Why Did Joseph and Zacchaeus Not Give All Their Money to the Poor?

“If Jews were required to sell all they had and give all the proceeds to the poor (Luke 18:22), why was Joseph rich (Matt. 27:57), and why did Zacchaeus only give half (Luke 19:8)?”

They weren’t required to sell all until Pentecost (Acts 2:44,45). That’s when Barnabas did it (4:32-37). One of the reasons he was singled out as having done so may be to let us know when they did it. — Pastor Ricky Kurth

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.


Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Don’t Rise to this Occasion – Galatians 5:13-16

 

Summary:

The “liberty” we are “called to” (v.13) is our freedom from the condemnation of the law (IICor.3:9), Paul says not to use this liberty as “an occasion to the flesh.” The “flesh” here is the part of you that wants to do the sinful “works of the flesh” (Gal.5:19). So Paul is saying: Don’t use your freedom from the law as an excuse to break the law.

“Serve one another” by love instead (v.13). Paul explains what that means in verse 14, where he says the law of the 10 commandments is fulfilled in the command to love one another. If you love a man, you won’t lie to him or steal from him. The Jews did those things by law because they were a kingdom, and kingdoms must have laws. We do them “by love” because we are a body, the Body of Christ, and members of a body serve the others because they love them. Sinning against them would do them a disservice, not a service.

The Lord said the law was summed up in two words, love God and your neighbor (Mt.22:36-40). But today, God dwells in believers (ICor.6:19,20), not in Solomon’s temple as He did under the law, so in loving your neighbor you’re also loving the God within him. “Neighbor” can mean an intimate, as in the intimate members of a family.

Paul was telling the Galatians this because they’d fallen into biting and devouring one another (Gal.5:15) instead of being willing to serve one another like they used to (4:15). You see, putting yourself under the law as they did always makes you feel “holier than thou” (Isa.65:3-5) and judgmental of others. I.e., “I was in church on the sabbath day (cf.4:10), where were you?” This causes others to envy your supposed holiness (Gal.5:26), which provokes them, as Paul says.

Legalists mean well. If they see you struggling with adultery, they encourage you to cite “Thou shalt not commit adultery” to deal with the temptation. But due to the fallen nature we inherited from Adam, that just makes us want to sin all the more (ICor.15:56). The way to deal with the temptation to sin is to “walk in the Spirit” instead (Gal.5:16).

That has to do with being “led of the Spirit” (Rom.8:14). Matthew says the Lord was led of Him (Mt.4:1) because he presents Him as a king. But Mark says the Spirit drove Him (Mark 1:12,13) because Mark presents Him as a servant. It’s Mark who tells us He didn’t know the day of his coming (Mark 13:26,32) because servants don’t know what their masters are doing (John 15:15). You drive servants to do things by giving them orders and punishing them if they don’t obey. But you can only lead a king to obey you.

Children are also ordered and beaten if they disobey (Pr.22: 15) because they differ nothing from a servant (Gal.4:1). Under the law, God treated the children of Israel as servants, ordering them to do things and spanking them with the “rod” of bad health and bad wealth if they disobeyed. But we’re not under the law (Rom.6:15), so we’re no longer servants, we’re sons (Gal.4:3-7). And you get adult sons to obey you by leading them with instructions and hoping they’ll follow your lead.

And that’s how the Spirit leads us as God’s sons, by instructing us through His Word, and hoping we’ll follow His lead. Paul says if you’ll walk in the Spirit, following His lead, “ye won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). It doesn’t say you won’t have them. It says you won’t fulfill them.

Does it always work? No, but it is the only thing that has a chance of working. Walking in the law sure won’t work, for the law only makes sin more sinful (Rom.7:13). It looks like it would help you say no to sin, with all of its “thou shalt not’s. But gasoline is a liquid, so it looks like something that would be good to put out a fire. But as you know, it only makes a fire worse, and the law only makes sin worse. Walk in the Spirit instead by following His lead.

