Vol. 11 — No. 2 January 11, 1970
How I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
In Christ Jesus, the Father’s Christmas Gift for all mankind, Fellow Redeemed:
By this time all the packages under the Christmas trees have been opened. Some of them—no doubt, most of them—brought joy and happiness to the hearts of those who received them. But there were some gifts that surely brought disappointment because the person receiving the gift expected something else or because the gift was the wrong size or the wrong color. Many Christmas gifts have already been exchanged. It’s really the same story every year, is it not—joy and disappointment over gifts received.
But there is something else that is characteristic of each Christmas. That is the taking for granted or ignoring by the vast majority of people of the one gift that is to make Christmas a festival and a season of joy and rejoicing for all. The first Christmas was planned already in eternity before the foundations of the world were laid. The heavenly gift was designed to fill the needs of every person that ever lived. It had the capacity to fill the hearts of all with joy and rejoicing in the good day and in the evil day, in the strength of youth and in the weakness of age, when living and when dying, for time and for eternity. It’s truly an amazing matter that a gift that was planned to accomplish all that and that can, indeed, achieve all that, could be and can be taken for granted and even be ignored by the vast majority of people, even most of those who celebrate Christmas with the usual tinsel, lights and tree, eating and drinking, exchanging gifts and visiting. It is characteristic of all Christmas celebrations that the gift that is to be remembered and received with joy and thanksgiving is for the most part ignored and even forgotten. Has it been that way with us these past days and in this present Christmas Season?
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” This is the great fact of Christmas—regardless of man’s attitude towards it. The Father sent His Son, who was begotten of His Father from all eternity, into this world. “Made of a woman” recalls the announcement to Mary, disclosing the secret to Joseph, the heralding to the shepherds, their visit to the manger. That Child, lying in the manger, was and is God’s Christmas Gift to man, all mankind. “Made under the law” is an essential part of that Gift—the part that had the potential of bringing blessing to all mankind. Are we aware of what that Gift “made of a woman” and “Made under the law” is to mean to us? Let us through the words of St. Paul unwrap and behold once again—
What was St. Paul writing about when he wrote of being “in bondage under the elements of the world”? He had compared the Old Testament era with that of a child who is still a minor. His deceased father had set the time when he would come of age and receive his inheritance. But before that time, even though he will one day be lord of all, he is still under tutors and governors. So God’s children in Old Testament times were “lords of all,” but were still under “tutors and governors.” Paul named those “tutors and governors” or “guardians and stewards” as “the elements of the world.” Through the law of Moses, given on Mt. Sinai, the Old Testament believers had been made slaves of “the elements of the world.” What did Paul’s readers understand by these “elements of the world”? They surely had less difficulty than do we. Modern translators use the expression “elemental spirits.” But most Bible interpreters debate whether the word that Paul used refers to elementary instruction or actual physical elements. The latter is obviously the meaning because Paul wrote of the “elements of the world.” But what does that mean? The Old Testament believer would have had no difficulty giving an answer from his daily life. Old Testament believers had to submit as slaves to rules and regulations about food and drink, washings and purifications, sacrifices and ways of worship, times and places, bodily actions. Just begin reading the second half of Exodus and the book of Leviticus, and you will see how the Old Testament people were enslaved to the elements of this world by all kinds of rules and regulations. There was a rule for this and another for that, controlling their entire daily lives.
The Father sent His Son as the world’s Christmas Gift to usher in the day of coming of age for all minors. To put it otherwise God sent His Son to free all mankind from slavery to the elements of this world. Whenever and wherever the Son is rejected, man remains enslaved to the elements of the world. For most people this is a self-imposed slavery. In vast areas of the world where the Father’s Christmas Gift of His Son is unknown people are the victims, the slaves, of a religion that is called animism. Such people live in slavish fear of evil spirits. For example, old people are buried alive so that those remaining will not be troubled by their spirits, for if the person is buried alive, it is believed that his spirit will be trapped so that it cannot torment or make trouble for the living. Human sacrifices are made to appease the wrath of the gods, to satisfy the spirits. Modern translators may have had this form of religion in mind when they translated “elements” as “elemental spirits.”
A large part of the world, for example, the seething Middle East, is Mohammedan. The Mohammedan religion is a self-imposed slavery with set times for prayer, rules governing the diet and fasting, pilgrimages, places of worship, and so on. The modern Jew still carries the yoke of Moses about his neck and prides himself in religiously keeping laws, rules, and regulations from which God sent His Son to free His people almost twenty centuries ago. Throughout the world, wherever and whenever people reject God’s Christmas Gift—His Son—the result is that people enslave themselves with rules and regulations, laws and traditions, to the elements of this world. What a tragedy! A widespread tragedy!
