“THE FULLNESS OF TIME”
1. In western Christendom the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25th. In eastern Christendom, such groups as the Armenians and the Greeks continue to celebrate the birth of Christ on January 6th.
2. But don’t let this disparity of dates alarm you in any way. Until 1582, New Years Day was observed on March 25th in Europe. It wasn’t until Pope Gregory XIII instituted calendar reforms that January 1st was considered the beginning of a new year.
3. Our concern is not with trivialities of this nature, but with the important consideration of the birth of the Son of God. To that end, turn now to Galatians 4. When you have found Galatians chapter 4, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
4. With respect to the birth of the Son of God, in verse 4 Paul explained to the Galatian Christians what transpired at Christ’s first coming, while verse 5 is a concise explanation of why Christ came. This morning we will focus our attention on what transpired at Christ’s first coming.
1A. First, THE TIMING OF HIS COMING
Although we know when Christ was born in Bethlehem, because we know when Cyrenius was governor (his full name was Publius Sulpicius Quirinus), more important to the point that Paul was making about the fullness of the timing of Jesus’ coming than the date, were other considerations that I would like to review with you.
Why was Jesus born when He was born? He was born when he was born because it was time. God does not do things early. God does not do things late. God does things in a timely fashion, just when those things are called for. And nothing in human history has been more important, or was accomplished in such a timely fashion, as the birth of the Son of God. Paul describes it as “the fulness of the time.”
Allow me to expand on what he wrote by observing some of the ways in which Christ’s birth came at just the right time:
1B. The fullness of time was a prophetic fullness
1C. The Lord Jesus Christ, you see, being the King of the Jews, being the Messiah of Israel, being the Son of God, came at a time and in a way foretold by the Jewish prophets.
2C. His birth was predicted as far back as Genesis 3.15. He would be a descendant of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He would be of the tribe of Judah, and of the house and lineage of David, but no descendant of Jeconiah. He would be born of a virgin, in the little village of Bethlehem. He had to be born in time to be crucified, and before the Romans occupied the land no execution was by crucifixion.
3C. Daniel, the prophet, wrote some 6 centuries before Christ, predicting that He would come 483 years after permission was granted by the Persians allowing the Jews to rebuild the walls around the captured city of Jerusalem. And, sure enough, fulfilling Daniel 9.25-26, the Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem as her king on a young donkey colt, just when Daniel predicted He would.
4C. Thus, in fulfillment of numerous prophecies, each requiring adherence to a divine timetable, Jesus was born in the prophetic “fulness of the time.”
2B. He was also born in the linguistic fullness of time
1C. The Jews were a Hebrew speaking people. But Hebrew was a language spoken only by them. For a wider impact to be made linguistic changes were required. When the Babylonian captivity translated the Jews to modern day Iraq the entire Jewish nation learned to speak Aramaic, a more widely spoken language related to Hebrew.
2C. But after the Babylonian captivity, when the remnant of Jews returned to their homeland, they still did not speak a language that was vital to having a world wide impact. So, several centuries later a young Macedonian general named Alexander began wars of conquest that he pursued with missionary zeal, consciously spreading the Greek language and culture to the regions he conquered. The effect of his campaigns by the time of his death, at the age of 32, was to assure that Greek would become the most widely spoken language in the world, and that the Jewish people, who lay in Alexander’s path, would become a people who spoke Hebrew, who spoke Aramaic, and who also spoke Greek.
3C. When the Lord Jesus Christ was born He was born to a people who had the Scriptures in Hebrew, but who were prepared to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a Greek speaking world, as well.
4C. Never before had such conditions existed. Truly, it was the linguistic fullness of time.
3B. It was also the intellectual fullness of time
1C. With the spread of the Greek language and culture came the spread of Greek intellectual thought. And make no mistake about it, the Greeks were far and away the greatest thinkers the world had ever seen. No one had before or since Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (who had been Alexander’s tutor) and their colleagues, demonstrated such capacity for reflection, contemplation, and philosophy.
