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Please turn your attention to our Second Lesson for this morning where Paul reminds us that God’s timing is perfect, not just for the world, but for you.
We all know what it means to be named an heir. It means that you were named in someone’s will. It means that you are in line to inherit something. It might be great grandmother’s special necklace, or the family homestead, or a large sum of money from that rich uncle. Whatever is mentioned in the will next to your name will one day be yours.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that God has made us his heirs. You might not think so at first, but that’s surprising. Usually you make your children your heirs, maybe, on occasion, someone might name a niece or a nephew or a close friend as an heir, but would you name an enemy? You wouldn’t do that, but that’s essentially what God did when he named us his heirs.
The Bible makes it very clear that by nature, as we are born into this world, we are not children of God. We are prodigal sons and daughters. We are enemies of God. We are like slaves when it comes to receiving an inheritance from a master—a slave doesn’t get an inheritance from their master. The Bible makes it clear that we are by nature under law, a law that demands absolute perfection with no exceptions. Since we aren’t perfect, since we have broken the law, we are doomed to spend eternity with Satan and his angels. We were not in line to inherit anything from God, much less the glories and riches of heaven.
It’s an amazing thing that God has made us his heirs and he did it in an amazing way. Paul tells us what he did. Since we were slaves of sin and Satan he had to redeem us first. In that word, redeem, there is the picture of someone going to the market place and attending a slave auction. God went to the auction and saw that we were not even up for sale. We were considered worthless and worthy only of execution. But God not only purchased us anyway, after purchasing us he set us free and declared us to be his children so that we could be his heirs.
That would be an amazing act in itself, but Paul reminds us of the price he paid to purchase us and then set us free. He sent his Son, his one and only perfect Son, to take our place as a slave destined for execution.
That’s what Paul is talking about when he says that when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law.
When God had arranged everything so that the conditions were just right in the world; when there was relative peace on earth and, because of the Roman legions and network of roads they had built, travel was the safest it had probably ever been; when much of the world could understand the Greek language; when the Jewish leaders had come to the end of their time of grace and were only interested in self-preservation; when people were like spiritual lost sheep looking for a Good Shepherd; when the conditions in the world were just the way they needed to be, God sent his one and only perfect Son into the world.
That timing was a miracle in itself. But how do you send God into a sinful world without causing mass destruction, for no one can see God and live? God sent his son born of a woman. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He is the fullness of the deity in bodily form. His glory was hidden in flesh and blood. But he didn’t become man just so that people could see him and live. Taking on flesh and blood enabled him to be under the same law that we are. As a human being he was now subject to the law of gravity, the law of Caesar, the law of the Sanhedrin, and most importantly, his own law, the commandments which condemn us because we sin.
The first step in redeeming us was that, taking our place under the laws of God and man, he would have to do what we haven’t done. He would have to keep them perfectly, and that’s exactly what Jesus did. He placed himself under law, every kind of law there is, and he kept every law there is perfectly as our substitute.
The next step in redeeming us involved paying the price to set us free. Now when you think of Jesus you don’t picture someone who is rich. Jesus lived a humble life. He traveled from place to place preaching and teaching and as he did he was dependent on the generosity of others to provide him with food and shelter. He had no home of his own. He didn’t carry any money. He basically had the clothes on his back and that was it. So, how would he come up with the price necessary to purchase us and set us free from slavery? The price to set us free wasn’t gold or silver. The price to set us free was pictured throughout the Old Testament. The price to set us free had to be the blood of a perfect lamb. Jesus fit the bill. He lived his life without sin. He was without blemish. He was the only one who could pay the price of our redemption. And that’s just what he did. He allowed himself to be nailed to the cross. He offered himself in our place. He placed himself under God’s curse and suffered the punishment we deserved so that we could go free. He volunteered to take our place as worthless condemned slaves so that we could take his place as sons of God. And if we are sons, then we are heirs. We are in line to inherit what God has, the riches and glories of heaven itself. God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
God has made you his heir by sending his son into the world to redeem you. But what would happen if someone named you as their heir and you were in line to inherit millions, but you never knew about it. The courts put notices in the papers and sent letters, tried everything they could think of but they couldn’t find you. You could legally be a millionaire but die penniless.
That’s the way it is with the redemption Jesus won for us. He has purchased us for God and made us heirs, but if we don’t know about it, it doesn’t do us any good. Or, if we receive the notice and think it’s a hoax and just thrown it away, it doesn’t do us any good. So, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts so that we would be able to enjoy the benefits of our redemption now and forever.
The Bible tells us that the way that God sent his spirit into our hearts is through the means of grace, the Gospel in word and sacrament. At our Baptism he sent us the legal notice that we are his heirs. At our Baptism he said, “I am washing away your sins. I am covering you with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. I am declaring that you are no longer a slave, but you are my child. You are an heir with my Son Jesus of eternal life.” And when God speaks to us in this way the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts to create faith so that instead of what we would do by nature—reject his words and refuse to be called his child—we say thank you. Instead of rebelling and saying to God, “I don’t want to be a part of your family,” the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel to soften our hearts and show us how much God loves us so that we are happy to call God Abba Father.
Now because we still have a rebellious sinful nature and because Satan doesn’t want us to be free and inherit heaven, we need to have the Holy Spirit working continually in our hearts. Again, the way that God has chosen to send him into our hearts is through the means of grace. We only need to be baptized once. But God continues to send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts every time we read or hear the word. And he chooses to involve more than just our seeing and hearing. He chooses to speak to us in connection with bread and wine. He uses touch and taste and smell to assure us that Jesus has washed our sins away. He reminds us that at just the right time he came to purchase us for God by paying the price of our redemption, his body given and his blood shed on the cross. Through the Lord’s Supper the Holy Spirit works in our hearts saying, “look how much God loves you; look at what God has done for you,” so that again we are moved to cry out, Abba Father, “thank you for making me your heir! I can’t wait to see the inheritance you have prepared for me. Until then, help me to live each day as your child.”
God has made you his heir! What an amazing thing he has done. When the time was just right for the world, he sent his one and only perfect son to take your place as a condemned slave so that you could not only be free but be an heir. When the time was just right for you, he sent his Spirit into your heart so that you do not rebel but rejoice every day that he has made you his child.