Galatians 4:4 MEANING

Galatians 4:4
(4) The fulness of the time.--That which was predetermined in the counsels of God as the right and proper time when the whole course of previous preparation both for Jew and Gentile was complete. Here we have a very clear expression of the conception of religion as progressive, divided into periods, and finding its culmination in Christianity. The phrase "fulness of the time" corresponds to "the time appointed of the father" in Galatians 4:2.

Sent forth--i.e., from Himself; from that station which is described in John 1:1 : "The Word was with God." The pre-existence of the Son is distinctly recognised by St. Paul.

Made of a woman.--Perhaps better translated, born of a woman. There is no allusion here to the miraculous conception. The phrase "born of a woman" was of common use. Comp. Matthew 11:11 : "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." So here the expression is intended to bring out, not the divinity, but the true humanity of Christ.

Made under the law.--Born under law--i.e., born into a state of things where the whole world was subject to law--born under the legal dispensation, though Himself destined to put an end to that dispensation.

Verse 4. - But when the fulness of the time was come (ὅτε δὲ η΅λθε τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου); but when the completion of the term (Greek, time) came. "The completion of the term" is the notion answering to "the time appointed of the father" in ver. 2. The "time" (χρόνος) here most probably corresponds to the period terminated by the προθεσμία: that is, it is the interval which God ordained should first elapse. So Acts 7:23, Ὡς δὲ ἐπληροῦτο αὐτῷ τεσσαρακονταετὴνς χρόνος, "When he was well-nigh forty years old;" literally," When there was being completed to him a time of forty years" (comp. also Acts 7:30; Acts 24:27; Luke 21:24; Luke 1:57). The substantive (πλήρωμα) "completion" occurs in the same sense in Ephesians 1:10, "Dispensation of the completion of the times." The apostle might apparently have written ὡς δὲ ἐπληρώθη ὁ χρόνος, "But when the term was completed;" but he prefers to express it in this particular form, as colouring the idea with a certain pathos of solemn joy at the arrival of a time so long expected, so fraught with blessing (compare the use of the verb "came" in Galatians 3:25). Why the supreme Disposer, the Father of his people, chose that particular era in the history of the human race for his children's passing into their majority is a deeply interesting subject of inquiry. Much has been said, as for example by Neander and Guerieke in their Histories of the Church, and by Schaff in his History of the Apostolic Church, on the preparedness of the world at large at just that juncture for the reception of the gospel. It may, however, be questioned whether the apostle had this in his mind in the reference here made to the Divine prothesmia. So far as appears, his view was fastened upon the history of the development of God's own people, which up to this time had been under the pedagogic custody of the Mosaic Law. Indeed, in just this context he does not even advert, as he may be supposed to have done in Galatians 3:24, to the effect produced by the Law in preparing God's own people for the gospel, but speaks only of the negative aspect of the legal economy; that is, of those features of "bondage," "powerlessness," and "poverty" which marked it as a state of oppression and helplessness. The training, probably implied in the reference to its "rudiments," stands back for the present out of view; the only notion which is actually brought prominently forward being the comparatively degraded condition in which the child-proprietor was for that while detained. God sent forth his Son (ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὑτοῦ). The terms here used require to be very closely considered: they arc fraught with the very essence of the gospel. The compound verb ἐξαποστέλλω occurs in nine other places of the New Testament, all of them in St. Luke's Gospel and the Acts. In six of these (Luke 1:53; Luke 20:10, 11; Acts 9:30; Acts 17:14; Acts 22:21) the ἐξ is well represented in our English Bible by "away." In the remaining three (Acts 7:12; Acts 11:22; Acts 12:11) - "(Jacob) sent forth our fathers first;" "They sent forth Barnabas as far as to Antioch;" "God hath sent forth his angel") - the preposition represented by "forth" expresses with more or less distinctness the idea that the person sent belonged intimately to the place or the society of the person who sent him. In no one passage is it without its appreciable value. The verb ἀποστέλλω, without this second prepositional adjunct of ἐξ, is used, for example, in John 17:18, both of the Father sending the Son and of Christ sending his apostles" into the world," but without putting forward this indication of previous intimate connection. So the verb πέμπω is used in like manner of God sending his Son in Romans 8:3, and of the mission of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26. It was, no doubt, optional with the writer or speaker whether he would employ a verb denoting this particular shade of meaning present in the ἐξ or not; but we are not, therefore, at liberty to infer that, when he chooses to employ a verb which does denote it, he uses it without a distinct consciousness of its specific force. In the clause before us, therefore, as also in ver. 6, the writer must be assumed to have had in his mind at least the thought of heaven as the sphere of existence from which the Son and the Spirit were sent, as in Acts 12:11 above cited, if not of some yet closer association with the Sender. The reference to a previously subsisting intimacy of being between the Sender and the Sent, which we trace here in the preposition ἐξ of the compound verb, is in Romans 8:3, where the verb employed is πέμψας, indicated in the emphatic reference implied in the pronoun ἑαυτοῦ, "sending his own Son." In endeavouring next to determine the import of the expression," his Son," as here introduced, we are met by the surmise that the apostle may have written it proleptically, or by anticipation; that is, as describing, not what Christ was before he was sent forth, but the glory and acceptableness with the Almighty which marked him as the Messiah after his appearing in the world; for when, for example, in another place the apostle writes," Christ Jesus came into the world to rove sinners," he must be understood as expressing himself proleptically, designating the person who came into the world by the name and office which he bore as among men, and not as he was before he came. A proleptic designation is therefore conceivable. But this interpretation of the apostle's meaning is resisted by the tendency of the context in the kindred passage in Romans 8:3, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin;" for those added words betoken very strongly that Christ was viewed by the apostle as having been God's Son before he appeared in the flesh. And such is the impression which a reader not preoccupied with other ideas would naturally receive also here. The conviction that this is