Articles Featured Tanner Campbell 265 views

The Fullness of Time

Galatians 4:4 states that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law”. It is often believed that the fullness of time refers to the time in human history when the world was especially prepared to receive Christ. But this is not what Galatians 4:4 is dealing with. It is true that, from our dim perspective, it appears that there were a number of things in place in the First Century that would have contributed to the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church. The vast Roman road system, the somewhat universal Greek language, and the relatively peaceful time among the nations may have been part of God’s determined time to bring the Christ into the world. But this is all looking at the “fullness of time” from a physical perspective; this does not consider the context of Galatians 4.

Paul began the chapter by pointing out that an heir is no different from a slave for “as long as he is a child”. Even though the heir of the house is “master of all”, while he is a child he is kept “under guardians and stewards” and must be told what to do, just like a slave in the house. But this kind of life for the young heir lasts only “until the time appointed by the father” (Galatians 4:2). Paul is referring to the common practice of Roman culture in those days, how every father would set a particular date for their child to reach maturity; this is a foreign concept to American society. Upon the father’s appointed date, the young man is no longer counted as a minor and is loosed from guardians and stewards.

Now that we understand what is happening in the context, we are ready to understand the fullness of time. The fullness of time is referring to the time appointed by the Father in heaven when the people would no longer be like children under guardians and stewards (the Law of Moses and the Prophets) and would now be free (from the Law of Moses), ready to be counted as sons and heirs of the Father’s house. Paul explains that in order for the heirs to obtain freedom from their guardian, The Son of God must come and redeem them, “that they might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). Thus, the “fullness of time” is not a reference to the situation of the world at that time, nor is it a reference to Christ specifically, but a statement that speaks to the appointed date for the maturity of those under the guardianship of Moses’ Law. It was their “fullness of time”; it was their time for reaching maturity and freedom. In other words, God had predetermined a time for the people to no longer be under Moses’ Law in order to be accountable to Christ. Just as in Roman custom, it may not be that a child has reached the intended maturity level by the time their father’s appointed date for them comes up. Thus also with the Jews, many of them had not paid much mind to their guardian and schoolteacher (the Law of Moses), and as a result, were inadequately prepared for the Father’s appointed date of their maturity. This immaturity is clearly visible throughout the gospel accounts, the book of Acts, and many of the New Testament letters.

Article by Tanner Campbell