2C. But they were wrong. The great Greek philosophers were godless reprobates. Geniuses? Yes. But geniuses without God, without light, without spiritual truth. They had reached as high as a man can reach in his lost and wicked condition. But as Solomon so rightly observed even before those men had been born and lived out their lives, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
3C. By the time Jesus was born the realization was dawning on all but the most shallow thinkers that intellectual pursuits are vain, and they lead nowhere. The futility of such an approach to life is described by Luke, in Acts 17.21, where he gives us his evaluation of the men Paul encountered while in the intellectual capital of the world, Athens: “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”
4C. The world had realized, even if the effete snobs of Athens had not, that their approach to life was of no benefit to anyone. Jesus was born in the intellectual fullness of time, that time in human history when it was realized that intellectual pursuits do not satisfy the longings of the human heart or the needs of the human soul.
4B. It was also the political fullness of time
1C. Rome ruled most of the known world at the time of Jesus’ birth. And though violence was a part of many people’s everyday life, and life was filled with uncertainties under the domination of Imperial Roman rule, there was a period of relative peace that lasted more than 150 years, that began one generation before Jesus was born. Historians call it the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace.
2C. Thus, Paul’s prayers were answered in such a way that the Gospel of Jesus Christ came into a world at peace and spread rapidly to the four corners of the world in the midst of that peace. I read First Timothy 2.1-4:
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
3C. Being a Roman citizen guaranteed safety for Paul on a number of occasions, as Roman adherence to the rule of law provided a safe environment and the promise of due process that, though oftentimes violated to persecute Christians, generally provided a much safer environment for the Christian faith to flourish in than any Muslim country today.
4C. There could not have been a better time for Jesus to have been born, when political considerations are viewed.
5B. Fifth, His birth came at a time of social fullness
1C. As a result of Alexander’s campaigns, and also the spread of Roman influence, populations mingled as never before. Not the mingling of nearby populations, as when the Assyrians or Egyptians swept in, but large numbers of people from far, far away.
2C. The cities of the Decapolis, mentioned in the Gospels, were effectively Roman cities populated by retired Roman legionnaires. As well, listen to where Jews had settled, as I read from Acts 2.9-11 the countries of origin of those Jews who gathered for the feast on Pentecost: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians.” Amazing.
3C. So, there were Gentiles living in the promised land and Jews living throughout the empire. Gentiles having given up on western thought as a means to peace of heart and satisfaction for the soul, with Jews spread all over the place and thinking then, as many think now, about the coming of their Messiah.
4C. Again, with respect to social conditions, Jesus came in “the fulness of the time.”
6B. It was also a time of economic fullness
1C. With peace reigning, people were flourishing everywhere, even if the benefits to some came on the backs of others who were slaves. Poor by today’s standards, to be sure, but doing quite well in comparison to other times and places in history. And with Rome ruling everywhere, the evidences of Rome’s influence could not be overlooked.
2C. Where Romans went they built roads, roads that have lasted 2000 years. Where Romans went they built bridges, to enable their soldiers to cross rivers where they wanted to cross, not where the water was shallow. At such a bridge Jesus was to call a man named Levi to follow him, a man later known as Matthew.
3C. Travel would continue to be very difficult and unimaginably rugged until the 19th century. But before the Romans built roads and bridges, and before they pacified the Mediterranean and rid it of pirates, it was almost impossible to safely get from one place to another.
4C. But when Jesus was born it was now feasible to travel a thousand miles one way to the feast of Pentecost, to conduct business in several remote countries, and to spread the Gospel with a speed and an efficiency never before imagined, with missionaries being able to venture forth to spread the good news, and to find jobs to support themselves as they traveled. They could even dispatch epistles to distant cities, which were copied and are now incorporated into our New Testament.
5C. Yes, the fullness of time extended to economic matters, as well.
