Paul is talking about the law of God – the Old Testament law. And he uses some interesting language. He says that those under the law we were confined and kept restrained. He uses prison terms – terms which make it clear that God’s law and commandments in the Old Testament hold us in prison and KEEP us confined so we are unable to escape.
What does this mean? It means that we were in bondage. The law told us something very important. It told us that we are sinners. That we have failed to uphold the law. We are unable to be good. We can NEVER be good.
Just look at the ten commandments. We may not have murdered but we have probably coverted, and probably lied. You break one command, and you have broken the whole law.
But that is were the message of the law ends. There is no solution. There is no way out. The law alone is a harsh disciplinarian, with no mercy. It tells us God’s requirements and it tells us the penalties for disobedience. And since we have all disobeyed we have fallen under its condemnation.
But Moses and the law was not what came first. What came first was Abraham and the PROMISE. God gave Abraham a promise before he gave Moses the law. And after he gave the law he sent the prophets with the message of hope and a future redemption.
God never intended the oppression of the law to be permanent. He gave the law in his grace in order to make the promise more desirable. And we cannot receive the promise without first the experience of the law. We must know that we can never be good in order receive the promise of God and be set free.
The birth of Christ is the fulfllment of the promise.
And what is the promise? We all may say – freedom, eternal life, reconciliation with God – and you are right. But notice something here with Paul. He says that God’s purpose was to redeem AND adopt. He came not just to rescue us from slavery, but to make slaves into sons and daughters – which thus makes us heirs of the hope to come.
Do you realize that by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you have been redeemed AND you have been adopted as his Son or Daughter. Do you know that you are an heir of the Kingdom of God.
This Christmas as we celebrate the event of Christ’s birth – his Incarnation – let us know that we receive this promise, not because we are good enough, but because we could never be good enough, but through the gift of Christ and his work, we have been redeemed and adopted as his sons and daughters.