what the apostle really intended is corroborated by references which he elsewhere makes to Christ's pro-incarnate existence and work; as, for example, in Philippians 2:5, 6; Colossians 1:15, 16; the latter of which passages, by describing "the Son of God's love" as "the Firstborn of every creature, because by him all things were created" (see Alford, and the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the passage), betokens that St. Paul regarded him as having been even then the "Son of God;" and this, too, in the sense of derivation from "the substance of the Father, ... begotten" (as the Nicene Creed recites) "of his Father before all worlds." We may, therefore, reason, ably believe that the Apostle Paul, whose views alone are now under consideration, recognized these two senses of the term, namely, the theological and the Christologieal, as inseparably blending into one when thus applied to the Lord Jesus; for we must allow that it appears alien to his manner of sentiment and of representation to suppose that he ever uses it in the purely theological sense only. In the view of the apostle Christ was the "Son of God," not only when appointed to be the Messiah, but also before he was "made to be of a woman." Indeed, it should seem that this conception of his person is just that which forms the basis for the subsequent statement that the object of his coming into the world was to procure the adoption of sons for us. Made of a woman (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός); made to be of a woman. This, indeed, was probably the sense intended by King James's translators, when they followed Wicklife and the Geneva Bible in rendering "made of a woman;" whilst Tyndale and Cranmer, followed by the Revisers of 1881, give "born of a woman." Just the same divergency of renderings appears in the same English translations in Romans 1:3, "made of the seed of David (γενομένον ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβίδ)," except that Tyndale has "begotten" instead of "born." The difference in sense is appreciable and important: "made" implies a previous state of existence, which "born" does not. So far as the present writer can find, wherever in the New Testament the Authorized Version has "born," we have in the Greek either τεχθῆναι or γεννηθῆναι: γενέσθαι never having this sense at all. As in Galatians 3:13 (γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα), "Being made a curse for us," and in John 1:14 (ὁ Λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο), "The Word was made flesh;" so here God's Son is described as "made to be of a woman," the phrase, "of a woman," being nearly identical in import with the word "flesh" in St. John, distinctly implying the fact of the Incarnation. The preposition "of" (ἐκ) denotes derivation of being, as when it is found after the verb "to be" in John 8:47, "He that is of God;" "Ye are not of God," pointing back to the claim which (ver. 41) the Jews had made that they had God for their Father. The construction of γίγνομαι, to come to be, with a preposition occurs frequently, as in Luke 22:44; Acts 22:17; Romans 16:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. There can be no doubt that γενόμενον must be taken in the next clause with the same meaning as here. Made under the Law (γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον); that is, made to be under the Law. The "Law" here, as in the clause immediately after "those under the Law," indicates, not Law in general, but that particular law of tutorship and of domination over one as yet in the depressed condition of a minor, which the apostle has just before spoken of; that is, a law of ceremonies and of external cult. The article is wanting in the Greek, as in Romans 2:12, 23; Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:11, etc. We cannot be unconscious of a tone of pathos in the apostle's language, thus declaring that he who had before been no less august a being than God's Son, should in conformity with his Father's will have stooped to derive being "from a woman," as well as to become subject to such a Law of servitude as that of Moses was. In the second chapter of the Philip-plans we have a similar account of the Incarnation, in which, with similar pathos, the apostle remarks that he took upon him the form of a "bond-servant" (δοῦλος), being made to be in the like condition to that of men (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γένομενος); but in that passage the line of thought does not lead to a definite reference of his being made subject to the ceremonial Law. The apostle probably thinks of Christ as being made subject to the Law by his being circumcised; a child of Israelite parents, so long as he was uncircumcised, was repudiated by the Law as one not in the covenant. With reference to the preceding clause," made of a woman," we are naturally led to inquire why this particular was specified. It does not appear to be essential to his argument, as the next clause certainly is. Probably it was added as marking one of the successive steps down which the Son of God descended to that subjection ("servitude," ver. 3) to the ceremonial Law which the apostle is most particularly concerned with. As in Philippians 2. he is exhibited, first as emptying himself; next, as taking upon him the form of a bond-servant by being made man; and then at length as brought to "the death of the cross;" so here, more briefly, he appears as "sent forth" from the bosom of the Father; next, as made "the son of a woman;" then as brought under the Law, to the end that (of course by the Crucifixion) he might buy off from under the Law those who were subject thereto. If the apostle intended anything more definite by introducing this first clause, it may have been to glance at that fellowship with the whole human race, with all "born of women" (γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν, Matthew 11:11), into which God's own Son came by becoming himself "of a woman" (comp. 1 Timothy 2:5). To refer to yet another point, we can fearlessly affirm that this sentence of the apostle is perfectly consistent with the belief in the writer's mind that our Lord was born of a virgin-mother, for a specified reference to this fact did not lie in his way just at present, and therefore is not to be desiderated. The only point for consideration in this respect is whether the expression employed does at all allude to it. Many have thought that it does. But when we consider that "one born of woman." γεννητὸς γυναικός, in Hebrew yelud isshah, was a set phrase to denote a human creature (cf. Matthew 11:11; Job 14:1; Job 15:14; Job 25:4; Job 11:12 [Septuagint]), with no particular reference to the woman except as the medium of our being introduced into the world, it has been with much probability judged by most recent critics that the clause shows no colouring of such allusion. Nevertheless, we distinctly recognize in it the sentiment expressed in the familiar verse of the ancient hymn: "Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti virginis uterum;" else, why did not the apostle write γενόμενον ἐν σαρκί ορ γενόμενον ἄνθρωπον?