But it isn’t only the non-Christian world that suffers because it rejects the Father’s Christmas Gift—His Son. Many in so-called Christian countries and even many within so-called Christian churches suffer the loss of the Father’s Christmas Gift, for—
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” We have noted that God planned His Christmas Gift from all eternity. But His plan did not end with the Child born of Mary. It just began there. For that Child born of the chosen woman was to come under law. Everything born into this world comes under law, for everyone born is a creature of the Creator. This is God’s world. We are all His creatures. The atheist likes to imagine that there is no God and that he is therefore free to make his own laws. That is childish self-deception. Our modern permissive generation likes to imagine that God makes no laws governing the behavior of man here on earth or at least doesn’t enforce them. That is silly self-delusion. God remains God, and man remains His creature—under His rules and regulations and subject to His threats and punishments. So it is. Only God could change that situation, and He did when He sent His Son to be the world’s Christmas Gift. When God’s Son came to be from a woman, He at the same time came to be under law. That means that Jesus was subject to the same laws that all men are subject to. He was also subject to the threat of death if He failed to keep those laws. He was thus subjected to law “to redeem them that were under the law.” By keeping the law—all law, whatever and all that God demanded—He freed man from the demands and threats of the law. He changed man’s relationship from one of “law” to one of “faith.”
At this particular point and in this particular letter to the Galatians Paul had in mind especially the ceremonial laws that God imposed upon His Old Testament people. All of those laws related to Christ. All were temporary. All were designed to benefit God’s people during the time of their minority—until Christ came. When Christ did come, slavery to all these elements of the world was to be replaced with the liberty of sonship. We are free from rules and regulations regarding our daily lives, even as we are free from the demands and curses of the law. But what do we find even among Christian people? In our day and age, twenty centuries after Christ completed His work of redemption, we find Christian people making new rules and regulations regarding days of worship, regarding food and drink, regarding clothing and amusements. We find them eagerly enslaving themselves once again to the beggarly elements of this world. What is that but rejecting the redeeming work of God’s Son and so rejecting the Son Himself? For whenever man enslaves himself to the beggarly elements of this world, he becomes proud of his self-enslavement. He imagines that his little going and leaving undone is really the factor that determines his salvation, and so he pushes Christ aside and set himself up as his own Savior. Think also of the Christian people who claim they accept God’s Christmas Gift of His Son and who yet see no conflict between Christ and training their children that doing one good deed a day is the essence of all religion and in believing that character will actually determine their destiny for time and eternity. What is that but rejecting the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus who came to free us from doing the deeds of the law, because we can’t do them according to divine standards anyway. Wherever people, sitting in Christian churches also, imagine that by their good deeds or by their moral character they can make their salvation a bit more secure, they are in fact rejecting God’s Christmas Gift—His Son. What a tragedy! What a widespread tragedy this is—also in Christian churches!
Let us not become victims of this Christmas tragedy, but let us rather be and remain beneficiaries of the Father’s Christmas Gift—His Son, for—
With the sending of His Son the Father began His emancipation program for the human race which came to a climax on Easter morn. “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” Why? “To redeem them that were under the law.” To what end or for what purpose? “That we might receive the adoption of sons”—or sonship. The fall into sin had made slaves of all men—slaves to ruthless, unmerciful, relentless law which demands but cannot give, which threatens and executes. God wanted sons, not slaves. By His perfect obedience to the law—all law—God’s Son purchased our freedom. We are now sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. That is our Christmas gift from the Father through His Son.
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” God sends not His Spirit to slaves—only to potential and actual sons. He has sent His Spirit unto us so that we may confidently use that most intimate name for the God of heaven and earth—Father. God is our Father; we are His sons, His children. How proud sons and daughters are of a famous father or of a kind and good and loving father. We have more. We have the Creator of heaven and earth, the Judge of all flesh as our Father. We can approach Him with all confidence in every time of need. When we sin, we turn to Him for forgiveness. When we become afraid, we turn to Him for comfort. When we despair, we turn to Him for hope. His is our Father; we are His children.
This is our Christmas gift from the Father’s Gift of His Son. Our God calls to us in the words of Paul: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Imagine that! Sons and heirs of God!
Lord, we thank Thee for saving us from what we were—slaves—and for making us what we are—Thy sons and heirs. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.