In the Fullness of Time

What Christmas means for us now and in the age to come

One of the wonders of the Christmas story is the detail Scripture provides. It’s tempting to limit the scope of God’s plan, reducing it to nativity plays or tidy scenes on greeting cards, but we should never overlook the bigger picture of what He was doing in the world at that time. The apostle Paul sums it up in one verse: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Let’s step back and examine that first Christmas from God’s perspective.

 

How did He bring it all together to accomplish His divine purpose? Take a look at Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

 

“But when the fullness of time came.” We might easily pass over this phrase, which feels abstract and difficult to grasp. But it’s important because it signifies that there were key events and much preparation behind the exact timing of Jesus’ birth.

Some people think that God is up in heaven watching and reacting as human history unfolds, but that notion is contrary to Scripture. Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Nothing surprises Him or is out of His control. In fact, before the heavens and earth were created, God’s plan to reconcile humanity was already in place (1 Peter 1:19-20).

Before the heavens and earth were created, God’s plan to reconcile humanity was already in place.

The Scriptures chronicle the working of God’s hand as He sovereignly brings events into alignment with His will. Genesis 3 explains that reconciliation with God is needed because the entire human race has been corrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin. Yet immediately after confronting them, the Lord promised to bring deliverance through the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15). Then He chose Abraham as the ancestor of the One through whom He would bless the entire world (Gen. 12:1-3). From among Israel’s 12 sons, He chose a ruler to come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). Centuries later, God selected David to be the one through whom a King would arise, whose kingdom would never end (2 Samuel 7:16). As the time of Christ’s coming drew near, the Lord used a Roman emperor named Caesar Augustus to send Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His prophecy that the King would come from this small town (Micah 5:2). Then, Jesus arrived in the fullness of time.

 

“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” From an earthly perspective, Jesus’ birth seemed ordinary, but in reality He was sent from God. He had no earthly father but was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin. Mary was told by an angel that her baby would be called “the Son of the Most High” and would rule on the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33). Although Jesus was truly God, He was also truly human. That’s why Isaiah describes this event as both the birth of a child and the giving of a son (Luke 9:6).

Although Jesus was truly God, He was also truly human.

The virgin birth was essential for the incarnation. Jesus was the promised “seed of the woman” who would crush Satan’s head and reconcile mankind to God (Gen. 3:15). This victory required the Son of God to be fully human while at the same time having no sin nature, and then to be offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

 

“Born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law.” What does it mean to be “born under the Law”? Although this phrase describes the Jewish people, who as a nation were under obligation to obey the Law of Moses, it can also be applied to all of us because we all fall short and are under God’s condemnation.

Yet Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God in word, thought, and deed. Thus having shown full obedience to His Father by living a perfect life, He was able to become the spotless Lamb of God—the one who could bear the sins of mankind. And in so doing, He was able to redeem those who believe in Him and trust in the sacrifice He made on their behalf.

 

“That we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is the glorious reality for everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ: We become children of God and members of His family. Through salvation, we who “were by nature children of wrath” have become the beloved children of God (Eph. 2:3) and are placed under His divine protection and provision.

Adoption gives us a new name and identity in Christ, a relationship with God the Father, a new companion in the Holy Spirit, and a family of brothers and sisters in the church. As a result, we are now called to live a new way—to walk as children of Light, learn what is pleasing to God, and abstain from the deeds of darkness He hates (Eph. 5:8-11). Although we may stumble along the way, we never have to fear that we’ll be thrown out of the family. Our heavenly Father may discipline us, but He will never revoke our adoption.

Although we may stumble along the way, we never have to fear that we’ll be thrown out of the family.

But the plan isn’t completed yet. One day Jesus will come again at God’s ordained time for His return. Then He will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21) and take us home to the Father’s house (John 14:3). This is when we, along with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, will enter into the fullness of our adoption and receive our imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that has been reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). So this year, let’s look beyond the marvelous details of the Christmas story and anticipate our glorious destiny upon His return. What a celebration that will be.

 

Reflect

Have you ever tried to plan a big event? If so, you understand how complicated it can be. Every step needs to be completed in a precise way, by specific people, at the right time. Now consider the details and timing with which God brought His Son into the world. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Yet God in His sovereignty and omniscience orchestrated His plan perfectly, without any confusion or worry.

Could you possibly doubt that God is doing the same in your life? As you look back, can you trace His hand guiding, protecting, and providing for you? Think about the events that led to your salvation. What situation did He use to open your eyes? Did the Lord place certain people in the right place at just the right time to help you understand how to be saved? Since God did so much to bring you to salvation, won’t you trust Him to lead you the rest of the way?

If you are an adopted child of God, you are in an enviable position—even if your circumstances tempt you to believe otherwise. When life gets difficult and painful, remember that you aren’t fully home yet. A glorious future awaits!

 

Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior and for adopting me as Your child. Teach me to live in a manner worthy of my new identity so that I may bring honor to Your name. Help me to fix my hope completely on the grace that is mine when Christ returns rather than on my own expectations for this life. Amen.

 

Meditate

  • Romans 5:6-10
  • Romans 8:18-23
  • 1 Corinthians 15:49-58
  • 1 Peter 1:13-16
  • 1 John 5:1-3
 

Practice

Living in the reality of our adoption as God’s children can be challenging because our focus and affections are easily drawn to earthly things. When that happens, we sometimes forget our Father’s loving care for us and lose sight of His glorious promises.

What can you do to begin living according to your identity as a child of God?

  • Read Ephesians 1:1-14 and meditate on all that is yours as His adopted child.

  • Evaluate whether your life is a reflection of your new identity as God’s child. What do you need to change in order to live in a way that honors Him?

  • Read God’s Word, looking for details about your glorious heavenly future, and let it motivate you to live for eternity rather than for the things of this world.

 

Illustration by Simon Pemberton

Related Topics:  Gods Promises

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19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!"

7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.

19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you;

2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;

3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever."'"

2 But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

6 Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),

10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.

55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

16 because it is written, YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

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