Running in Grace – Galatians 5:7-12

 

Summary:

Paul compares the Christian life to running (5:7). He usually compares it to walking (Col.1:10), i.e., walking in the same grace that saves us (Col.2:6). But the Galatians had learned to walk in grace so well that they’d broken into a run.

Then someone “hindered” them (Gal.5:7), a word that means stopped in that context (cf.IThes.2:18). Paul wanted to know “who,” because in so doing they stopped them from obeying the truth (Gal.5:7). The law used to be the truth, so God told the Jews to walk in it (Ex.16:14). But now grace is the truth, so walking in the law makes you disobedient to God’s truth.

Paul went on to point out that the God who called them (5:8 cf.ICor.1:9;IIThes.2:13,14) into grace (Gal.1:5,6) wasn’t the One who hindered them, so it must have been Satan. He’s an angel of light (IICor.11:14,15), and “the law is light” (Pr. 6:23). So Satan has his demonic ministers teach “leaven” (Gal.5:9), i.e., the doctrine (cf.Mt.16:6,11,12) of the law.

Leaven is like yeast though, and always spreads and leavens the whole lump of bread dough. Once Satan introduced the leaven of the law in Galatia, it spread throughout Christianity for the next 2,000 years. That’s why churches must oppose the law like they oppose sin. Sin will spread in an assembly too, so in speaking about the fornicator in Corinth, Paul also told the Corinthians that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. But legalism must be just as dangerous, if Paul uses the exact same words to warn us about the law.

Paul doubted the Galatians would ever come out of legalism (Gal.4:20), but he had “confidence” in them “through the Lord” (Gal.5:10)—just as he had confidence in the Corinthians through Him, that they would come out of carnality (IICor.2:3;7:16;8:22). And since Paul’s words were actually God’s words, that means that however deeply you’ve fallen into sin or legalism, God is confident you’ll come out of it.

Paul must have had no confidence in the legalizer though, for instead he said he’d just have to “bear his judgment” (Gal.5:10). That shows Paul knew he wasn’t saved, for after the Jerusalem Council, saved Jews knew that men saved by grace without the law didn’t need to be put under the law.

Paul primarily meant that he’d have to bear his judgment someday in hell. But he may have been thinking of inflicting some judgment on him personally, the way he did with an unsaved man in Acts 13:10,11. Why else would he ask who the man was twice (Gal.3:1;5:7).

Next, the legalizer was saying that Paul preached circumcision and the law, and the Galatians believed it because he circumcised Timothy while in Galatia (Acts 16:1-3). But he didn’t do it because the Jews thought he couldn’t be saved without it. He did it because the Jews wouldn’t let him into their synagogues without it, and Paul chose Timothy to “go forth with him” into those synagogues to preach the gospel. That’s an example of I Corinthians 9:20-23.

But that’s a lot different than preaching circumcision and the law. Paul dispels that rumor by pointing out that if he preached that, the Jews would stop persecuting him because his message would cease to offend them. It offends people even today when you tell them you can be saved without the law!

Earlier Paul made it sound like there was only one legalizer (Gal.5:10), but the word “they” (v.12) shows there were more. It had spread like leaven! He wanted them “cut off,” a play on words. If you weren’t circumcised in time past, you were “cut off” from God’s people (Gen.17:14). Paul is saying he wanted those legalizers cut off out of the assembly, like the leaven of the fornicator in I Corinthians 5:2,13.

I once taught that Paul wished them castrated, making a play on words on circumcision. But castrating a legalizer would not stop legalism from spreading, and that’s the context.

Stand Fast in Your Liberty – Galatians 5:1-6

 

Summary:

The “liberty” Paul says to “stand fast” in is the one that makes us “free” from the law (5:1). We need to be free from this “ministration of condemnation” (IICor.3:9) because it demands 100% obedience 100% of the time (Gal.3:10). You couldn’t give that before you were saved, so the law condemned you, and you asked God to save you by grace.

But you still can’t keep it, so the law still condemns you. Not to hell, but to feeling condemned, so “stand fast” in grace instead (Gal.5:1). “Fast” means immovable (Acts 27:41). The Galatians moved (Gal.1:6), and got “entangled” in the law (5:1), the way the Jews were trapped by the Red Sea (Ex.14:2,3). They probably felt hopeless, and you will too if you put yourself under the law, since you still can’t keep it.

