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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Pulpit Cyclopedia, 1851
"But when the fulness of the 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." (Gal. 4:4, 5)
One of the great mysteries of our religion is the advent of the Saviour into our world. The apostle with all his learning, gifts, and inspired powers of mind, exclaimed, "Great is the mystery of godliness," &c., (I Tim. 3:16). This illustrious event had long been predicted and promised.
The earliest intimation of divine mercy referred to it, "The seed of the woman," &c., (Gen 3:15). Jacob in his blessing on Judah's tribe had recorded, "The sceptre shall not," &c., (Gen. 49:10). Isaiah had introduced it with an exclamation of wonder, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive," &c., (Isa. 7:14), and anticipating it, he bursts forth, "Unto us a child is born," &c., (Isa. 9:6). Ages after ages rolled on, until at length, over the favored plains of Bethlehem angels hovered, and sung to the shepherds, "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)
Our text refers to that day, and the great event connected with it. Observe, the person sent—the period specified—the mission contemplated.
I. THE PERSON SENT. "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law."
1. The person was the Son of God. Angels are sons of God, so are all saints, but Christ is the only begotten of the Father. The sonship of the Redeemer has involved a controversy which commenced very early in the Christian era, and is not yet terminated. The doctrine clearly teaches the pre-existence of Christ. He was sent by and from the Father; he came down from heaven; he had glory with the Father before, &c. It is also evident that Christ essentially partakes of the nature of Deity; that he is really divine, of one essence and glory with the Father—the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person "that he thought it not robbery," &c., (Phil. 2:6). That "he is over all, God blessed forever," &c., (Rom. 9:5). But the Son of God was sent,
2. Enshrined in our nature. The divine glory had dwelt in the ancient tabernacle and temple, but now it became embodied—clothed with our humanity—allied by a most inexplicable union to our nature. Hence the peculiar phraseology of the text, "made of a woman," not born in the usual way, of a woman, but "made," "the seed of the woman." "A virgin shall conceive." Let us just read the inspired account, Luke 1:35. Woman, the first in the transgression, is thus signally honored in the divine conception of the world's Redeemer. Thus, too, the conception of Christ was holy, so that he was perfectly free from all moral defilement and human depravity.
3. He was subject to the divine law. "Made under the law."
a. As a man he was under the moral law; bound by those precepts of pure equity which are righteous, just, and good.
b. As a Jew, he was under the Levitical law, and bound to observe its rites, and offerings, and sacrifices.
c. As a surety for man he was obnoxious to the curse of the broken law, and exposed to all its inflictions of wrath. He was born under these, and lived to fulfill these, and thus became a curse for us although actually he knew no sin. As to the appearance of the Son of God, notice,
II. THE PERIOD SPECIFIED. "In the fulness of the time."
1. At the time selected in the exercise of God's infinite wisdom. All times and seasons were his; he knew, therefore, the best and most fitting period for the manifestation of his Son to take place.
2. At the time predicted in the oracles of truth. Observe the celebrated prophecy of Jacob, "The sceptre shall not depart," &c., (Gen. 49:10). Now just at the time of Christ's appearance the civil power and authority of the Jews were usurped by the Romans. They became subject to that great monarchy, and had not the power of putting criminals to death. So also, Daniel had declared that seventy weeks were determined, &c., (Dan. 9:24); so also in Haggai, "The glory of the latter house," &c., (Hag. 2:9). Now in that, Christ taught, wrought miracles, &c., and forty years afterwards it was destroyed.
3. At the most appropriate period, for giving prominence to the Saviour's advent, to the nations of the world in general. No other period so well adapted. Not before the flood—not in the patriarchal ages—not during the period of the barbarism which generally prevailed, except in Judea—not during the conflicts of the foul great monarchies, but in the learned Augustan age; when the world was at peace—when the evidences of Christianity could be examined by the learned of all countries—when the apostolic Jews could go forth through the known world, &c.—when the world had been prepared by the predictions, the rites, and ceremonies of the Jews, and by the general expectation which seemed universally to prevail—when all other systems had failed to make men wise, and holy, and happy. Observe in reference to the advent of Christ,
III. THE MISSION CONTEMPLATED.
1. "To redeem," &c. Enlargement here is impossible. Allow me to cite a few passages from the records of holy writ. "The Son of man came to seek," &c., (Luke 19:10); "God so loved the world," &c., (John 3:16); "This is a faithful saying," &c., (I Tim. 1:15); He came and "his own self bare our sins in his own body," &c., (I Pet. 2:24); "Suffered for sins, the just for the unjust," &c., (I Pet. 3:18).
2. To exalt us to an adopted sonship. By sin, we were outcasts, &c. Aliens under wrath, but being redeemed, we may return to God, and become his children, "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ," &c., (Rom. 8:17); by a believing reception of the Lord Jesus Christ, John 1:12.
1. Are we personally interested in the blessed advent of Christ?
2. Have we realized the blessing of adoption?
3. Are we looking for his second coming?