4:1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured to bring believers under its bondage. They could not fully understand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied to many burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taught and kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. We learn the happier state of Christians under the gospel dispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine love and mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers, for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christians enjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath and disobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but all God's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. May the temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and may the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are children and heirs of God.But when the fulness of time was come,.... The time agreed and fixed upon between God and his Son from all eternity, in the council and covenant of peace, when the Son of God should assume human nature; which time was diligently searched into by the prophets, was revealed unto them, and predicted by them; as more generally that it should be before the civil government ceased from Judah, and before the destruction of the second temple; and more particularly by Daniel in his prophecy of the "seventy weeks", towards and about the close of which there was a general expectation among the Jews of the Messiah's coming; and was the fulness of time here referred to, and what is sometimes called the dispensation of the fulness of time, the end of the Mosaic dispensation and Jewish church state, the last days of that state, and the end of the Jewish world, as to their ecclesiastical and civil polity. The Jews themselves own that the time of the Messiah's coming is fixed, and that at that time he shall come, whether they are worthy or not, for so it is asserted in their Talmud (d);

"says R. Jochanan, the son of David does not come, but in an age which is all worthy, or all wicked; in a generation which is all worthy, as it is written, Isaiah 60:21 in a generation that is all wicked, as it is written, Isaiah 66:5 and it is written, "for my name's sake will I do it"; says R. Alexander, R. Joshua ben Levi objects what is written, Isaiah 60:22 "in its time"; and it is written, "I will hasten it"; if they are worthy I will hasten it, if they are not worthy it shall be "in its time".''