Paul calls the law “the yoke of bondage” (Gal.5:1) because telling men “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” is how you treat slaves, and slaves feel hopeless because they are trapped. You are “free from the law” (Rom.8:2), so stand in grace!

Paul interjects the subject of circumcision in this discussion of the law (Gal.5:2) because it was the first thing a Gentile had to do to be saved under the law (Ex.12:48). But the Galatians got saved under grace, so Paul said if they got circumcised “Christ shall profit you nothing.” It can’t take away the profit we already have, i.e., salvation (ICor.10:33). But the law can rob you of the additional profit Christ can give you.

Doing the first thing the law tells you to do obligates you to do all the things the law says to do (Gal.5:3), and you can’t, so you’re cursed (3:10). The law can’t curse you to a loss of salvation, but to a loss of “blessedness” (cf.4:15), i.e., thankfulness (Mark 6:41 cf. John 6:11). And thankfulness is the basis for all we do. We don’t do good works to get saved, but to show God we’re thankful He saved us. Thankfulness leads to a happy life—the additional profit Christ can give!

No man is justified by the law in the sight of God (Gal.3:11), so the ones whom Paul says “are” justified by it (5:4) are justified in their own eyes. That means they were “fallen from grace.” People use that verse to say we’re saved by grace, but you can sin too much and lose the salvation you got by grace. But the Galatians were religious, not sinful like the Corinthians. Paul didn’t tell them they fell from grace. He told that to the Galatians because falling from grace in the context means not standing in grace (5:1). Grace justifies you 100% from “all” things (Acts 13:39). If you think you’re justified by the law, and you only keep the law 90% of the time, you’re only 90% justified. To get from 100% justification to 90% justification, you have to fall.

Now, to get 100% righteousness in your conduct, you’ll have to “wait” for it (Gal.5:5). That’s our “hope” of righteousness, and “hope” means trust (Ps.71:5), confidence (Job 4:6) and expectation (Pr.10:28). We wait for this hope “through the Spirit” (Gal.5:5) the same way Paul says we wait for it in Romans 8:23 through the Spirit. There the Spirit helps us when we “groan” in pain (Rom.8:23) by reminding us through the Book He wrote that we are children of God (8:15) and will someday be 100% healthy. And when we grieve the Spirit, He helps by reminding us that someday we’ll be 100% righteous in our conduct as well as in Christ.

“Avail” (Gal.5:6) means to profit (Mark 8:36), so when Paul says circumcision can’t “avail” us, it’s another way of saying again that it can’t “profit” us (cf.Gal.5:2). There’s also no profit in “uncircumcision” (5:6), i.e., no profit in just avoiding circumcision and the law. There were “spiritual” Galatians who did avoid it (6:2), but that’s not what made them spiritual! “Faith which worketh by love” did (5:6). What’s that? Well, faith is believing God (Rom.10:17), and if you believe what God says, you’re going to do good works in any dispensation. But faith that works by law helps your brother because God says you must (Deut.15:7,8). Faith that works by love helps a brother because you love him!

Interpreting Circumstances

When soldiers are behind enemy lines during war, communication with commanding officers and artillery is critical. During World War II, the U.S. Army directed Privates Ben Yahzee and Charlie Whitehorse to communicate with superiors on the radio using “The Navajo Code.” It was based on the Navajo language, containing a code embedded within each message. Even other native Navajo soldiers could not decipher its meaning. Only these two men could properly interpret each transmission and in turn enable their counterparts to act accordingly.

