Advent: The True Meaning of Christmas, Galatians 4:4-7
When we rejected our Creator, our once idyllic existence crumbled into decay. We were exiled from Eden and plunged into darkness and death after we willfully rebelled against our source of life. We who were once free, living in perfect communion with our Father and Creator, became slaves to Law and sin and orphans longing to return home. We were enslaved to what Paul calls the elementary principles of the world.
But then at the appointed time…
Christ took on flesh and entered our world. With the advent of Jesus, our tireless journey back to Eden came to an end. All that we longed for and desired in Eden can now be found in Christ, and he will one day rule the nations in perfect peace and wisdom.
The book of Galatians was written by Paul to remind the church at Galatia that they had been freed from the former things because of Christ. The Galatians were requiring new believers to first convert to Judaism, receive circumcision, and follow the Law in order to become Christians. Paul’s response was along the lines of saying something like, “Have you lost your minds?” He asks, “Who has bewitched you?”
Paul reminds the church that God had visited humanity. He freed the Jews from slavery to the Law and the Gentiles from slavery to paganism. Righteousness is found in Christ’s righteousness and nothing else. To return to either the Law or paganism would be to sever themselves from grace. Christ would “be of no advantage” to the Galatians if they were to rely on their own efforts through the Law to provide them with some kind of additional holiness. Paul says that what was begun by the Spirit of God cannot be perfected by the flesh of man. If we could somehow add to our salvation, then Christ didn’t save us fully. If this were true, then Christ came and died for no reason.
We were not adopted because we did anything to win over God’s favor. Our adoption as sons was purchased for us by Christ, and we are no longer slaves. As sons, we will receive an inheritance, and the Holy Spirit has sealed us for the day when we will fully acquire our inheritance when Christ returns to finally establish his kingdom. We now are able to once again approach our God confidently calling him “Abba, Father.”
Some Practical Considerations
- Do not return to former idols and methods of salvation. Your identity, worth, and righteousness are found in the truth that you have been adopted as a son of God. You cannot find your life or identity apart from Jesus. You cannot find your righteousness before God apart from Jesus’ blood. It doesn’t make any sense to rely fully on Christ for your initial acceptance into his family and then rely on your own works for continued acceptance. Your acceptance by God as your Father is started, is being sustained, and will be completed by Christ’s work alone. So do not return to former ways of attempting to earn your salvation through laws or find your worth and meaning in idols.
- Remember that you have an inheritance coming when Christ returns. We live in what many Christians call the “already-not-yet”. Christ already came, and he has freed us from the Law. And we have received the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide; however, we haven’t received our inheritance in full yet. We are still engaged in a war with sin and navigate our lives through a perilous world broken and marred by rebellion against its Creator. Sometimes it can be hard to persevere, so we must remember our coming inheritance. He’s already given us a down payment in giving us the Holy Spirit, and he has kept all his promises up to this point. He said he would come the first time, and he did. He said he would come a second time, and he will. We must remember what we have coming for us so that we can persevere, trusting that these light and momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.