2016-11-27 In the Fullness of Time

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          November 27, 2016

“In the Fullness of Time”
Text: Galatians 4:4-5

I have noticed, over the ever-growing number of years that I have served as a vocational pastor, how busy I become once Thanksgiving is past.  This is a situation not unique to the pastoral ministry.  Most, if not all of us, become quite busy during the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Of course, there is all the shopping to do.  Then we have parties and various other get-togethers to attend.  Above all this, we still have other holiday events, such as concerts and worship services, to attend.  The pace becomes at times frenetic from late November into December—and, amid the swirl of events, how easy it is to lose sight of Him Who is the Reason for the season.  Therefore, it is good for us to pause for the next moments and to reflect on Him Who has come in the fullness of time.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The motivating event for God sending forth His Son occurred in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1 ff)—though, of course, God foreknew that doleful event coming to pass in Eden from eternity past.  “In Adam’s fall we sinned all,” goes The New England Primer (Boston: 1690), and the sin of our first parents brought misery and death, among other grievous consequences, to the human experience.  Yet even at this low moment, God speaks a word of grace—the protoeuangelion, or first announcement of the Gospel, occurs in Genesis 3:15, where God declared to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  The Seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ, came forth in the fullness of time to inflict a mortal wound on that ancient serpent, Satan himself.

From this incident in the Garden—and from this first announcement of the Gospel—a thread of redemption begins to stretch through God’s providential history.  It stretches through Seth, the son given to Adam and Even after the murder of Abel, to a choice descendant of Seth—Noah.  The thread extends through a son of Noah, Shem, to a descendant of Noah—Abraham.  God works His promise-plan, to use Dr. Walter Kaiser’s term, through Abraham’s descendants even unto Moses and the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.  God continues to collect for Himself a people during the conquest of Canaan, the period of the judges, and the early monarchy—especially as represented in David, Israel’s shepherd of sheep and sweet singer of songs.

God uttered to David this promise, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me” (2 Samuel 7:16).  This promise God fulfills in that greater David, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet, for much of Old Testament history, it appears this promise shall not come to pass.  After Solomon’s death, the Davidic kingdom splits; ten of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel form the Northern Kingdom—a line that never enjoyed a Godly king—while two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, form the hereditary Southern Kingdom.  During this time the prophets inveigh against the sins of God’s people—their covenant faithlessness—while promising a Savior to come.  The thread of God’s promise appears to end after Malachi’s prophecy, ca. 425 B. C.  Prophecy then goes silent for over four centuries.  Many a pious Old Covenant worshipper must have asked, “Hath God utterly forgotten or forsaken His covenant people?”

The answer, happily, comes in the negative, for in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son.  The fullness of time, as we measure it, occurred ca. 7-3 B. C.  The fullness of time came when God’s Old Testament Church languished under political captivity—in this case, under the Romans since Pompey’s conquest in 63 B. C.  The fullness of time came when the word of the Lord was very rare—even rarer than in Samuel’s youth (1 Samuel 3:1)—and when hope’s flame ebbed low.

In that providential moment, when all seemed dim and lost, God sent forth His Son.  He sent Him not to the great cities of the world—not to Rome, Alexandria, or Antioch—but to Bethlehem.  This village, one of the least villages in one of the least provinces of the greatest earthly empire to date, Rome, has the honor of our Savior’s birth within her bounds.  Hear the Spirit-led words of Micah, some seven hundred years before the fact: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).  The Son of God came into this world not in a posh birthing suite, but in a cattle stall—and in a manger for a first resting place.  Moreover, God sent forth His Son to accomplish all that we shall examine, God willing, during the next few weeks.

It is true that we live neither in Palestine nor at the turn of the ages.  We live in western North Carolina at the end of A. D. 2016.  What saith the Lord to us today?  At the right time in providential history, God sent forth His Son into time and space.  We have surveyed this today.  Also, at the right time in your life, God has sent forth His Son to touch your life.  Many of us, safely in Him, can remember when this occurred—even for a few of us it be a long time ago.  Yet God, in Christ, has much more for us—even in this life.  We who are in Him shall see even more of His goodness, His faithfulness, His purifying power from sin, and so much more.  We do look forward to these coming to pass in our lives—and in ever-increasing measure at that.

For perhaps some of us, we have not had the saving touch of Jesus upon our lives—but perhaps it is occurring today, maybe even just now.  If so, then welcome Him by faith into your life as your Lord and Savior.  By His powerful leading, come confessing, hating, and forsaking sin.  Come ready to receive all that He has for you in Jesus Christ, Who was sent forth in the fullness of time to glorify Himself and to bless us—abundantly and eternally.  Receive Him by faith, and continue to do the same.

AMEN.

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