7B. Finally, Jesus was born at a time of spiritual fullness
1C. You have gotten the impression, I hope, that “fullness” does not always refer to good times, does not always refer to people feeling wonderful. “Fullness” refers to when something is filled up, when you cannot take any more, when it’s just time.
2C. And though we would normally think of prophetic fullness, linguistic fullness, economic fullness, and other such things perhaps as good, as blessings, what I refer to as spiritual fullness would not be so described.
3C. I’ve touched on this before, but allow me to visit this more completely. The Greek philosophy and thought that dominated was morally bankrupt, as were all other views of life. The practical realities were that paganism, in all its forms, even cultured and educated Grecian paganism, is a wasteland of decadence and hopelessness. It is vanity and it is death.
4C. And though we see in the Gospels and in the book of Acts some Gentiles being attracted to Judaism because of their worship of one God, because of their clearly defined model of the family unit, and for their comparatively uncorrupted approach to life, the Jewish people didn’t have it so good, either.
5C. The Jewish people seemed to be somewhat united in their opposition to Roman rule, but among themselves there was terrible dissension. Their priesthood was notoriously corrupt. The Pharisees were arrogant and conceited. There was no life in their religion. The people who had been given the temporary Law of Moses had so compromised and so situated themselves that they so ignored the message of the Law that they were actually comfortable under its dominion. But the purpose of the Law was to have the opposite effect. The Law was given to be burdensome. And how was the Law to operate for a people now dispersed throughout a Gentile world? It wasn’t supposed to operate outside the Land or among Gentiles.
6C. So you see, Jesus came to a world that was ready for Him. He came to a desert waiting for the rain. He came to soil waiting for the seed. He came to a humanity who, if they weren’t exactly waiting for a visitation from God, they were certainly prepared for a visitation from God.
7C. Please recognize, my friend, that if the world into which Jesus was born had to be prepared as it was for His coming, you also need to be prepared for Him for Him to come to you.
2A. Next, Let Us Look At THE MANNER OF HIS COMING
Let’s look to our text once more:
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law”
1B. First, notice in our text that the Father sent Him
1C. “God sent forth his Son” The things having to do with the salvation of sinners originate in the throne room in heaven. God is the Author of salvation. That’s why Jonah said from the belly of the great fish, “Salvation is of the LORD.”
2C. We would all do well to remember, during this Christmas season, that the birth of Jesus Christ was no accident, the birth of Jesus Christ was no last minute solution to a problem God had not foreseen. Jesus was sent by God, on a mission, to accomplish a task.
2B. Next, notice in our text that Who was sent was the Son of God
1C. Make no mistake in recognizing that there are some very deep things in the Bible that can only be mined with great effort and much prayer. But there are other great treasures in God’s Word that are lying on the surface for any interested passerby to pick up and cherish.
2C. Such a treasure we have in this verse. Who did God send in the fullness of time? Did He send someone who would someday become His Son? No. Did He send someone who would be made His Son at his birth? No. Who God sent . . . was His Son.
3C. Why did it take 50 years for John Mac Arthur to figure out what can be seen here by any Church kid? Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the living God. God sent His Son! He did not send someone who would become His Son. This is not difficult, people. This is basic Christianity.
3B. Third, notice Whose coming involved the incarnation
1C. There were some heretics in days gone by who believed that Jesus is God, but that He was not truly man. There were some other heretics in days gone by who believed that Jesus was a real man, but that He was not truly God.
2C. Both groups of heretics were and are greatly and profoundly mistaken. God sent His Son, Jesus, Who is very God, to be “made of a woman.” What do women give birth to but human beings?
3C. Again, this is basic Christianity and is believed by all who believe the Bible. But if you do not believe that Jesus is both God and man, God Who became man by means of being made of a woman, that virgin named Mary, you do not believe the Bible. And if you do not believe the Bible you are very much in trouble in an already troubled existence.
