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Dear Friends in Christ,
We are all familiar with Jesus’ wonderful summary of the Gospel, often called the gospel in a nutshell. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul’s summary is a little longer, but also very wonderful. In fact, we can break what Paul says down to seven words that are full of meaning.
Time. Paul says that when the time had fully come. When it was just the right time, God took action to fulfill his promise of sending a savior. From a human point of view we can catch a glimpse of why it was the right time for God to act. He had enabled the Romans to acquire a huge empire. They had established what historians still call today the Roman Peace. Probably not since the time of Noah had so much of the world been at peace. Roads were built throughout the empire. Travel was safer than it ever had been. Wherever you went in the empire you could find people who understood the Greek language. Everything necessary for the good news of the gospel to spread was in place. Even little details like Caesar issuing a decree that everyone go to their ancestral home to register for taxation were used by God to carry out his plan of salvation.
How often don’t we whine and complain when God doesn’t do what we want him to do when we want him to do it? These words remind us how foolish it is for us to second guess God. He is in control. He alone knows the future. He knows better than any one else what is best for us. His timing is always perfect. Because you know that he sent his Son at just the right time in the history of the world trust that he will keep his promise to act with perfect timing in your life as well, making everything that happens serve your eternal good.
Son. When the time had fully come, when everything was just right, God sent his Son. If you are a card player you have probably heard the expression, “don’t send a boy”, if you really want to take a trick, use a card that no one can trump. When it came to sending a savior for the world God didn’t send a boy; he didn’t send someone who could easily fail in his mission, he sent the one no one could trump, he sent his one and only Son. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, one with the Father from eternity, who willingly volunteered to leave the glories of heaven for a while and live in this ghetto of sin.
We get all upset if we misplace a piece of jewelry or a $20. Imagine giving up everything you have and going to live in a place where there are no cars, no electricity, no modern conveniences of any kind and there are people constantly plotting to kill you. Jesus gave up much more when he left heaven to take on God’s mission of salvation.
Born. The Son of God was born of a woman. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit he was conceived in Mary’s womb. God took on flesh and blood. He became fully human, having body and soul, having the ability to feel hunger, thirst and pain and to be able to die. And Paul mentions something even more mind boggling, he was born under law. The creator of the universe, the one who established the laws that govern the way that everything works, the God who spoke the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai, willingly put himself under all these laws for us.
Redemption. That’s the whole reason for God’s Son becoming a human being and placing himself under law; for making himself subject to pain and death. He chose to do these things so that he could redeem us, so that he could pay the price God demanded to set us free from sin, death and Satan.
Part of the price of our redemption was perfection. God demands that his laws be kept perfectly. We haven’t done that. We can’t do that. But Jesus, as both God and man, could and did. He lived under law. He was tempted just as we are. He felt hunger and thirst and pain. Yet he lived his whole life without sin. He offered himself to God as the second Adam, a representative of the whole human race who, unlike the first Adam, resisted temptation and lived a life of perfect obedience.
The other part of the price of our redemption was condemnation. Even though God’s demand that his law be kept had been fulfilled by Jesus’ perfect life, there still remained the fact that condemnation was hanging over the heads of all who had sinned. As the one who never sinned Jesus was able to offer himself in our place. He was able to say to the Father, “put all their sins on me, give me the punishment they deserve and let them go free.”
Paul puts it this way in Romans, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He reminds us that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Adoption. The NIV translates this word with the phrase, that we might receive the full rights of sons. The picture is that we were slaves to the cruel, heartless taskmasters of sin, death and Satan. But Jesus redeemed us. He purchased us for God by his perfect life and his innocent suffering and death in our place. Because of what Jesus did, God has rescued us from our wicked taskmasters and adopted us as his own. We are no longer slaves to sin, death and Satan. The consequences of our sin have been removed. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We don’t have to be controlled by the fear of death. Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life. We don’t have to give in to the temptations of Satan. In Jesus we can resist him and he will flee from us. We don’t have to worry that Satan is accusing us before God and calling on God to punish us for our sins because Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God and interceding for us. We are no longer slaves. We are sons.
Heirs. If we are adopted by God as his sons, we have all the rights and privileges of sonship. We are heirs. That means that everything that belongs to God now also belongs to us.
Imagine getting a notice in the mail one day that some long-lost millionaire relative has died and named you as their sloe heir. Well you and I have something even better right here in the Bible. Every time we open these pages we receive a notice from God that we have been made heirs with Christ of eternal life. Everything he gave up when he left heaven to come to earth to redeem us has now become ours as a gift, as an inheritance. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Abba. The Holy Spirit has made sure that we have received the notice that we have been adopted by God, that we have the full rights of sons, that we are heirs with Jesus, his Son, of the glories of heaven forever. The Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts through the word and sacrament so that we aren’t like some hardened street urchin who refuses to receive any help from anyone. Through the word and sacrament the Holy Spirit has replaced our heart of stone with a heart of flesh so that when we hear the news that we have been adopted by God we respond with joy and thanksgiving. When we realize what he has rescued us from; when we realize how much it cost him to redeem us, we are filled with love and thanksgiving and we are more than happy to call God, Abba Father, Daddy.
The Holy Spirit helps us realize that God is not someone we have to fear. He helps us realize that, if he was willing to sacrifice his one perfect son in order to adopt us as his own dear children, he truly wants what is best for us. He is someone we can talk to any time about any thing and know that he will answer every request we make of him in the way that is best for us. And even when we are severely troubled and don’t have a clue what we ought to ask for, the Holy Spirit communicates our needs to the Father for us.
Seven words full of meaning. Time, God’s timing is always best. Son, he gave up his son for us! Born, he chose to come to earth and take our place. Redeem, he paid the price necessary to rescue us from sin, death and Satan. Adoption, because of what Jesus has done we have been adopted as sons of God. Heirs, we are heirs with Jesus of the glories of heaven, everything that he has is ours too. Abba, because of all these things we are happy to call God our Father and talk to him often as children talk to their dear fathers.