When King Saul saw David as a threat to his reign, he pursued David with an army of trained soldiers, intending to put David to death. David had done nothing to deserve such treatment. He had been a loyal and valuable subject. While David and his men hid in a cave, Saul came in alone. This was David’s opportunity to slay the one seeking his life and ascend to the throne. His men even urged him to do so, interpreting this circumstance as God fulfilling a promise to David to “deliver thine enemy into thine hand” (1 Sam. 24:4). However, David was very careful not to haphazardly interpret his circumstances by the counsel of other men, nor by his emotions, which surely would have drawn him into revenge out of self-preservation. Instead, he told his men that it would be wrong for him to slay the Lord’s anointed king (vv. 6,10). David was wise to choose not to interpret God’s will merely by his circumstances. He believed principles in God’s Word essentially “forbid that I should do this thing unto my master” (v. 6). He believed God had already revealed His will in Deuteronomy 32:35-36, when the Lord explained, “To Me belongeth vengeance and recompense…For the Lord shall judge His people….” This meant it would be wrong for David to “get even” with this wrongdoer from within his nation. Instead, David turned Saul over to the Lord and trusted the Lord to take care of his present needs.

In Christian circles today, it has become common for believers to almost flippantly interpret God’s will by their emotions, the counsel of others, or by circumstances which are often manipulated to one’s preferences. There is a better way! Like David, we need to develop a pattern of interpreting God’s will by God’s Word. We are behind enemy lines in Satan’s territory, where interpreting God’s will accurately, through Paul’s letters, is essential. Trust God’s Word to give you clear direction, and then act accordingly.

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.


Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Listening to the Law – Galatians 4:21-31

 

Summary:

Paul told the Galatians if they wanted to be under the law, they must not have heard the part he’s about to describe (v. 21). God promised Abram a son, but his wife was barren (Gen.11:30), so when God said he’d have a “seed” (12:3) he knew God planned to miraculously give him one. But he impatiently had a son by his servant (Gen.16:1-4cf.Gal.4:22).

Hagar’s son was born “after the flesh” (v.23), after “the will of the flesh” (cf.Jo.1:13).It was God’s will Abraham wait for Sarah’s son, but it was the will of his flesh to father Ishmael. This is an “allegory” (4:24), an illustration. They’re used for kids, but the Galatians were acting like “children” (4:19).

Hagar represented “mount Sinai” (v.25), i.e., the “covenant” of the law (Deut.33:2) that God gave Israel when He gave them 613 commandments, and said He’d give them eternal life if they could keep them all perfectly! They couldn’t, so it “gendereth to bondage” (v.24), i.e., it sired (cf.Job 21:10) slaves who had to be told “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.”

Hagar “answereth to” Jerusalem (Gal.4:25), i.e., she looked like Jerusalem (cf.Pr.27:19). That is, you could see Jerusalem in her story. Abraham and Sarah told her “thou shalt” etc. “All her children” were also slaves (4:25) because the child of a slave is a slave, and the people of Jerusalem were enslaved from Day One. They became God’s people the day Moses gave them the law (Deut.27:1,9), and the people they became were bondslaves. And all her children were slaves because the son of a slave is a slave.

But Sarah represented the Jerusalem in heaven (Gal.4:26 cf. Heb.12:22) that will be on the earth (Rev.21:2) as opposed to the Jerusalem “which now is.” Her kids are “free” because the children of free women are free. Her kids are saved Jews under the law, but Paul reveals she is the mother of “all” Gentile believers too, just as Abraham is our father (Rom.

4:16). We are “free” from the bondage of sin (Jo.8:33,34).

Paul says Hagar had a husband (Gal.4:27) because she is said to be Abraham’s “wife” (Gen.16:3). She represented Jerusalem under the law, whose husband was God (Jer.2:2). He married her with wedding vows (Deut.26:17,18). Sarah did not have a husband, because she represents Jerusalem above, who won’t have a husband until Revelation 20:7; 21:9,10.

That explains why Galatians 4:27 says Sarah had more kids than Hagar. There have never been more Jews than Arabs, but in New Jerusalem, there’ll be more saved Jews than there ever were Arabs. Paul was quoting Isaiah 54:1, and as a prophet, Isaiah was predicting Sarah would have more kids in God’s eternal kingdom (54:1-13). In that kingdom, saved Jews will continue to have kids (Isa.9:7) and complete God’s plan to populate heaven and earth, a plan Adam interrupted.

