Memories are important to us as people. It is one of the main reasons that we travel. But as much as our personal memories mean to us, sometimes we remember things about others that are more meaningful.
I have mentioned my trips to Kenya many times. And I have great memories of things that I have seen, people I have met, and experiences I have had. One of my favorite sites is this mountain – named Sapache (in Samburu), which means, “the big something.” One memory I have of a trip to Kenya was something I was nowhere near, but it involved this mountain. The memory is of Roger sharing his Bible story and an elder thanking Roger for sharing about the truth of the God of the mountain. The elder of the village said, “We have worshipped the God of this mountain, but now we know who He is.”
We all do that in some ways. We all care deeply about something or perhaps even someone, whom we really do not know well. We celebrate without knowing why. For instance, tonight, people around the country will either be overjoyed or bitterly disappointed by the outcome of the game. But why? Most of the people have never met any of the players, and if they have met them, they do not know them personally – as in, they have never had them over for a meal.
The reason is that we must worship. We all worship someone or something. And tonight, that worship will be about a group of men playing a game on a field. And I will be one of the individuals who will be watching intently – not because I have to do it, but because I want to watch.
And God knows we will worship, and thus, He had a plan to allow us to focus our worship on Him – a plan that the Bible declares was revealed at just the right time, in just the right way, using just the right person, for just the right reason.
Thus, in a world that is changing faster than we can even consider possible, we can know that God is a constant. We can know that His Word stands true not just in a certain time, but for all time.
Galatians 4.4-5 captures the essence of this truth perfectly. “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
So, God had a plan for Creation. He had a plan for the birth of Jesus. And thus, we can rest assured that He is still carrying out His plan today.
The text for this week is “who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” At Christmas we focus on Mary’s role, and I will mention her, but the focus for this post is God’s role – not just in the birth of Jesus, but in the entire process which we first see in Genesis 3.15, but the plans were actually in place before that!
Of course, we call the beginning of a pregnancy the conception of the child. Thus, when we hear conceived of the Holy Spirit we think of the Spirit’s role in Mary getting pregnant. And that is absolutely true. And it must be true as we will see in just a few moments. But before the Holy Spirit helped to conceive a child, He was part of conceiving a plan. And that is where I want to begin as we break down this text in Galatians 4.
God Conceived Just the Right Time
You may remember the quote from AW Tozer I shared a few weeks ago – what we believe about God is the most important thing about us. If you believe that God had the timing of Jesus’ birth measured, then you should have no concerns about our world today. On the other hand, if you think that Jesus was born at a random time in a random place, well, then be very concerned because that means that God has no authority over anything.
Now, I am going to use a few verses to show the truth of this point, but I am going to introduce you to a little bit of deeper theology today. First, we see in Genesis 3.15 the first specific mention of one who will come to oppose Satan. God is talking to the serpent after the initial sin of Adam and Eve, and says, “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 word offspring can also be translated as seed. The point here is that someone one day would come from Eve and that person would ultimately defeat Satan. But for God to say this, He had to already know. This is where the theology comes into play.
Theology has a term called lapsarian. The term relates to the Fall of Man. The issue is when did God know that man would sin? A few theories abound as to the timing of the Fall and each of the theories has slightly different prefixes such as supra- and infra- (i.e. supralapsarian or infralapsarian). These theories help distinguish what God knew about the Fall of Man and how and when He developed a plan based upon that knowledge. If you want to dig deeper into this, by all means do, I just want you to know that a lot of people spend a lot of time researching and debating the finer points of this particular doctrine.
What we need to know is that God had a plan (however and whenever it was developed), and that He carried out that plan. But verses such as Ephesians 1.4 says that a decision was made before the foundation of the world (and verses like this are why the debate occurs). Nonetheless, God’s plan was carried out – at just the right time.
Why was Jesus born when He was? Let me briefly provide a few thoughts.
- The language was right. The Greek language was known in much of the western world which made it easy for people to share the message of the good news of Jesus.
- The Peace of Rome (Pax Romana). The Romans had conquered much of the western world which made travel easier and much safer than it had ever been. In fact, the Romans built five superhighways that led from Rome to the furthermost parts of their empire (“all roads lead to Rome”).
- The religious timing was right. Judaism had been saved by the Pharisees in the 2nd Century B.C, but the people knew this religion could not save them. And while Rome had brought peace in their own way, that did not mean that people were not oppressed. Thus, the expectations for the messiah to come were high.
So, God had a plan. And He executed that plan at just the right time.
