“In the Fullness of time” Galatians 4:1-7
To us, Christmas is usually wholly about the historical event when God the son became a baby and entered into human history. So, we think of shepherds and angels, wise men and camels, a stable, Mary, Joseph, and the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. The Lord Jesus beginning His life as God incarnate is also important because of what God the Father was doing in the theological history of the world. In a sense, in Galatians 4 we step back so we can survey the events in Bethlehem from God’s redemptive perspective.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5). From the Father’s viewpoint we see the preparation for Christ’s coming. Then we watch what happened when the time was exactly right. Finally, we learn that the redemption that God planned is accomplished and applied to our hearts.
God spent centuries preparing us for Christ’s coming. “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:1–3). The Apostle Paul is trying to help us understand God’s plan of redemption. He does this by reasoning from analogy. He is trying to make a comparison between God’s eternal plan and something that we see often.
The problem is we are not acquainted with this process of ‘coming of age’ popular in Paul’s day. The Jews still have a kind of ‘coming of age’ custom call a bar or bat mitzvah. These ceremonies mark the point in which the boy or girl becomes an adult in the eyes of the Law and they are therefore responsible before God. The Greeks and the Romans had similar ceremonies. In the first century, they marked the time a son received all the rights of inheritance and son-ship.
Paul hitchhikes on this idea and tells us that like this, God had confined all of His people under obligation to the Law. When Paul makes the application to all of us in verse 3, he is still speaking in terms of God’s eternal plan, not about us individually.
So, God the Father prepared us for the fulfilling of His eternal plan. The people of God are under bondage to the Law. We recognize that apart from God doing something we are all lost in sin. We recognize that we can never do what God requires. We can never be sinless so we are in a hopeless condition before God.
From the beginning God had a plan. This plan was detailed. It included a time of preparation. Then in the fullness of time, at just the right moment, Jesus came. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).
“In the fullness of time,” the Apostle Paul wrote. God’s timing was not arbitrary. Although we do not know the exact day that Jesus was born, God the Father knew that day from the beginning. It was in His calendar from the beginning. And when the date finally arrived, God sent forth His Son into the world.
God also has a plan for our lives, if we know the Lord Jesus as our Savior. We must not forget that God’s timing is always perfect. We may be in a hurry. God is not. He is also never late. A second lesson we can draw from here is that God has also a date for Christ’s second coming. We do not know when that is, but He is not tarrying. When the fullness of time is come, God will once more send forth His Son to receive us unto Himself.
“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” We find in this phrase both His Deity and His Humanity. He was God the Son sent forth, and He was fully born as a human being. In order to die for our sins, He had to be a man. In order to die for more than just Himself, He had to be God.
“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” The Lord Jesus was born in the same condition into which we were born. He was born under the righteous demands of the Law. The difference is that He came with a purpose. He fulfilled the Law perfectly and then died as our sinless sacrifice in order that we might be redeemed from this bondage and released to a place of great privilege, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Because He died, was buried and rose again, we can through faith in Him become sons of God. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Our difficulty is that sometimes we are so familiar with all of this that we become calloused and it does not move us as it should. Remember the Apostle John’s amazement at this reality. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God and we are. Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1–2). John writes, Look at this! What kind of love does God have for us that He would make us His Children? Certainly, God loves us far more than we can ever comprehend.
Because we are believers and this redemption is applied to us through faith we receive some incredible blessings’ “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6–7). What happens to us because the Lord Jesus redeemed us? We have received the adoption of sons. As we have already said, we receive that adoption by putting our faith in Christ alone to save us. He places us as adult sons, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. We are actually received as part of God’s eternal family.
Because we have the adoption as Sons we receive the ministry of the Spirit of God in our hearts. We are told here that the Spirit of God cries out “Abba Father.” In Romans 8:14-16, there is a similar statement that clarifies what Paul is saying here. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” The ministry that Paul is underlining is our experience when we see the Father in the Bible and our spirits together with the Holy Spirit join to tell us that we are His children. This is not a permission to pray in public and call the eternal God daddy. Someone once observed that the Bible commands to come boldly to the throne of grace, but not arrogantly.
Finally, because of our being sons of God we have an assurance of an eternity with Him. We are heirs of God with the Lord Jesus Christ. What this fully means I am not sure. Yet, I know that someday, if we belong to Him by faith, we will come to know all that it means.
This all poses two questions. First, are you and I saved? Do we recognize how the Lord came and died to save us? We can have this salvation if we will recognize that we are sinners and put our trust in Christ alone to save us.
Second, if God the Father did all this to save us and to have a relationship with us, what are we doing to build our fellowship with Him? That would be a tremendous Christmas present to give God this year.