There’s no need to join legalizers to be in the majority now.

Paul mentions this to comfort the Galatians. They were in the minority compared to unsaved Jews, but someday they’ll be the majority, and us with them! We’re Abraham’s legitimate seed (Gal.4:28). God promised Abraham a legit son by a miraculous birth, and our spiritual birth is just as miraculous, and just as apart from “the will of the flesh” (Jo.1:13).

But along with the blessing of being Abraham’s legitimate children like Isaac was, we inherit a problem he had. Abraham’s unsaved son persecuted his saved son (Gal.4:29), because God said he couldn’t have part of Isaac’s inheritance (Gal.4:30). Unbelievers still persecute believers (II Thes. 2:14,15) because they don’t get any part of our inheritance. Mocking (Gen.21:9) is about all the persecution we get, but all who live godly in Christ will receive it (IITim.3:12).

Paul closes this passage by assuring the Galatians that those unsaved Jews will be cast out (4:30), then assures them that they won’t be part of those who are cast out (v.31). Us either!

Berean Searchlight – December 2021


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The Fullness of the Time

The Promised Seed

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4).

The coming of the Son of God to this world happened entirely according to God’s perfect timing. From the very beginning, God promised to send a Seed. After Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, God promised that one day a Seed of the woman would come to deal with the serpent, Satan.

“And I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15).

Genesis 3:15 predicted that Satan would bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman. Bruising the heel indicates a serious injury and one of terrible suffering. When Christ went to the Cross and suffered there, this was the fulfillment of Satan bruising the heel of the Seed of the woman. However, at the same time, Christ bruised Satan’s head, which meant that Christ dealt Satan a fatal blow, destroying and defeating him at the Cross.

The time between this prophecy and the advent of the Seed of the woman was a good, long time: about 4500 years. But when the fullness of the time came, in God’s precise moment in time, the Savior came to this world and, by His finished work, crushed Satan just as God predicted (Col. 2:15).

God’s initial promise to Satan regarding the Seed of the woman was followed 2000 years later by the promises God made to Abraham, of his being the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2) and of the land to be given to his seed (Gen. 12:7; 13:15).

Galatians 3:16 explains, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The stress on seed, not seeds, in this passage was made by Paul to remind us that the blessings promised to Abraham would ultimately come through a single Seed: the Messiah. Abraham was promised both a seed, a great family that would proceed from his line, and the Seed, one Individual through Whom all the promises made to Abraham
would be fulfilled.

In Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age, their son, Isaac, was miraculously born of them. His miraculous conception foreshadowed the miraculous conception of God’s own Son that was to come. Abraham had a son, Ishmael, with Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, but God made it clear that His promises, of a land and a great nation that would be a blessing to all the earth, would be fulfilled through Isaac, the child of promise: “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12 cf. Rom. 9:6-8).

From Isaac, Jacob was born, who had twelve sons. Here the prediction of the promised Seed became more specific. Before Jacob died, he prophesied concerning the future of his twelve sons. Of his son, Judah, he said,

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).

To Judah’s line belonged national prominence and a “scepter,” or a kingship, regal command, and sovereignty. The dynasties of David, Solomon, and others came from the tribe of Judah. Rulership would continue in this tribe “until Shiloh come,” the one also called “the Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Rev. 5:5), and He would then rule forever. Through “Shiloh,” the Messiah, “and unto Him,” the people would gather in the Promised Land in the millennial kingdom.

Over 800 years later, the prediction of the Seed narrowed again, when God promised David that one day his Seed would sit on his throne in an everlasting reign.

“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy Seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of His kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13).

Although David’s son Solomon did build a temple, this promise pointed forward to the Seed of David, the Messiah, whose “kingdom shall be established for ever” (v. 16). And the angel Gabriel told Mary of the Child to Whom she would give birth, “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Thus, God’s promise of a Seed narrowed from Adam, to Abraham, to Isaac, to the tribe of Judah, to the house and lineage of David.

