This Advent meditation first appeared in the December 1, 1968 issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.45, #5) and was penned by Rev. Marinus Schippper, then minister of SE PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.
"But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians 4:4, 5
But when the fulness of time was come!
Not the time, the moment when the world was especially prepared for Christ's coming, when the world was fully prepared to receive Him! Thus many have and still would explain the significance of the fulness of time in our text. Never is the world ready to receive Him. Nor was it ready to receive Him when He made His entrance into the world. Nor may it be said that the church-world was ready for Him when He came.
When the Son of God came into the flesh the heathen world lay steeped in pagan darkness. And the church world had decayed into moral wickedness so great that it had no room for Him. In fact, it may be said that as far as the world was concerned, the coming of the Son of God was at the most inopportune time. O, indeed, it cannot be gainfully said that the Jewish nation as a commonwealth had almost thoroughly disintegrated, and that the age of the shadows and types had come to an end—the end when the reality which they foretold would be reached. Nor can it be denied that the fact that the Roman government held universal dominion helped to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel of the new day. And surely it cannot be slightingly passed over that God had prepared a handful of faithful ones who were waiting for the Day-Spring from on high, the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. But this is quite different from saying that the world eagerly awaited His arrival. For a clear picture of the world of Christ's day we have only to confer the writings of the apostle Paul to the Romans. Indeed, the world of that day is described as totally depraved, and the world of the church as thoroughly apostate.
Rather, the fulness of time signifies the moment which was before ordained of the Father. The viewpoint is not at all that of the world into which He came; but of God, Who sent Him into the world; of God Who works according to plan, Who stipulates the exact moment of time that coincides with His plan when His Son must make His appearance in the world of darkness, when the development of history, which is nothing more than those succession of moments God uses to realize His eternal purposes, is reached.
That this is in the meaning of the apostle is plain from the context. There the apostle is speaking of the time when the church of the shadows was a minor, though an heir. Now the minor cannot enjoy the inheritance promised to him so long as he is a minor. He is then under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. But when the time set by the father is reached, then the minor becomes an adult, who is ready to receive that inheritance. The fulness of time, therefore, signifies not merely the moment when the Lord Jesus was born—that was only the beginning of it—but it refers to this entire new dispensation in which the Son of God gives unto the heirs of the promise the full estate of the Father.
Then God sent forth His Son!
His pre-existent Redeemer Son!
The life of Jesus does not begin at His birth. Modernism knows only of Jesus that was born—Who had His beginning like all other men in His natural birth. Who, therefore, was no different than ordinary men. Who, therefore, was only man.
Though it is true that the birth of Jesus is historic fact, occurring in a definite place and at a dated moment, this is not the full understanding of the Scriptures. The Word of God (and this is the thought of our text) presents Jesus as the eternal Son of God. The name Son of God denotes the Mediator in His essential deity.
Before the world was, the Son was! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." He was the Arm of the Lord, the Agent of creation, the Revealer of God, the Light of the world. Before the fulness of time the Son was.
How important this truth is! Deny it and there is no salvation possible!
To speak of the eternity of the Son is no mere, cold theological dogma, no mysterious truth having no bearing on our need. It is so vital that without it there is no hope of salvation for us. The conception that has no room in it for the pre-existent Son dwelling in the bosom of the Father has only a maimed Christ in reference to the need of sinful men. Moreover, without this truth all Divine revelation is impossible. Then the claim of Jesus that He came from the Father to declare Him cannot be true. Unless He is the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His Person, how could we be sure that the light of His countenance was the very light of God? And must we then not scrap the expressed creed of our fathers who insisted on it that the Saviour must not only be a real righteous man, but also very God Who shall mediate for us?
God sent forth His Son!
This cannot mean merely that He is sent of God, as an angel on a mission; or, as we read of the Baptist, that he was a man sent from God whose name was John. The expression cannot refer only to the Son's commission, though this thought may not be excluded. Rather, the text teaches us that He is sent out from God! Paul here shows us that Jesus is Divine, that He came out of God. This is the significance of the incarnation. The incarnation points not merely to the birth of a Child in Bethlehem; but it is itself the coming of God into our human nature. The Saviour is come out of very God—yea, is very God Himself in the Person of the Son. But there is more.
Indeed, the Son was SENT!
Not merely did God give His Son. Both the gift of the Son and His being sent are Scriptural truths with different shades of meaning. That God gave His Son stresses the point of His being a precious gift. It emphasizes the love of God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." While the fact that He is sent of God stresses the fact that He came with a purpose. He had a definite mission to fulfill. The Father had commissioned Him for a definite work.
Made of a woman!
Special attention should be given here to what the text omits to say. It does not mention the woman by name or generation, and inform us that she is Mary of the house and lineage of David. It does not inform us that she was a virgin, though espoused to a man. It does not speak of a man or a husband to whom she was married.
This can only mean that the Word of God here wishes to underscore the truth of the' incarnation. In this wonder of grace God is the Father Who not only sends His Son, but He is the One Who gives to the woman the seed of conception, while that Word at the same time informs us that a real human nature is what He assumed. Not a specially created human nature; nor a human nature which He may have taken with Him from heaven; but a nature which is taken out of the woman. Not only, therefore, does the Word of God here reveal that the Son partakes of and is to be identified with the Divine nature—Who is sent out of God and is thus God Himself; but the text also shows us the source of His human nature. He is not merely of a woman, but out of a woman, in body and soul, in a complete human nature.
