When the fullness of the time was come - The time which God in his infinite wisdom counted best; in which all his counsels were filled up; and the time which his Spirit, by the prophets, had specified; and the time to which he intended the Mosaic institutions should extend, and beyond which they should be of no avail.
God sent forth his Son - Him who came immediately from God himself, made of a woman, according to the promise, Genesis 3:15; produced by the power of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary without any intervention of man; hence he was called the Son of God. See Luke, Luke 1:35, and the note there.
Made under the law - In subjection to it, that in him all its designs might be fulfilled, and by his death the whole might be abolished; the law dying when the Son of God expired upon the cross.
But when the fulness of the time was come - The full time appointed by the Father; the completion (filling up, πλήρωμα plērōmaof the designated period for the coming of the Messiah; see the Isaiah 49:7-8 notes; 2 Corinthians 6:2 note. The sense is, that the time which had been predicted, and when it was proper that he should come, was complete. The exact period had arrived when all things were ready for his coming. It is often asked why he did not come sooner, and why mankind did not have the benefit of his incarnation and atonement immediately after the fall? Why were four thousand dark and gloomy years allowed to roll on, and the world suffered to sink deeper and deeper in ignorance and sin? To these questions perhaps no answer entirely satisfactory can be given. God undoubtedly saw reasons which we cannot; see, and reasons which we shall approve if they are disclosed to us.
It may be observed, however, that this delay of redemption was in entire accordance with the whole system of divine arrangements, and with all the divine interpositions in favor of men. People are suffered long to pine in want, to suffer from disease, to encounter the evils of ignorance, before interposition is granted. On all the subjects connected with human comfort and improvement, the same questions may be asked as on the subject of redemption. Why was the invention of the art of printing so long delayed, and people suffered to remain in ignorance? Why was the discovery of vaccination delayed so long, and millions suffered to die who might have been saved? Why was not the bark of Peru sooner known, and why did so many millions die who might have been saved by its use? So of most of the medicines, and of the arts and inventions that go to ward off disease, and to promote the intelligence, the comfort, and the salvation of man. In respect to all of these, it may be true that they are made known at the very best time, the time that will on the whole most advance the welfare of the race. And so of the incarnation and work of the Saviour. It was seen by God to be the best time, the time when on the whole the race would be most benefited by his coming. Even with our limited and imperfect vision, we can see the following things in regard to its being the most fit and proper time.
(1) it was just the time when all the prophecies centerd in him, and when there could be no doubt about their fulfillment. It was important that such an event should be predicted in order that there might be full evidence that he came from heaven; and yet in order that prophecy may be seen to have been uttered by God, it must be so far before the event as to make it impossible to have been the result of mere human conjecture.
(2) it was proper that the world should be brought to see its need of a Saviour, and that a fair and satisfactory opportunity should be given to men to try all other schemes of salvation that they might be prepared to welcome this. This had been done. Four thousand years were sufficient to show to man his own powers, and to give him an opportunity to devise some scheme of salvation. The opportunity had been furnished under every circumstance that could be deemed favorable. The most profound and splendid talent of the world had been brought to bear on it, especially in Greece and Rome; and ample Opportunity had been given to make a fair trial of the various systems of religion devised on national happiness and individual welfare; their power to meet and arrest crime; to purify the heart; to promote public morals, and to support man in his trials; their power to conduct him to the true God, and to give him a wellfounded hope of immortality. All had failed; and then it was a proper time for the Son of God to come and to reveal a better system.
(3) it was a time when the world was at peace. The temple of Janus, closed only in times of peace, was then shut, though it had been but once closed before during the Roman history. What an appropriate time for the “Prince of Peace” to come! The world was, to a great extent, under the Roman sceptre. Communications between different parts of the world were then more rapid and secure than they had been at any former period, and the gospel could be more easily propagated. Further, the Jews were scattered in almost all lands, acquainted with the promises, looking for the Messiah, furnishing facilities to their own countrymen the apostles to preach the gospel in numerous synagogues, and qualified, if they embraced the Messiah, to become most zealous and devoted missionaries. The same language, the Greek, was, moreover, after the time of Alexander the Great, the common language of no small part of the world, or at least was spoken and understood among a considerable portion of the nations of the earth. At no period before had there been so extensive a use of the same language.
(4) it was a proper period to make the new system known. It accorded with the benevolence of God, that it should be delayed no longer than that the world should be in a suitable state for receiving the Redeemer. When that period, therefore, had arrived, God did not delay, but sent his Son on the great work of the world‘s redemption.
God sent forth his Son - This implies that the Son of God had an existence before his incarnation; see John 16:28. The Saviour is often represented as sent into the world, and as coming forth from God.
Made of a woman - In human nature; born of a woman, This also implies that he had another nature than that which was derived from the woman. On the supposition that he was a mere man, how unmeaning would this assertion be! How natural to ask, in what other way could he appear than to be born of a woman? Why was he particularly designated as coming into the world in this manner? How strange would it sound if it were said, “In the sixteenth century came Faustus Socinus preaching Unitarianism, made of a woman!” or, “In the eighteenth century came Dr. Joseph Priestley, born of a woman, preaching the doctrines of Socinus!” How else could they appear? would be the natural inquiry. What was there special in their birth and origin that rendered such language necessary? The language implies that there were other ways in which the Saviour might have come; that there was something special in the fact that he was born of a woman; and that there was some special reason why that fact should be made prominently a matter of record. The promise was Genesis 3:15 that the Messiah should be the “seed” or the descendant of woman; and Paul probably here alludes to the fulfillment of that promise.
