Roger Severino

In the Fullness of Time, God Sent His Son

Did you ever wonder about the timing of Jesus’ birth? Was there any particular reason He was born around 2,000 years ago? Why at that time, and not earlier? Or after? Ultimately, only God knows the answer to those questions. But that hasn’t stopped Christians from speculating.

As Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” What made that specific time “complete” for the sending of God’s Son? The promises to Israel of Messiah’s coming had been around for centuries. With each generation, there was a longing, a waiting, for the “son of David” to come. God’s people had been ruled by those in Babylon, in Persia, by Hellenistic kingdoms, and now by Rome. More importantly, they needed to be liberated from the rule of sin and idolatry in their hearts. Their lives were broken. And here they waited.

Then came the birth of Jesus. Within a few decades, this Jesus movement would spread across the Roman Empire and, a few centuries later, would overtake it.

Christianity is not simply a religion of timeless principles, like a mere philosophy, ethic or ideology. The root of the Christian faith involves a historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in a particular setting, a particular culture, to a particular people, with a particular history. The crux of the faith surrounds a historical death and resurrection that either happened in space and time—or it didn’t. If it did not, then (as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15) this faith has no foundation and is futile.

Let’s revisit our original question. What are some possible reasons for Jesus’ birth occurring at this moment in history?

It has often been pointed out that certain elements of the Roman Empire made it conducive for the spread of Christianity:

  • The Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, meant there was freedom from warfare throughout the empire.
  • The Roman roads brought a vast improvement in transportation and communication, necessary for the spread of the gospel.
  • Greek as the common language allowed the faith to be proclaimed in various parts of the Roman Empire.
  • A more cosmopolitan spirit existed that transcended national identity.

In the end, we can be confident that it was God’s time. God’s sovereignty means He orchestrates events for His purposes—not only the birth of Christ, but also your life. Is He orchestrating things to have you seek out and encounter the long-awaited Messiah? How are you embracing the promise of Immanuel, “God with us,” this Christmas season?

  1. Once again: “How are you embracing the promise of Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ this Christmas season?” What difference is it making in your life?
  2. This passage in Galatians says Christ came to redeem us and to adopt us into God’s family. Are you living as a slave or as a beloved son/daughter?
  3. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6)! Abba was an intimate and respectful way Jewish children would addressed their father. Do you have this type of intimate relationship with your heavenly Father? Why or why not?

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