year at Christmas. God sent the Spirit into our hearts; and from that place we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit testifies with our own spirit that we are truly adopted children of God. (Romans 8:15-16)

The Spirit is like the seal on a document, proving that our inheritance papers are all in order. And, much more than that, the Spirit also does this sealing work with affection. Christianity is not merely a legal transaction; it’s an experience of grace and love in which we enter into a new life, free from bondage, and alive to all the possibilities that humanity was originally meant for.

Both our status and our sensibilities are changed. It happens because of God’s good grace and purpose, fulfilled in Christ and impressed on us by the Spirit.

Conclusion

The French philosopher and writer, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), once said that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each person which needs to be filled:

“There was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace. This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées

If we want to find happiness, satisfaction, and goodwill, then the empty void within us creatures and within the systems and the cultures we create, needs to be filled with our Creator.

The Christian season of Advent is an appropriate time to reconnect with the infinite and the immutable. The time is ripe to be filled not only with love and goodness, but with the very source of Love itself.

May it be so, to the glory of God.

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