Made under the law - As one of the human race, partaking of human nature, he was subject to the Law of God. As a man he was hound by its requirements, and subject to its control. He took his place under the Law that he might accomplish an important purpose for those who were under it. He made himself subject to it that he might become one of them, and secure their redemption.
Those who know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour have the privilege of being educated and trained in a higher school than that of men, and of being tutored under higher wisdom than that of finite beings. They may come under the tutorship of the greatest Teacher the world ever knew, and partake of the same knowledge that He gave to Daniel. Those who are humble in heart, those who feel their need of higher wisdom and do not rely upon their own finite judgment, but search earnestly to know the will of God, may draw from the Source of all knowledge, and obtain grace, prudence, discretion, and judgment. They will realize the fulfillment of the assurance of God's Word: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130).44 TMK 126.4Read in context »
Christ was the greatest teacher the world has ever known. He came to this earth to shed abroad the bright beams of truth, that men might gain a fitness for heaven. “For this cause came I into the world,” He declared, “that I should bear witness unto the truth.” John 18:37. He came to reveal the character of the Father, that men might be led to worship Him in spirit and in truth. CT 259.1
Man's need for a divine teacher was known in heaven. The pity and sympathy of God were aroused in behalf of human beings, fallen and bound to Satan's chariot car; and when the fullness of time was come, He sent forth His Son. The One appointed in the councils of heaven came to this earth as man's instructor. The rich benevolence of God gave Him to our world, and to meet the necessities of human nature He took humanity upon Himself. To the astonishment of the heavenly host the eternal Word came to this world as a helpless babe. Fully prepared, He left the royal courts and mysteriously allied Himself with fallen human beings. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1:14. CT 259.2Read in context »
Through nature, through types and symbols, through patriarchs and prophets, God had spoken to the world. Lessons must be given to humanity in the language of humanity. The Messenger of the covenant must speak. His voice must be heard in His own temple. Christ must come to utter words which should be clearly and definitely understood. He, the author of truth, must separate truth from the chaff of man's utterance, which had made it of no effect. The principles of God's government and the plan of redemption must be clearly defined. The lessons of the Old Testament must be fully set before men. DA 34.1
Among the Jews there were yet steadfast souls, descendants of that holy line through whom a knowledge of God had been preserved. These still looked for the hope of the promise made unto the fathers. They strengthened their faith by dwelling upon the assurance given through Moses, “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you.” Acts 3:22. Again, they read how the Lord would anoint One “to preach good tidings unto the meek,” “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,” and to declare the “acceptable year of the Lord.” Isaiah 61:1, 2. They read how He would “set judgment in the earth,” how the isles should “wait for His law,” how the Gentiles should come to His light, and kings to the brightness of His rising. Isaiah 42:4; 60:3. DA 34.2
The dying words of Jacob filled them with hope: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” Genesis 49:10. The waning power of Israel testified that the Messiah's coming was at hand. The prophecy of Daniel pictured the glory of His reign over an empire which should succeed all earthly kingdoms; and, said the prophet, “It shall stand forever.” Daniel 2:44. While few understood the nature of Christ's mission, there was a widespread expectation of a mighty prince who should establish his kingdom in Israel, and who should come as a deliverer to the nations. DA 34.3Read in context »
Sin had become a science, and vice was consecrated as a part of religion. Rebellion had struck its roots deep into the heart, and the hostility of man was most violent against heaven. It was demonstrated before the universe that, apart from God, humanity could not be uplifted. A new element of life and power must be imparted by Him who made the world. DA 37.1
With intense interest the unfallen worlds had watched to see Jehovah arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth. And if God should do this, Satan was ready to carry out his plan for securing to himself the allegiance of heavenly beings. He had declared that the principles of God's government make forgiveness impossible. Had the world been destroyed, he would have claimed that his accusations were proved true. He was ready to cast blame upon God, and to spread his rebellion to the worlds above. But instead of destroying the world, God sent His Son to save it. Though corruption and defiance might be seen in every part of the alien province, a way for its recovery was provided. At the very crisis, when Satan seemed about to triumph, the Son of God came with the embassage of divine grace. Through every age, through every hour, the love of God had been exercised toward the fallen race. Notwithstanding the perversity of men, the signals of mercy had been continually exhibited. And when the fullness of the time had come, the Deity was glorified by pouring upon the world a flood of healing grace that was never to be obstructed or withdrawn till the plan of salvation should be fulfilled. DA 37.2
Satan was exulting that he had succeeded in debasing the image of God in humanity. Then Jesus came to restore in man the image of his Maker. None but Christ can fashion anew the character that has been ruined by sin. He came to expel the demons that had controlled the will. He came to lift us up from the dust, to reshape the marred character after the pattern of His divine character, and to make it beautiful with His own glory. DA 37.3Read in context »