The Miracle of the Incarnation

Galatians

The Miracle of the Incarnation

December 9th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM

Galatians 4:4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
  
Play Audio

Show References:
ON OFF

THE MIRACLE OF THE INCARNATION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Galatians 4:4

12-9-87    7:30 p.m.

 

It is a very beautiful assignment for me to prepare a message on the coming of our Lord into this darkened and weary world.  There is such a brightness, and such a glory in the hope that our Lord brought with Him that shines eternally, and we speak of that tonight in The Miracle of the Incarnation.  Our text is Galatians 4, verse 4:

When the plērōma of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons—that we might be saved out of the darkness of sin and death into the light of the glory of the kingdom of God.

[Galatians 4:4-5]

 Before I begin, could I make one passing comment on the text?  “When the plērōma, plērōma”—translated in the King James Version, the fullness, “when the fullness of the time was come” [Galatians 4:4], I cannot help but be reminded, in Paul’s use of that word, that there is a sovereign providence that guides and overrules all of the history of humanity.  To us it may seem that things happen adventitiously.  They happen just circumstantially, they just happen.  But in God’s revelation to us, there are no happenstances.  What comes to pass is under His purview and in His sovereign grace, and the hand of God is guiding throughout all of the providences of history.  I remind myself of that when I think of the providences that govern my life in the era of earth’s history in which I live.  It seems that God at times is so very far away and that history bungles through its centuries.  And where is the promise of His coming?

But through it all, God’s hand is moving.  And Paul refers to that when he says that in the plērōma of time—when things were guided just to that precise moment designated, prophesied by the Lord—Jesus came into this world [Galatians 4:4].  It will be the same again, whatever happens in this earth, happens under the surveillance of Almighty God, and He is guiding its history through that ultimate and final climax when our Lord comes back once again [Matthew 25:31].  Tonight we are speaking of the first time that He came to be visible in our midst.  There is a deep desire in the human heart to see God.  It’s in you.  It’s in us.  It’s in all of us.

What is God like?  Philip said in John 14:8, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”  Where is God?  What does He look like?  Moses, in one of the most magnificent passages in the Bible, in Exodus 33, Moses asks God: “Lord, that I might see You in Your glory” [Exodus 33:18].  And the Lord said to Moses, “No man can see Me, and live.  But I will hide you in a cleft of the rock, and cover you there with My hand, and My presence and My glory will pass by.  And I will take away My hand, and you can look upon My hinder parts” [Exodus 33:20-23].  So God hid Moses in a cleft of the rock, and hid him there with His hand, and the glory of the presence of God passed by.  And God took away His hand, and Moses looked upon the afterglow of the passing of God.  No man can see God and live [Exodus 33:20].  Could I pause to repeat a stanza of a song that I think is incomparably beautiful?

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

That shadows a dry, thirsty land.

He hideth my soul in the depths of His love,

And covers me there with His hand.

[“He Hideth My Soul,” Fanny J. Crosby]

In Peter 1:12, speaking of the human life of Christ, the apostle says, “Which things angels desire to look into.”  So in all of the pictures of the nativity you have the angels looking on in wonder, in adoration, and in worship.  That we might know and see God; what is He like?  Christ was incarnate, and I have four things to remark about that incarnation, looking at God, seeing God, what is He like.

First: He came into the world in the form of a baby.  He was born a baby [Matthew 1:20-25].  I don’t know whether you ever fall into such doubts, troubling, but I do, still do once in a while.  I fought it all of my life.  And here’s one:  I cannot but once in a while think of the cynic who frightens me.  This tiny speck of dust called the earth; it is so inconsequential and infinitesimal.  In the great, vast infinitude of the creation, the earth is literally a speck of dust.  And how is it that the great Creator of this vast universe could think in terms of coming down into this, smallest of all of the specks of creation, and living here in our midst?  How could it be?  It is not reasonable.  It’s not thinkable!  Great God of the universe come and be born as a baby.  How could it be?  Then I remember that love moves in another dimension than in terms of bigness or grandeur.  It’s in every category.  And when I think of God as only in terms of the vast creation, I’m not thinking of God as He really is; or if I bring to my heart the remembrance of the true and real God, I must think in another dimension, in other terms.