Made under the law!
The law of God!
The law that from Mount Sinai was imposed on Israel of the old dispensation who were the covenant people of God and heirs of the promise of salvation. The law that was imposed upon the promise; which, while it could not make the promise of none effect, nevertheless made the covenant people to bear the burden of it and obligated them to bear the curse of the law if they did not perfectly perform all that the law dictated. The responsibility for which curse the people assumed on another Mount called Ebal.
The law, the essence of which Jesus Himself expressed. It is to love the Lord our God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Such is the everlasting obligation of all men. It is the law under which we also are conceived and born. It is also the law which we since our first father Adam have violated and transgressed. And the curse of the law has also been imposed on us. For: "Cursed is everyone who continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Hence, we are shut up in the prison-house of sin and death, bound in the irons of the law and its curse.
Not only was the Son of God made of woman, but He was made under that law and its curse. Under that law and its curse He descended. Thus He stands on the same plane as the children He came to redeem.
To redeem them that were under the law!
While He performed also the requirements of that law perfectly. For He must be a real righteous man. This He was indeed. Does He not say in David: "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart?" (Ps. 40:7, 8). And does not the writer to the Hebrews show us how this Son of God coming into the world declared: "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God?" (Hebrews 10:5-7). Indeed, He was sent on a mission, a mission He was willing to perform—to keep the law of God perfectly, which we had transgressed.
To redeem them that were under the law!
For not only must He keep the law perfectly, but He must at the same time redeem those under the law!
Redeem, or purchase free those who were under the law, and therefore under the curse! This can mean nothing else than the cross, and the shedding of His life's blood. The price or ransom paid for our redemption is always said to be Christ Himself through His blood.
In bondage we were! Not to the devil, as some suppose. But to the curse imposed by God because of our transgression of His law. And a bondage from which we could not free ourselves. No price could we bring in our bondage that could unlock the prison of our bondage. No blood of bulls and goats could satisfy God's justice so as to atone for our guilt. Nor could we produce one righteous man who could take our place and sacrifice himself in our stead.
Redeemed we could be only by the blood of God Who assumed our nature and to whom our guilt could be and was imputed. But how could God lay the curse on another than the man who committed the transgression? Only when that one could truly represent us. And this is what the Son of God, made of a woman, made under the law, could and did so.
He assumed our nature and with it our curse! He, too, heard the thunder of God's law, and the terror of it vibrated through His whole being, His soul and body. O, He heard it, as none other—from the bottom of hell He heard it, until the pronouncement of the curse died out, and in its place came the Divine pronouncement of His and our justification.
Our curse He assumed, and redeemed us from it!
That is the mystery of Bethlehem!
That is the mystery of the cross!
The mysteries which are inseparably bound together. Bethlehem without Calvary has no significance. What takes place in Bethlehem is finished on the hill of the skull.
That we might receive the adoption of sons! This adoption of sons is implied in our justification, whence springs the granting of the rights of children, also the right to the eternal inheritance.
The adoption of sons!
You see, God has only one natural Son, the Only Begotten. Shall He have others, it must be through adoption. And adoption requires a legal process. Just as it is when a husband and wife desire to adopt children, which cannot be done without legal procedure; for the children which are not ours by nature can become ours only by the pronouncement of the court. So it is in the highest sense when we become children of God. By nature we are the children of darkness and children of wrath, whether we belong to the old or the new dispensation. As children of Adam, and through his transgression, we become alienated from God and have lost all right to His fellowship. We may not abide in His house. But through the redemption in Christ, our legal status changes, and with. it also our rights. When God pronounced us justified through the redeeming blood of Christ, our adoption papers were signed with a pen of blood. But there is more.
Back of the cross is the eternal counsel of election in which the Father decided to adopt us. We were chosen in Christ and given to Him to be redeemed by Him. Father would have His house filled with children, and with Christ the Heir He would make us co-heirs of all that He possesses. And the very essence of that inheritance is that we might know Him and taste forever His blessed fellowship. This is eternal life.
That was the reason why He sent forth His Son in the fulness of time. That is why He must be born of woman, and born under the law. That is why He redeemed us who were under the law, that all might be legally made right for us to enter into His family and be reckoned with as His children, and receive all the rights of children.
O, wondrous purpose of God!
O, blessed Redeemer!
With Him we shall abide in Father's house forever!
Rev. Marinus Schipper was born in Holland, MI on February 8, 1906. He graduated from the Protestant Reformed Seminary and was ordained and installed into the ministry at the Grand Haven, MI Protestant Reformed Church in January, 1937. From there, he went to Second (now: Southwest) Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI. in 1939. In 1945 he accepted a call to the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. From there, he returned to Southwest (formerly: Second) Protestant Reformed Church in 1954. Finally, he went to the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI in 1962. He retired from the active ministry in 1978.
Rev.M.Schipper was taken into glory on January 2, 1985.