Then some 500 years later, Daniel was given divine revelation as to the exact time frame when “Messiah the Prince” would come (Dan. 9:24-27): the prophecy of the 70 weeks (490 years). This time period began at “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” in 444 B.C. and continued 483 (Jewish, lunar) years until “the Messiah the Prince” came riding into Jerusalem at His triumphal entry (Mark 11:7-11).

What started in Genesis continued throughout the thousands of years of the Old Testament. God promised again and again that He would intervene in history, that one day He would send the Messiah to Israel. There was an ever-narrowing stream of prophecy. The promises of the Seed became more and more specific, until finally, “the fulness of the time was come,” and “God sent forth His Son.”

Christ’s coming and birth at Bethlehem was not an accident; it was an appointment. Jesus Christ came at God’s appointed time, not a moment too late, and not a second too early. The first Christmas miracle started long before Bethlehem. It took place over many centuries as God worked, foretold, and prepared Israel for His Son’s coming.

The phrase, “the fulness of the time,” refers to something that is complete and fully developed, like an apple that has budded, grown, and ripened until it is ready to be picked, at the fullness of the time.

The word “time” is translated from the Greek word chronos, from which we get our word, chronology. A chronology is a record of the orderly progression and the sequential order in which events occur over time.

We see by all this that God didn’t just decide on the spur of the moment to take advantage of an opportune time. Rather, God planned and set in motion the sequence and development of historical events until, from His perfect viewpoint and understanding, the time was right. The fullness of the time describes a moment in history when all things were in place, that time when the stage was perfectly set for God to send His Son into the world.

The Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David came just as God said He would, because God is faithful. And as the prophecies of old foretold concerning Him, He was miraculously born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He was born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). And when Christ was born, hope was born.

The Course of Abia

“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth” (Luke 1:5).

We know that Christ was not born on December 25. We don’t know the exact date. We don’t have to know the exact date. The important thing is to remember that He did come and the reason He came: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). While we don’t know the date of Christ’s birth, we can figure out the approximate time of year when He was born.

First, we know that Christ wasn’t born in December because Luke 2:8 tells us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds were “abiding” or remaining outdoors overnight in the fields with their flocks of sheep. It would be too cold in December for them to do this.

Next, the mention of “the course of Abia” in Luke 1:5 gives us a time frame for Christ’s birth. Within the worship and service of the temple, there were different courses for the priests. In 1 Chronicles 28:9-13,21, we learn that, in preparations for Solomon to build the temple, King David created a schedule for the year, or “courses” (vv. 13,21) by which the temple could be staffed by the priests and Levites.

David created 24 courses (1 Chron. 24:1-19). In this schedule, each priest served one week. Additionally, all the priests came to Jerusalem for the three feasts required of all Jewish men: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Thus, the priests would serve at the temple twice every year according to their assigned course, and then three more times during the required feasts, for a total of five weeks per year.

The Jewish calendar begins in the spring in the month of Nisan, which coincides with parts of our March and April. Luke 1:5 informs us that John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was a priest and that he served during “the course of Abia.” According to 1 Chronicles 24:10, this was the eighth course. Two required feasts would be observed and would interrupt the schedule at this time of the year: Passover and Pentecost. This puts the course of Abia at the tenth week of the Jewish calendar year, which would be anywhere from mid-May to mid-June on our calendar. Let’s split the difference and say June 1.

Zacharias’s wife Elizabeth had been barren and both of them were beyond child-bearing years (Luke 1:7). As Zacharias was serving during his course, the angel Gabriel appeared and told Zacharias that he would have a son. Zacharias wasn’t convinced it was true though, so Gabriel struck him dumb. From that moment, Zacharias couldn’t speak until his son was born and named John (vv. 8-23,57-64). Nine of our months, or 40 weeks, or 280 days from June 1 would be March 7, right at the beginning of the Jewish year, or the month of Nisan, which is approximately when John the Baptist was born.

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).

“In the sixth month” refers to the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy. This is when Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Christ. Therefore, John the Baptist was born about 6 months before Christ. He wasn’t older than the Lord, however, because Christ is from eternity! (Mic. 5:2).

