Summary: Was Jesus’ birth serendipity? Was there a purpose to His birth. God says that He sent His Son at the right time and for the right purpose.
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“When the fullness of time had 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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
I suppose conscientious preachers look forward to Christmas sermons. The season provides opportunity to instruct people in one of the great doctrines of the Faith. At the heart of the Christmas observance is the doctrine of the Incarnation—God became man. Thoughtless individuals imagine that they may discount this doctrine by saying that the account is found only in the Synoptic Gospels. However, such assertions reveal an abysmal ignorance of the Word.
The Letter to the Galatians is predicated upon the truth that God became man. Woven throughout the warp and the woof of the Apostle’s Letter is this essential truth. Nowhere is the doctrine of the Incarnation more prominently displayed than when Paul draws a contrast between the present freedom of the children of God and the present enslavement of those who are in bondage within the world. Clearly, the Apostle understood that without this birth, without the Son of God becoming man, there can be no freedom—no salvation, no life, no hope. However, our Lord did leave His throne and become man that we may have life. I invite you to join me in exploration of this marvellous truth as revealed in the words of the Apostle.
THE SON OF GOD WAS BORN AT A DEFINITE TIME — “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” These are indeed glorious words which show that the entry point of the Christian message is at the same time the turning point of history. Even our dates confess this truth. It is now 2007 AD—anno domini … THE YEAR OF OUR LORD. Apart from the words which are penned here, life offers no future … no hope. We are left without hope and without God in the world if this is not 2007 THE YEAR OF OUR LORD. But God has intervened in a way which brings effective and complete salvation—hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. That is the Christmas message.
What do you suppose Paul meant when he used the term, “the fullness of time?” The thought conveyed in the original language, precisely captured by our translation, speaks of fulfillment, especially as related to time. Even a casual acquaintance with the ancient world reveals something of the significance of word. Christ was born during the era identified as Pax Romana. The rule of one government insured worldwide peace imposed by conquering armies. This peace extended over most of the civilised earth making travel and commerce possible in a way previously unrealised. Great roads linked the empire of the Caesar’s, ensuring free and uninterrupted communications with the furthest outposts of civilisation and providing rapid access to all corners of the empire.
An even greater factor unifying the diverse regions of the empire was the all pervasive language and culture of the Greeks. Greek was the lingua franca of the empire, being readily understood and read throughout the whole Mediterranean world. Not only linguistically, but also culturally, the ancient world was dominated by the prior educational conquests of the Greeks. Therefore, politically, culturally and linguistically, the world was unified—conditions which ensured a rapid spread of the Good News concerning the salvation purchased through the death and resurrection of our Lord.
Religiously, that ancient world was sunk in a moral abyss so deep that even pagans cried out against it. Spiritual hunger was everywhere evident as witnessed by the prevalent appeal within every social stratum for spiritual insight from religions introduced from the east. The religions in apparent ascendancy within the empire were exactly those ancient religions which had once been confronted by the prophets of God when the Hebrew peoples first entered the Promised Land. The philosophers made a contribution in a negative sort of way, casting doubt on the old pagan systems of religion as they looked for some sort of unifying power behind all the polytheistic systems which had previously prevailed. The Jews themselves had made preparation for the coming of the Christ through the preaching of monotheism in multiplied synagogues situated throughout the empire, and by their anticipation of a Messiah who would right the world’s wrongs. That human longing for communion with God, that spiritual restlessness which pervaded all mankind insured a receptive audience once Christ was come. These religious longings insured that, “the fullness of time had come.”
Theologically, several significant factors apply in our study of that phrase, “the fullness of time had come.” Just as a father in that ancient culture would determine the time his child became a son, so that heavenly Father chose the time when the world was to pass from its childhood under legal supervision to a period of spiritual sonship. In other words, God chose the time of transition from one dispensation to the next.