God's Plan, Promise, and Purpose for the Incarnation.

A vast majority of Christmas carols focus on one night: O Holy Night, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger. Many of these rich theological hymns are still played at stores and restaurants. It is astounding that we can walk into different businesses and hear What Child is This? Unfortunately, many go about this season busy with parties, decorating, and shopping, yet fail to consider the question, "what Child is this?"

While Christmas festivities do not take root until later in church history, the apostle Paul gives the answer to the question, "what Child is this?" In Galatians 4, Paul gives us characteristics to consider about this child. Paul was addressing a diluted idea of Jesus. Certain people were trying to water down the gospel, which requires faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to reduce it with works and the law. Our culture celebrates this kind of diluted gospel and a diluted Jesus. However, Paul makes it clear that we must accept Jesus fully in faith.

In an age of a diluted Jesus, God gave only one plan. He gave only one sure promise. He gave a glorious purpose for the Christ child.

God’s Plan

Galatians 4:4 tells us that the fullness of time came. What constitutes the fullness of time? Speculation is fruitless, but we can know from Luke 2 when God determined to be the fullness of time. God’s ways are always higher than our ways. He alone determines the right time. He did that for His Son, sending Him to this earth, and God does that for us in this moment. Paul reminds his Galatian readers that God has a plan, regardless of how things seem. God is at work!

God’s plan included the apostle Paul (Galatians 1:1). Paul again reminds his readers that God has things under control. If we look at life from a human perspective, things often seem hopeless and overwhelming and tragic. This is not at all God’s perspective of His divine plan. God always had the end in mind, perfectly so. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son. Paul points to God’s plan for himself even from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15). The church can be thankful for Saul-turned-Paul, by the grace of God, and his contributions to the church.

Galatians 4:4 tells that God sent forth His Son. With all the festivities of the holidays, it is helpful for us to remember this basic truth of the Christian faith. Amid the shopping, wrapping, meal planning, and decorating, it is easy to forget that everything revolves around the truth that God sent forth His Son.

Being human and finite, we are often distracted from this truth. We should consider adding to our family’s traditions something that reminds us that God sent forth His Son. Perhaps listening to fewer casual Christmas songs and listening to and discussing more of the wonderful hymns of this season. Reading a passage of Scripture before opening presents or memorizing a passage of Scripture together as a family will help us remember that God sent forth His Son.

We live in an age where many are looking to water down the truth of the gospel and dilute the reason for Christmas. We must remember that God has a divine plan which included the Incarnation.

God’s Promise

Galatians 4:4 tells us of the promise: God’s Son, born of a woman. This was promised in Genesis 3:1:; one would come who would defeat Satan and restore man’s relationship with God. Matthew 1:23 recounts what Isaiah said: a virgin would conceive and bear a son, Immanuel, God with us. Matthew reminds us of this promise of salvation and hope, how God would not leave us in our sin. No matter what unanswered questions we have, this promise demonstrates that God is faithful, sacrificial, and sufficient in His love, sending His Son, born of a woman, to save mankind from their sin.

The other part of the promise is that Jesus would be born under the law. Jesus Christ was born under the same requirements and expectations of the law that we are born under. Luke 2:21 explains how Jesus was circumcised according to the law on the eighth day. Luke 2:22 describes how Joseph and Mary observed the days of purification according to the law. However, Paul is saying more than that in Galatians. Jesus was subjugated to the law just like we are. Jesus had to keep it just like we do. Paul explains that Jesus fulfilled the law and is the reason for the law.

Why is it important that Jesus be born under the law? In Galatians 3:16, Paul demonstrates Christ’s superiority to the law by outlining that the promise of Jesus came before the law. The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed, referring to Christ. Galatians 3:17 states the law was given 430 years after the promise of Christ was given. Galatians 3:18 explains the inheritance (all those things we enjoy in Jesus Christ) promised to Abraham’s seed was based on God’s promise, not based on fulfilling the law. The promise came first. One might wonder why the law was given at all. Galatians 3:19 says it was given because of sin. The law shows us our sin and our need for God’s promised one, Jesus Christ.

But the law became a stumbling block, the means to the end for the religious. Are we too getting tripped up by the law? Or are we looking to the One who is greater than the law? The One who came to fulfill it is God’s Son, born under the law so that we could be justified by faith.

God’s Purpose

Jesus came to redeem those under the law. Everyone is under the law, and all need the redemption offered by Jesus Christ. The word "redeem" means to be liberated from enslavement and involves the payment of a price, to buy back. This corresponds with the phrase in Galatians 4:3, "held in bondage under the elemental things of the world." There is no way of escaping except for God’s plan, God’s promise, and God’s purpose: to redeem those who are under the law.

Jesus was sent in the fullness of time, born to a woman, born under the law, to redeem us from the tyranny of sin. That is the purpose of the Incarnation: to redeem us. That is what Christmas is all about.

Paul continues in Galatians 4:5 with the phrase "that we might receive the adoption as God’s sons." The word "adoption" is found only in the letters of Paul in the New Testament and stresses the legal rights and privileges that are conferred on the person adopted. However, we receive so much more than a legal title of being sons of God. This is the glorious mystery of the Incarnation! The fact that God would send His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might be adopted as sons, no longer slaves, but heirs through Christ Jesus.

We receive a status and a change of family when we are made new in Christ and born again into God’s family. We actually become sons and daughters of God and heirs of all the promises. This happens because the Holy Spirit makes us new, allowing us to cry "Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6). This is more than a legal name, but an intimate, relational declaration that the God of heaven is our Daddy. We get to call God by a special name that no one outside of His family can call Him. We have access to Him at any time, at any moment. He has a plan for each of us. He keeps His promises all the time, and nothing can ever stop Him from keeping His promises.

God’s glorious purpose is to redeem us and to call us His sons and daughters. This is the great purpose of the Incarnation.

Application Points

  • Are the activities of the Christmas season causing you to be distracted from remembering the Child we celebrate during this season? Do you and your family have any traditions to help focus on the truth of who Jesus is and why He was sent?
  • Are you joyful and thankful that redemption is yours in the Lord Jesus Christ? God would not have you enslaved by sin but set free by faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
  • Are you intimate with God the Father as a son or daughter adopted into the family of God? Abba Father would have you cry out to Him and know Him, the perfect Father, whose plan for you is good.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Gen. 49:10, Isaiah 7:14, Jer. 31:15, Micah 5:2, Hag. 2:6-9, Dan. 9:24, 25 – The Nativity Prophesied