God Conceived Just the Right Way
God sent forth His Son. He did not choose a man to be the Messiah. He sent His Son as the Messiah. Granted, Jesus was fully man, but He was also fully God. Mathematically, this is difficult to understand, but conceptually it has to be that way. If Jesus was the offspring of Joseph and Mary, then Jesus would be fully man (like you and me), but He would not be fully God. He would only be made in His image (again, like you and me, Genesis 1.27).
But if God just sent His Son without being born like children are, then Jesus would not be man. He would only be God. But as it is, God’s plan was not only conceived in theory by Him, but the manifestation of the plan included the conception of a child completed by God in conjunction with the normal human reproductive process. That is simply a fascinating concept. It simply does not make sense that someone could be born of a virgin, but God not only foretold it (Isaiah 7.14), He did it! No other way could work as I will prove in just a moment. But first, we move to the next point.
God Conceived Just the Right Person
In this case, I mean Mary. Of course, Jesus, the Son of God was just the right Person in the truest sense of this expression. However, it took a special person to make the birth possible. First, the person had to be female because children are delivered from females. So, approximately 50% of the population is removed from consideration. Second, the person had to be a virgin. So, another large percentage would be removed. Third, the person had to be of a particular lineage (per God’s promise to David – 2 Samuel 7.14) which was fulfilled by Mary being the descendant of David’s son, Nathan (Luke 3.31). But this woman would also have to be married to someone whose ancestor included David (as Joseph’s was through Solomon, Matthew 1.6). Now, we have really narrowed down the possibilities. But this special person would also have to be humble (because of her responsibility, Luke 2.47), strong (because of the ridicule she would face (Matthew 1.19, Mark 6.3), and full of faith (Luke 2.46-47). The possibilities for this person has become very narrow now. Furthermore, this person would have to be alive at the just the right time according to the plans of God. So, do you think Mary’s birth was random? I don’t.
All of these factors had to be true. Perhaps, several people were possibilities. But likely only a few could have met all of those factors. But God knew just the right one and He found favor with her (Luke 2.28,30).
God Conceived Just the Right Reason
Some might argue that God did not conceive the reason; rather, He provided for the reason. That argument would fit with the theological argument (re: lapsarianism) I mentioned above. Regardless, God made a way. And that way was made by His mercy because He know we could not keep the law.
The end of verse 4 says that Jesus was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. That is, Jesus was not born immune from sin. Because He was the offspring of Mary, He is human. And as human, He was obliged to keep the law or be condemned like everyone else who has ever been born because we cannot keep the law. But again, God sent His Son. He did not choose someone to be His Son. The Son was known and was sent. The Son perfectly kept the law and, therefore, those who receive Him are redeemed and receive the greatest of all gifts – being adopted by God as His child.
What is amazing about this passage that is lost to us in this day is that it is within a larger passage about Jews and Gentiles. Jesus was born as a Jew, but He was not sent only for the Jews. He was sent for all mankind – because all of us are obligated to the law. Paul further captures this idea in verse 6 when He wrote that God’s children can cry out, “Abba, Father.” The translation would be so much better if it said, “Abba, Pater.” Paul’s point is that the Jews cry out Father, and the Gentiles say, “Pater” (Greek for father), but the word itself does not matter – what matters is that God is the Father of both because of what His Son has done.
With that truth, let us recite the first few parts of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary…
So, God conceived a plan. And a part of that plan, according to Luke 1.35, was for the Holy Spirit to conceive a child who was born to a woman. And the birth of Jesus was at just the right time, in just the right way, to just the right person, for just the right reason. So, with the evidence established, let me make a very bold claim.
Bold Claim: You cannot believe that Jesus is truly Savior if you do not believe He was born of both God and of a virgin. If Jesus is only man, then He does not have the power to save. But if He was only God, then He has not been tempted in every way, and could not have truly died for our sins.
You may argue the timing of Jesus birth, although the Bible would say you are wrong. You may argue that Mary could not have been a virgin, but if so, everything else must be a lie as well. You may even argue that you do not need a savior. But God knows differently and so He has offered one to you – it is simply up to you to receive the gift He has offered.
Our JOURNEY letter for today is J – JESUS.
God did not just conceive a way. He conceived the way. And that way is Jesus because Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6).
NEXT STEP(S): LEARN. The LEARN this week is about trust. Change is all around us, but Galatians 4 shows us that God is in control. Take your bulletin and read through these points again and again. Read the passage I gave you. Go back and read from Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and John 1 and see how God orchestrated everything as He said. Take this week to learn to trust, so that in the coming weeks you are ready to do even more.