And accordingly a more modern writer of theirs says (e),

"our redemption upon all accounts shall be, "in its time", whether worthy or, wicked; but if worthy its time will be hastened;''

it must be owned they do not always say so: this phrase, "the fulness of time", is an Hebraism, and is the same with , in Ezekiel 5:2 which the Septuagint render , "the fulness of days", and we, "when the days were fulfilled", when the time was up; and the same sense it has here, and it is also the same with "the appointed time", Habakkuk 2:3 and answers to , "the time appointed of the Father", Galatians 4:2.

God sent forth his Son; God not absolutely and essentially, but personally and relatively considered, is here meant, namely, God the Father, as appears from the relation the person sent stands in to him, "his Son"; not by creation, as angels, Adam, and all men are the sons of God; nor by adoption, as saints are; or by office, as magistrates be; or on account of his incarnation or resurrection from the dead, for he was the Son of God before either; but by divine generation, being the only begotten of the Father, of his divine nature and essence, equal to him, and one with him: and who was "sent" by him, not out of disrespect to him, but love to us; nor without his consent or against his will, he readily and heartily agreeing to it; nor does it imply any local motion or change of place, but only designs the assumption of human nature; nor does it suppose any superiority and inferiority, for though Christ, as man, and in his office capacity, as Mediator, is inferior to the Father, yet not as to his divine nature, or as the Son of God; but it suggests, that he existed before he was sent, and that as a person, and as a distinct person from the Father, otherwise he could not with any propriety be said to be sent by him; and also that there was an entire harmony and agreement between them in this matter, the Father agreed to send his Son, and the Son agreed to be sent; and that as to his taking upon him the office of Mediator, and his assumption of human nature in order to obtain eternal redemption: all this was not of himself, but done in concert with his Father, from whom as Mediator he had his mission and commission;

made of a woman; "made", not created as Adam was; nor begotten by man, as men in common are; nor is he said to be born, though he truly was, but "made"; which word the Holy Ghost chooses, to express the mighty power of God, in his mysterious incarnation, wonderful conception, and birth; though some copies read, "born of a woman"; and so the Arabic and Ethiopic version: "of a woman"; whose seed he was from the beginning said to be; of a woman, without a man; of a woman, a virgin, as was foretold; and not only made and formed in her, but of her, of her flesh and blood, of which he took part; and which denotes the low estate and great humiliation of Christ, and shows that as sin came into the world by the woman, the Saviour from sin came also the same way:

made under the law; under the civil and judicial law as a Jew, to which he was subject, paying tribute to the collectors of it; and which was necessary; that it might appear he sprung from that nation, to whom he was promised; and that he came before the civil government of that people was at an end; and to teach us subjection to the civil magistrate: and as a son of Abraham he was made under the ceremonial law, was circumcised the eighth day, kept the several feasts of tabernacles, passover, &c. and which was proper, since he was the principal end of it, in whom it centres, and for whose sake it was made; and that he might completely fulfil it, and by so doing put a period to it: and he was made under the moral law, both as a man and the surety of his people, and was subject to all the precepts of it, and bore the penalty of it, death, in their room and stead, and thereby fulfilled it, and delivered them from its curse and condemnation. So the Targumist (f), joins the incarnation of the Messiah and his subjection to the law together, as the apostle here does;

"the prophet saith to the house of David, because a child is born unto us, and a son is given to us, , "and he hath took upon him the law to keep it, and his name shall be called", &c.''

(d) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1. Vid. Jarchi & Kinachi in Isaiah 60.22. (e) Kimchi in Psal. cviii. 4. (f) In Isa. ix. 6.

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