It’s like this.  Suppose I were the richest man on Wall Street and I had a beautiful mansion on Fifth Avenue, and while I was in my palatial suite in Wall Street and the telephone rang and the voice on the other end of the line said, “Sir, your mansion is on fire.”   And on the inside of that mansion is my own little baby.  And when that word comes to me on the phone, “Sir, your mansion is on fire,” what would I do?  Would I say, “Oh, sir, what of my draperies?  Or what of my paintings?  Or what of my rugs?  Or what of my furniture?”  Or would I say, “Oh, tell me, is my baby safe?”  Well, it would depend upon your heart, how you are on the inside of you.

If life for you is determined in measurements, bigness, or grandeur, or riches, or worth, or wealth, why, when the word came, “Your house is fire,” your response would be, “What of my furniture, and what of the building, and what of the house, and what of the rugs, and what of the paintings, and what of the silverware?”  But if life for you is defined in terms of care and love and concern, your question would be, “Oh, sir, what of my child?”  That’s God.  And the proposition of the Christian faith is always this: that God has a heart.  He loves!  He cares!  And this tiny speck of an earth is as nothing in the vast creation around us.  But we’re here, and God loves us and cares for us.  And that is a revelation of the heart of our Father.  He came incarnate as a baby [Matthew 1:23].  And all the world is moved by a baby—all of it!  There’s no exception to that.  You’re that way.  The whole earth is that way.

I read where a bunch of rough frontiersmen out in the West were visited by their wives and their families, and in celebration of the rendezvous they had a band to play.  And one of the wives had a baby, a little baby.  And when the band began to play, the baby began to cry, and one of the old frontiersmen stood up and said, “Have that band stop!  Let’s hear the baby cry.”

Ah, did you ever read Bret Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp”?  That’s one of the most moving stories of the West I ever read in my life—Bret Harte, “The Luck of Roaring Camp.”  It’s so different than what you might think.  The luck is a baby, a baby.  The woman who gave it birth died, and those rough miners, Roaring Camp, had to rear the child, adopt the child.  And the story is those rough men mothering that little child.

To show you the repetition of that little theme: I don’t go to the picture show, but I see advertised on television when I look at the news a picture that is now running, “Three somebodies and a Baby.”  Three what?  Three Men and a Baby.  It’s universal.  That’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” that same thing.  The same thing you find in Amram and Jochebed: they put that little baby down there on the bosom of the Nile River, and they put it where Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe.  And when the little baby cried, Pharaoh’s daughter was moved with compassion and adopted the lad [Exodus 2:1-10].  And the rest of the story you know.

The centerpiece of any family is the baby; always has been, always will be.  I read a crazy thing.  A little boy from a home that didn’t go to church came back and reported on his Sunday school.  And the little boy said, “Mommy, I had such a wonderful time, and they were such friends, but the best of all, they had Jesus’ grandmother to teach us.”

And the mother explained, “Darling, what makes you think the teacher was Jesus’ grandmother?”

And the little thing replied, “Well, she must have been.  She had His picture in her purse, and that’s all she could talk about.”  I repeat, it is universal.  What is God like?  He came incarnate in a baby [Matthew 1:23].

All right, number two: what is God like?  He was born poor [Luke 2:1-7, 11-16].  You would think the opposite, wouldn’t you?  When the wise men came from the East, when the magi came from the East, where did they go inquiring about Him for whom the star was shining in the sky?  Where did they go?  They went where all of us would have gone.  They went to Herod’s palace.   “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?  We have seen His star and have come to worship Him” [Matthew 2:1-2].  They inquired at a palace [Matthew 2:3].  That’s what all of us would think, that He would come born in a palatial home, to a kingly family.  But the wisdom of God is so different.  Practically all of humanity is poor.

