Study 7 WHEN, HOW AND WHY GOD SENT HIS SON
(Scripture Portion: Galatians 4: 1-31)
In Galatians 4:4-7, three facts about the incarnation of our Lord are emphasised. In Matthew 1:25-2:1; Luke 2:7 and John 1:1 and 14, we have the historical account of the incarnation. These accounts are not in any way contradictory, but they are supplementary and must be taken together to obtain a complete view of the birth of our Lord. But, whereas the Evangelists present us in the Gospels with the historical account of the incarnation, the apostle Paul in the passage before us gives us the doctrinal explanation of the event. Notice three lines of truth emphasised in this section of scripture:
1. THE TIME OF THE INCARNATION: WHEN GOD SENT HIS SON
When did this take place? Matthew tells us that it was “during the time of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1). We know, by our calendars, that it is now over 2000 years since God sent His Son into this world; but in Galatians 4:4, we are told that it was “when the time had fully come”. In creation, God worked to a timetable. The first two chapters of Genesis make this clear. There was plan, order and method in God’s work of creation; but this is also true in regard to His work of redemption, which involved the sending forth of His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. See how Romans 5:6 puts it, and compare a similar expression in Acts 2:1 - and then look up and compare John 2:4; 4:21; 5:25; 7:6 and 13:1. God has appointed the time for each detail concerning the redemptive work of His Son, and this time was appointed in Eternity - look up Revelation 13:8. The exact time was also predicted in antiquity, four thousand years before Jesus came - look up Genesis 3:15; and, speaking from a human point of view, Jesus came just at the right time! - when the world was ready morally, spiritually, socially, politically, religiously and nationally. It is well for us to remember that God is still working to a timetable!
2. THE NATURE OF THE INCARNATION: HOW GOD SENT HIS SON
This is revealed in three expressions in Galatians 4:4.
- “God sent his Son.” God was the prime mover - compare John 3:16. The coming of the Lord Jesus was voluntary - look up Psalm 40:7. Notice here that the pre-existence of Christ is implied, for if “God sent his Son”, He had to come forth from somewhere - look up Isaiah 9:6, and compare John 16:28.
- “Born of a woman.” The Lord Jesus was “the offspring of the woman” (Genesis 3:15). When He came to earth, deity was clothed with humanity, for He was the God-man - not the Man who became God, but God who became man. If Jesus had been a mere man it would be foolish to say of Him that “He was born of a woman”, for how else can anybody come into this world except by being made, or born of a woman? The very fact that this expression is used declares that the Lord Jesus was unique in His Person and in the method of His birth.
- “Born under law.” In the days of His flesh, our Lord was subject to:
- The Ceremonial Law, for He was circumcised and presented at the Temple, He worshipped in the Temple and He attended the Feasts at the Temple (Luke 2:21, 41-42).
- The Social Law. He was subject to His parents (Luke 2:51).
- The Civil Law (Matthew 17:24-27).
- The Moral Law. He kept the Law in every point; He Himself declared that He had not come “to abolish the Law and the Prophets…but to fulfil them” - look up Matthew 5:17. It is in particular the Moral Law to which Paul refers here. Our Lord made Himself subject to that Law, He came and kept it as our representative. Think of the self-imposed limitation and the humiliation of all this for our Lord, who was the Eternal Son of God. Fancy God making Himself subject to the Law which He Himself had established and imposed! What a stoop this was - compare Philippians 2:7-8.
3. THE PURPOSE OF THE INCARNATION: WHY GOD SENT HIS SON
Why did the Lord Jesus need to come from Heaven to earth and to be born in Bethlehem’s manger? There was a three-fold purpose, and this is mentioned in Galatians 4:5, 6 and 7.
- He came in order that we might be REDEEMED (verse 5). To redeem, in this case, means to deliver from the bondage and the curse of the Law. The curse of the Law is the penalty which comes because we have broken the Law, and we all have broken the Law, and therefore we are under the curse and are in danger of punishment. But Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the Law, and He did this by offering His life and shedding His blood on Calvary’s cross - look up 1 Peter 1:18-19. Thank God, every believer can sing: “Free from the Law, O happy condition, Jesus had bled, and there is remission …”
- He came that we might receive the FULL RIGHTS of sons (verse 5). God’s purpose in the incarnation is that we might become sons of God, and this sonship is based upon redemption - “to redeem …that we might receive… ”. The Son of God became the Son of man that we, sons of men, might become sons of God. Who, then, are the sons of God? They are those who have the Spirit of adoption in their hearts - compare Galatians 4:6 with 1 John 3:1.
- He came that we might become HEIRS of God through Christ (verse 7). Compare Romans 8:16-17, where we are told that we are co-heirs with Christ. Because He shared our humanity, with all the consequent sufferings which this involved, we, by His grace and through faith in Him, are to share His glory. In the parable of Luke 15, the father said to his elder son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31). This is exactly what our Father says to everyone of His children:
- “Son… ” Redemption
- “you are always with me… ” Full Rights
- “all I have is yours” - an Heir of God.