When, how, and why was Jesus born?
But 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 (Galatians 4:4-5)
When our son Timothy was younger, we were looking through a picture book that depicted the birth of Jesus. And there we had a picture of the nativity: Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, some cattle, the star. I told Timothy: “When Jesus was born, this was the first Christmas.” He turned to me and said: “No.” “What do you mean? ‘No,’ I asked.” And he said: This is not Christmas because there is no Christmas tree. I proceeded to explain to him that the Christmas tree came later and what makes Christmas is the birth of Jesus.
When did Jesus come?
“But when the fullness of time had come…” (Gal 4:4)
The expression “in the fullness of time” occurs only here in Paul’s writings. I like the translation of Eugene Patterson’s The Message “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son.” History is divided in B.C. and A.D. B.C. = before Christ; A.D. = anno Domini = the year of our LORD. We know from history that Jesus was born some time between 6 and 4 B.C. because Herod died in 4 B.C., so Jesus must have been born before that. But Paul is not concerned with the chronological date. He is concerned with the theological date! By telling us that Jesus was born in the fullness of time, he affirms that Jesus was not born by accident, but by divine appointment. And God keeps his appointments and He is always on time.
The fullness of time represents the coming together of all the prophecies that were prophesied about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. God has prepared the whole world for the coming of his Son at that particular time in history. In his book “The Freedom of God’s Sons: Studies in Galatians,” Dr. Homer Kent Jr. writes about the expression “in the fullness of time,” that “Paul probably had in mind primarily the fact that from God’s standpoint the time was ready” (p. 110).
-When was Jesus born? In the fullness of time.
How did Jesus come?
“God sent forth his Son, born of woman…” (Gal 4:4)
The expression “born of a woman,” points to two major themes. First, Jesus was fully human when he came to earth. Paul says it beautifully in Phil. 2:5-8: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!” Second, the expression “born of a woman” points not only to the fact that Jesus was fully human, but also that he was miraculously born of a virgin. This was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah about 750 years before Jesus’ birth. In Isaiah 7:14 we read, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
“God sent His son…born under the law” (Gal 4:4)
The expression “born under law,” tells us that not only was Jesus a man, but he was a Jewish man, born under the Mosaic Law. He grew up in a Jewish home reading the Law (the Torah), praying to his Heavenly Father, attending synagogue, going to the Temple, faithfully fulfilling the demands of the Law. And although he was under the law, he was not under sin, because the Bible tells us that Jesus was sinless. The author of Hebrews writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Dr. Kent explains, “Jesus was born as a Jew subject to the Mosaic Law, and He kept its requirements perfectly. This made possible the purpose of His coming which is next stated.”
Why did Jesus come?
“God sent forth his son…, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5)
The apostle Paul turns from Christology to Soteriology, from deity of Jesus he turns to His saving work. Verse 5 tells us that he was born “to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” To redeem, means to buy back. We were slaves belonging to Satan and sin, and Jesus came to pay the price to buy us back.Why did Jesus come? To redeem and to adopt. It was not that humanity was looking for Jesus. No, God initiated the whole process. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). So from slaves to sin, through Jesus’ death and physical resurrection, we are now redeemed, bought back, and now we can have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Jesus also came to adopt us to become children of God. Paul writes, “to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Most of us know people who adopt children from other countries. They spend days, sometimes weeks immersed in a different language and a strange culture. They fight the red tape and pay the large fees, all with the hope of taking a child home to the United States…Hasn’t God done the same for us? He entered our culture, battled the resistance, and paid the unspeakable price with adoption required…The price? The life of his own son Jesus Christ (paraphrase from Max Lucado). But there is one more expression that is very important in these verses. The expression that occurs in verse 4, “God sent forth His Son.” There are two important theological truths here: “divine intentionality and eternal deity…Not only was the incarnation the fulfillment of myriads of Old Testament prophecies, but it also was the culmination of a plan devised within the eternal counsel of the triune God before the creation of the world…God sent His Son not just from Galilee to Jerusalem, nor just from the manger to the cross, but all the way from heaven to earth…In sending Jesus, God did not send a substitute or a surrogate. He came Himself” (George, 301-302).
Timothy told me that there couldn’t be a Christmas without a Christmas tree. And I realized that Timothy was right. There is no Christmas without a Christmas tree. But God’s Christmas tree is not a fir or a pine. It is definitely not artificial. God’s Christmas tree is the cross. He was born to die for my sins and yours. The 20th century German preacher and theologian Helmut Thielicke insightfully said, “The crib and the cross are made of the same wood.”
When was Jesus born? In the fullness of time.
How was Jesus born? Born of a woman, born under the law
Why was Jesus born? To redeem those under the law and to be adopted into His family
Merry Christmas everyone!