And let me ask you—had He come born in a palace, there would have been many who would hesitate to knock at His door; but you tell me, don’t you think anyone, of any status, would feel at home to approach a stable and a manger with donkeys and cows and oxen? [Luke 2:10-16].  That’s the wisdom of God.  He was born poor, and all humanity feels at home with Him.

The best in life that comes to man

 Is not done up with golden string.

 It is not part of God’s great plan

 For wrappings to outshine the thing.

 God sent His Son down to the earth;

 He might have been a prince or a king.

 But low and humble was His birth,

 And that’s why the angels sing.

[author unknown]

A brother, and the story is woven out of stable straw and starlight.  What is God like—born poor?

Number three: what is God like?  He was born to share our sufferings.  Hebrews 2:16,18: “For verily He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham… For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, He also is able to succor them that are tried.  Or Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

All of us, all of us are introduced to the trials and hurts of life.  I can tell you this, and we most of the time forget it: the tears of these teenagers are as real as mine in my age.  And I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say that the tears of young children are as real as ours.  They also experience brokenheartedness and disappointment and hurt.  It is the common denominator of all mankind.  And Jesus is the helper of the helpless.  There are no trials and no sufferings that He did not Himself share and bear.

I read this week of a Japanese woman in Honshu.  That’s that big island in the north of those string of islands in the pond.  She was a wonderful Christian.  And a missionary was sent for to preach up there where she lived, and he made inquiry as to how it was that she became a Christian.  And the story briefly, she went through a great tragedy in the loss of her husband and her children, an indescribable sorrow.  And in her grief, she went to the Buddhist temple and bowed before that little fat, rotund god with his hands clasped over his belly, just smiling out there.  And in her indescribable sorrow, she found no answer or hope in bowing before that little fat Buddha.  She then went to the Shinto shrine.  Shinto is a religion of the worship of your ancestors, which is the national religion of Japan.  And she bowed there before the shrine of her ancestors, praying to the spirit of her forefathers and found no answer there.  And upon a day, an urchin placed in her hands a dirty, ragged little book that the child had picked up on the streets of the city.  She looked at it and read it.  It brought an infinite comfort to her heart.

You know what that little ragged book was?  It was a copy of the Gospel of Luke.  Somehow somebody had lost it, and it fell in a gutter on a city street.  And dirty and trampled upon, she found the Lord.  That’s God!  God’s not like Buddha.  God’s not like the Shintoists.  God’s not like anybody but Jesus, born to share our sufferings [Hebrews 4:15-16].

Last: born to reign [Luke 1:31-33].  Let me tell you something about Jesus: you can’t expose Him too much.  You cannot.  All of us, there are things in our lives that we hide, all of us.  There are private things of which we never speak.  There are things in our lives we hide away, all of us—but not our Lord.  You can’t expose Him too much.  Our Lord in His birth, our Lord in His childhood, our Lord in His ministry, our Lord in His miracles, our Lord in His words, our Lord in His death, our Lord in His resurrection, you can’t expose Him too much.  Just lift Him up, point to Him.  He is always everything that God Himself could ever be.

That’s why I am never insulted by all of what they call the commercialization of Christmas.  My brother, my sister, you can’t take Christ out of Christmas.  You can’t do it!  It’s in the name, C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s.  And when I see those lights downtown and on these buildings, and when I see all of the tinsel and tinfoil and the color, when I see it, I praise God.  It all magnifies the birthday of our living Lord.

A little boy of heavenly birth,

But far from home today,

Comes down to find His ball,

This earth that sin has cast away.

O comrades, Let us one and all

Join in to get Him back His ball!

[“Out of Bounds,” John Bannister Tabb]

Would you mind if I read that again?  Our Lord coming to this earth, it’s His, and someday to reign over it [Matthew 25:31-32].

A little boy of heavenly birth,

But far from home today,

Comes down to find His ball,

This earth that sin has cast away.