Six Jewish months, or 180 days, after John’s conception on June 1 is November 27. This is approximately when Gabriel appeared to Mary. Nine of our months, or 40 weeks, or 280 days after November 27 is September 3, which is the approximate date on our calendar when Christ was born.

There are variables in all this, including that Mary was told that she was expecting “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, not after six months. Also, there are variables of a week or days here or there within the Jewish calendar and their leap years. And how long after Gabriel’s visits did Elisabeth and Mary conceive? But with all this taken into consideration, it’s safe to say that the Lord was born sometime between early September and early October.

An additional proof for this time of year is that Christ ministered for 3 1/2 years after His baptism at age 30 (Luke 3:21-23). The crucifixion took place at the Passover in March-April; half a year before that is September-October. Being born sometime in September and then dying on the cross and rising again in early April accounts for the 1/2 year of the 3 1/2 years. And shepherds would still be abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks in September!

Made of a Woman under the Law

“…God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4b).

All of us at one time or another have moved. It’s not a pleasant experience. It takes a lot of work and there are many details to handle. There is the toil of packing, lifting, leaving your old place in decent shape and getting your new place ready. Then you have to turn on the utilities, change your mailing address, and so on. It’s quite an ordeal!

Then stop and think of Christ’s move in leaving heaven and coming to this earth. He left His high and glorious place with God the Father (John 1:1-2; 17:5) for a humble feed trough (Luke 2:7). He left heaven’s majesty for earth’s misery. He left the purity and goodness of heaven to live among sin, disease, and crime. He left the adoration of angels to face the sneers and mocking of man. He left the splendors and joys of heaven knowing His destiny was Golgotha to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He left all this willingly, out of love, because the fullness of the time had come for Him to move from heaven to earth as God manifested in the flesh, to be the sinner’s Savior.

Under grace, God’s movement is always toward us. In providing for our salvation, God’s Son moved toward us even while this world, then and now, moves away from Him. He came to where we were so that He might lift us up to where He is. He doesn’t say, “Climb up here!” He doesn’t say that because we can’t. He came down to where we are, and by being lifted up at the Cross, He lifts us up to His presence when we trust Him and His finished work. This is the miracle of the gospel.

“God sent forth His Son,” because Christ pre-existed from eternity past in the Father’s presence (John 17:5). God sending Him forth testifies that Jesus Christ is 100 percent God and is co-eternal with the Father. “God sent forth His Son,” and then He was “made of a woman.” As God, the Lord was sent. As a man, He was made of a woman (Isa. 9:6). Christ was both 100 percent God and 100 percent man. “Made of a woman” emphasizes Christ’s humanity. If Christ had been only a man, it would be pointless to say that He was born of a woman. Everyone is made of a woman! The reason it is noted in the Lord’s case is that it testifies to His unique Person as God being sent from heaven and taking on flesh for us. And in being “made of a woman,” Christ fulfilled the promise in Genesis 3:15 that He, the Redeemer, would be the Seed of the woman.

As a man, Christ was “made under the law.” This emphasizes the program under which the Lord lived and ministered in the four Gospels. It teaches us that within the Gospel accounts, we have the record of Christ’s life and ministry “under the law.” Many believers think they should attempt to follow Christ and live by His teachings in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But that ministry of Christ and His teachings were based in the law of Moses. Today, we “are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). We need to submit ourselves to God’s will in this current dispensation. We are properly following Christ when we follow His grace teachings for the Body of Christ, found in the letters of Paul.

Living under the law, Christ was accountable to the law of God. He was born under it, and born with a responsibility to keep it. And He instructed others to keep the law as well (Matt. 23:3). Like every person in Israel at that time, Christ had the responsibility to obey God’s law, but like no other person, He obeyed it perfectly.

Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). His sinlessness made Him the perfect sacrifice for sins.

With no sins of His own to die for, in His grace and love, God took all our sins and placed them on His beloved Son, our blessed Substitute, and so “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).

Theologian J. I. Packer (1926- 2020) wrote this: “The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message the world has ever heard, or will hear.”

Do you have the true hope that comes from trusting the gospel that Christ died for our sins and rose again?


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