Friday, 15 April 2016
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, Galatians 4:4
This is a verse filled with wonder and delight concerning the eternal councils of God and the marvelous plan of the ages which has been slowly realized in the stream of human history. It helps us to understand the concept of progressive revelation. This is a doctrine which tells us that God slowly and methodically reveals His will to man concerning the process of redemption. He revealed the first explicit hints of it in Genesis 3:15. Since that time, He has revealed a bit more at key points in history – all pointing to the coming Christ.
Understanding this, Paul now says, “But…” This is in contrast to the words of the previous verse which said, “…when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” Of this contrasting thought, Charles Ellicott states, “That which was predetermined in the counsels of God as the right and proper time when the whole course of previous preparation both for Jew and Gentile was complete.”
It was at this exact moment in history, when the right time for the Dispensation of Grace was ready to be revealed, that Paul says, “…the fullness of the time had come.” The law had served its purpose. Those under the law had been taught their lesson concerning their need for something else. They would be properly directed to an understanding of their need for Christ. Those without the law would likewise be ready to understand what Christ had done within the law. The time had come for the world to learn this new part of God’s unfolding plan of redemption.
And so “God sent forth His Son.” The word for “sent forth” is exapostelló. God sent out from Himself His Son. This is described by the apostle John at the beginning of His gospel –
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
Jesus was with God, and God sent Himself forth in order to reveal Himself to the world. In both John 1:1, and in Paul’s words now, the pre-existence of Christ is taken as an axiom. He always existed; He is not a created being. Paul further describes this remarkable event in Philippians 2 –
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7
Christ came from God and entered into the stream of humanity, being “born of a woman.” This same general terminology was used when speaking of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11 –
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Because of this, Paul is referring in this clause not to His deity, but to His humanity. Though fully God, having come from God, He is also fully man, having come through the stream of humanity. But to ensure that a full understanding of Christ’s deity is not overlooked, it needs to be noted that the same word for “sent forth” is used again in Galatians 4:6 when speaking of the Holy Spirit –
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'”
Bible scholar Bengel notes that, “What that means is evident from the train of thought in this passage, for we have received first adoption, then the Spirit of adoption. Therefore Christ Himself is not the Son of God, merely because He was sent and anointed by the Father.”
In other words, the deity of Christ cannot be called into question. Through Christ, we are adopted children of God. Because of this adoption, we are then granted the Spirit of adoption, thus sealing our new status in Christ. Jesus was sent from God; the Holy Spirit is sent from God. Each performs His role as determined by the Godhead. In other words, the concept of the Trinity is seen in what is being relayed to us.
And yet, though fully God, Christ’s humanity is likewise not to be diminished in our theology. He was born of a woman and he was also “born under the law.” The very law that God gave to the people of Israel is the same law which Christ was born under. He was, in essence, born subservient to the law. Israel demonstrated that the law could not save them, and that they needed something else. As Christ was born within the people of Israel and under that same law, then what would be the outcome? Paul will explain the situation in the next verse.
Life application – The deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, and the nature of the Godhead – meaning the Trinity – are all tied up in the theology of the Bible. To dismiss any of these precepts leads directly down the heresy highway. Be sure to accept the record of the Bible as it stands. Jesus Christ is fully God, fully Man, and the second member of the Godhead.
How can I find my way back to You, O God? You dwell in eternity and I am here in the stream of time. I can’t go back and undo the things I have done, and so an infinite chasm exists between us. But then Jesus…! He came out from You and so time cannot contain or restrain Him. He can put His infinite hand out to You, and He can put His finite hand upon me. The bridge is realized; the expanse has been traversed; reconciliation is made! Thank You, O God, for Jesus who makes all things new. Amen.