O comrades, let us one and all

Join in to get Him back His ball!

 

It belongs to Jesus, this old earth, the heavens above, all are His.  And to join heart and hand in prayers, to help bring it back to our Lord is a sweet, precious privilege God has given unto us.

There’s a song in the air!

There’s a star in the sky!

There’s a mother’s deep prayer

And a baby’s low cry!

And the star rains its fire

While the beautiful sing,

For the manger of Bethlehem

Cradles a King!

There’s a tumult of joy

O’er the wonderful birth,

For the Virgin’s sweet Boy

Is the Lord of the earth.

Ay! The star rains its fire

While the angels sing,

For the manger of Bethlehem

Cradles a King!

[“There’s a Song in the Air,” Josiah G. Holland]

He is born to reign [Luke 1:31-33]; someday all that we see will be a part of His holy and heavenly kingdom [Hebrews 2:8].  And in it, Lord, I want You to count me.  Let me also be a part to love Thee, and praise Thee, and worship Thee with all of God’s redeemed children forever and ever, amen.

Now may we bow our heads?  In this company of God’s people tonight, is there someone to give himself to Jesus, to take the Lord as his Savior, or to come into the fellowship of His dear church?  Would you hold up your hand, anywhere?  Is there a family?  Is there a couple?  Is there one in the balcony, in the lower floor, anywhere?  “This Christmastime, I want to take the Lord as my Savior.  I want to come into the fellowship of His church.  All of us are in the kingdom.  God bless us as we praise and worship His holy name.”  Now, with our heads bowed, brother Lee Hunt, would you come and lead us in our benedictory prayer, and then, brother Doug Wood, while we are leaving this sacred place, would your choir of young people and our wonderful orchestra of teenagers, would you all sing our closing hymn after Lee Hunt leads us in our benedictory prayer?  Brother Hunt.

LEE HUNT: Our Lord, our hearts are joyful as we hear the Word that we’ve heard tonight so beautifully presented.  And we thank You for it.  We thank You to know these things and to be reminded of them.  And Lord, we want to pause right now.  We seem to get caught up every Christmas in the rush of things.  In all of our Christmas activities going to and fro, we forget the person out here on the street or in our neighborhood who doesn’t know You, who is a needy one. We forget also, Lord, that we are commissioned as Your children to tell others about Jesus.  And we want to recommit ourselves to You.  There are still many days until Christmas.  We ought to tell somebody every day about Jesus.  We thank You for the time here tonight, and we pray that You will bless us as we go our ways, and give us strength, courage, and boldness each day.  And thank You so much for the Lord Jesus Christ.  In His name we pray, amen.

THE MIRACLE OF THE INCARNATION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Galatians 4:4

12-9-87

I.          Introduction

A.  The deep desire to see God

B.  What is God like?(John 14:8, Exodus 33:18, 20-23, 1 Peter 1:12)

C.  That we might know and see God – Christ incarnate

II.         Born a baby

A.  Once the cynic frightened us – how could this tiny baby be God?

1.  Love moves in another dimension

2. Richest man on Wall Street gets a call his house is on fire

B.  All the world is moved by a baby

1.  Rough frontiersman – “Stop the music…let’s hear the baby cry”

2.  Bret Harte’s The Luck of Roaring Camp

3.  Amram and Jochebed(Exodus 2:1-10)

C.  The centerpiece of any family

III.        Born poor

A.  Would think the opposite

1. Wise men inquired at Herod’s palace

B.  The wisdom of God – practically all humanity is poor

1. Anyone would feel welcome at a stable

IV.       Born to share our sufferings

A.  There are no trials and no sufferings He did not Himself share and bear(Hebrews 2:16-18, 4:15-16)

B. Jesus, the Helper of the helpless

1.  Japanese woman in Honshu

V.        Born to reign

A.  You cannot expose Him too much

1.  Commercialization of Christmas

B.  Poem, “A little boy of heavenly birth…”

C.  Hymn, “There’s a Song in the Air”