4B. Finally, notice Whose coming involved submission to the Law
1C. What great humiliation it was for the Lawgiver to subject Himself to His Own Law. Such humiliation was not possible until Jesus became a man. So a man He became.
2C. Why did He do this? Such a question is answered in Galatians 4.5. But let me point out here that the Law demands that a soul die for sin. Did Jesus, therefore, sin? Oh, no. You sinned. And I sinned. He has committed no sin.
3C. He was sent by God, becoming a man, in submission to the Law, so He could take your place on the cross, pay the penalty for your sins, and save your wretched soul.
1. It was 2000 years ago, 8500 miles away, in a remote corner of what was an that time the world’s most powerful, and what would come to be the longest ruling, empire. It was “the fulness of the time.”
2. “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” What an astounding intervention into the affairs of man. What an incredible miracle that God should become a man.
3. I might ask at this point, What benefit have you received from this? How has this helped you in any way? In what way has your personal destiny been altered by the coming of Jesus Christ, and what He accomplished when He came?
4. While you are pondering these things, and before my sermon this morning, brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand to sing.
1. Just a few concluding remarks for you to think about as you prepare for Christmas. And I hope you make an effort to dwell in your heart and mind on the Savior Whose birth is celebrated.
2. When the fulness of the time was come Jesus was born. But He was born 2000 years before you were born. And He was made of a woman and made under the Law a long way from here, as well as being a long time ago.
3. Such facts may make you feel separated from the reason for Jesus Christ’s coming, and may also make you feel removed from the benefit of His coming and His crucifixion and His glorious resurrection and ascension to His Father’s right hand.
4. But go home this morning with three certainties:
1A. First, JESUS CAME AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR YOU
1B. It was said of Jesus during His earthly ministry, “He hath done all things well.” And that applies to the timing of His coming, as well as everything else about His saving work.
2B. So, what does this mean? It means that your present need of a Savior is for Him to have come 2000 years ago, and not now.
3B. “But if only I could have seen Him.” To the doubting Thomas, Jesus said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” John 20.29.
4B. So, dispel any thoughts that maybe you should have lived long ago or that Jesus should have been born more recently. Jesus came at just the right time to meet your need of a Savior.
2A. Second, JESUS CAME IN THE RIGHT WAY FOR YOU
1B. Perhaps you think that something needs to be adjusted for you to come to Christ. Maybe you think Jesus could somehow accommodate you so that you could more easily get saved.
2B. But don’t you realize that all of the accommodations that could be made have already been made for your salvation? What would a sinner have a Savior do that He hasn’t already done?
3B. Become a man? He did that. Become a poor man so sinners wouldn’t think He was beyond their reach? He was placed in a manger when He was born. Can you be more humble that that? Invite you to come to Him? He did that. Deal with your sin? He did that, too, on the cross.
4B. Quibble and hesitate and fidget all you want. What must be realized is that all of the impediments and obstacles to your conversion are on your part. Jesus came in the right way at the right time to be your Savior.
3A. Finally, JESUS CAME FOR THE RIGHT REASON FOR YOU
What reason is good enough for you?
1B. The right reason for God the Father sending Jesus was love. John 3.16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son.” Does God’s love convince you?
2B. For what reason on Jesus’ part did He come? “I do always those things that please him,” Jesus said about pleasing His Father, John 8.29. Does Jesus’ obedience persuade you?
3B. What reason most directly applies to you concerning the reason Jesus came? Might I suggest that you consider your great need? Why would God give up His Son but for your great need?
1. Now, you may disagree with my conclusions about why Jesus came. But the fact remains that He did come.
2. Why do you think He came? What have His reasons for coming to do with you?
3. Good questions to ponder as Christmas approaches.
 Jeremiah 22.28-30
 Isaiah 7.14
 Micah 5.2
 Luke 19.28-38
 Proverbs 14.12
 Mark 2.14
 Jonah 2.9
 Ezekiel 18.4, 20
 Mark 7.37