The Fullness of Time

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One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the fact that you can walk through a mall or any other public space and hear people singing and proclaiming the Lordship of Christ and the truths of the gospel.
Truths that were once commonly known and understood in our land are now only heard in December.
Joy to the earth, the savior reigns, let men their songs employ.
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name, all oppression shall cease.
Jesus, to thee be all glory given. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
Mary did you know
Don’t you wish these people knew what they were singing? Don’t you wish they believed what they were singing?
There is so much beauty and depth and wisdom in the truths of the incarnation
This morning, as we study our text, Paul will help us to understand better these truths.
Galatians 4:1–7 “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Thesis: We who were once slaves are now adopted sons and daughters through the incarnation of Christ


Slavery vv. 1-3
Incarnation vv. 4-5
Adoption vv. 5-7


Paul begins this section of his letter by giving an analogy to further illustrate the extended point that he is making through chapters 3 and 4.
His analogy, his language, and his flow of thought are somewhat complex, so I would ask you to put on your listening ears and try to follow me as I follow Paul.
in vv. 1-2 He compares an heir who is still of the minority age, a child, to a slave.
Practically speaking, they are the same.
Though the child technically owns the estate, he has no freedom and no ability to make decisions over the estate or even over his own person. He is given a guardian and managers to make decisions for him.
In regards to his freedom, a child is a slave.
Paul goes on to say that this is true of us by way of analogy.
Mankind, in our infancy, before the coming of Christ, we were slaves to, what Paul calls, the elementary principles of the World. Until the fulness of time.
We were, in a previous age, immature, and enslaved.
Slaves to what? “elementary principles of the World”
Originally, the greek word (στοιχεῖα) simply referred to the basics, the ABC’s or the αβγ’s
But it began to take on deeper dimensions by the time that Paul used it in his letter to the Galatians.
Many Greek writers used it to refer to the basic elements like fire, water, earth, and air and sometimes to the spiritual powers and deities that controlled them.

Slavery to this World

τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου

Paul himself uses this phrase multiple times throughout his letters

In Col. 2:20 Paul seems to be using the phrase in reference to Mosaic and OT laws and regulations
In Col. 2:8 He is referring to false and worldly ideologies and philosophies
In Gal. 4:8-9, just 2 verses below our passage, He seems to be referring to pagan gods and demons. Ungodly spiritual forces in the World.
But he always speaks of being enslaved, being captive, or submitting to these elementary principles.
I think in our text he is using it in reference both to the Law of God, especially as it was given in Moses, but also to spiritual demonic forces.
And largely because of the context

Slavery to Law

Galatians 3:23
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
In Chapter 3:23 Paul says that we were held captive and imprisoned under the law.
And in the same chain of thought he says we were likewise enslaved to elementary principles in 4:3
And in v. 5 Christ redeems those who were under the law. That is, under the dominion or possession of the Law.
There is no doubt that Paul is referring to the Law when he speaks of elementary principles of the world.
In the context of this letter, Paul is warning the Galatian Christians to not be led astray by false teachers who were telling them to submit to the law of Moses in order to be justified before God.
He says in 5:1 do not submit yourselves to the yoke of slavery.
Do not go back to the OC. Do not return to Moses. Because therein is slavery
The law is enslaving.

The Law of Moses was Given for a Purpose

If the law is bondage, why did God give it?
Why did God give ancient Israel laws for food, and kings, and priests, and sacrifices, and cleanness in the OT?
Galatians 3:19“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made,

To Restrain sin

It was added because of transgressions. In order to restrain people from committing greater transgressions

To Instruct Concerning God’s Righteousness

It was added because of transgressions to show that they are not in keeping with the righteousness of God

To Reveal the One who would come to redeem from the Law

It was added because of transgressions in order to reveal the one who would do away with those transgressions and bring forgiveness.

To Preserve the Holy Line and the Promised Seed

It was given until the promised offspring should come
The one promised to Eve, The promised descendent of Abraham, the promised descendent of David.
It kept the holy people of God intact and distinct until One should come from them that would bless all the nations of the Earth.

The Law was Never Given to Justify

It should be seen that these 4 purposes of the Law terminate, or come to an end when the Offspring comes.
Well, now the offspring has come and there is now no longer any obligation to submit to that Old Law.

Even more, the Galatians were being tempted to submit to all the OC laws in order to be justified.

We see that the Law was given for these four purposes
To restrain sin. To instruct concerning the righteousness of God. To reveal the coming Messiah. To preserve the holy Seed.
But it was never given for salvation.
The Galatians were being told that in order to be righteous before God, they needed to be circumcised.
They needed to celebrate passover’s and OC holy feast days.
They needed to refrain from eating foods that were deemed unclean under the Mosaic dispensation.
If they failed to do these things, they were told that they would have no righteous standing before God.
But the law was never given to justify. This was never its purpose.
Paul emphatically states in 3:11, it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.
And even more forcefully, Galatians 2:16 “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
The only way that one can be right with God is through faith in Jesus.
No good works, no obedience to law, whether God’s or man’s, will justify.
Not that there is anything wrong with or deficient in the law itself. The Law is good.
But we have a total inability to keep it. On our best days we are lawbreakers.
So when law is treated as though it is a guide to salvation, when it is seen as a means to achieve righteousness, it becomes a slave driver.
It forces us into hard labor with no rest because we can never do enough. We don’t have it in us to do the works required to gain righteousness.
Treating law as a means to justification is like turning it into a hamster wheel. Always running faster and faster but never catching up.
Paul says that we were children under this guardian, we were slaves under the dominion of the law.

Slavery to Demonic Forces

But, when Paul speaks of being enslaved to the elementary principles of the World, I think he means more than just the law of God.
Again, we saw in the next few verses that Paul uses this same phrase to refer to demonic spiritual powers.
Galatians 4:8–9 “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”
Paul, speaking to Gentile Galatians, is telling them to not return to those old gods, those worthless elementary principles. Those old gods that represented the natural world and the natural elements.
Gods of rain and fertility and war and the Sun. Jupiter, Vulcan, Baal. Those beings that are, by nature, not gods.
When he says in v. 3 that we were enslaved to them, he is saying that were were enslaved to these demonic spiritual forces that wielded the law as an instrument of bondage to this world.
They used it even amongst the Jewish people to convince them that justification doesn’t come by faith but rather by perfect obedience.
And in so doing, they were demonically bound to the things of this world.
Because the doctrine of justification by works is a worldly ideology.
It is present in every false religion.
There is nothing Christian or spiritual about thinking that we gain a good standing before God because of our good deeds. Or that obedience to the law is how one is saved.
That is not a heavenly doctrine, it is an elementary principle of this world.

One of the most effective tools that Satan has in exercising dominion over men is the Law

Even though the law is good and comes from God, when it is used contrary to its purpose, it becomes a curse.
Satan wields the Law of God as a weapon by convincing us that we can be righteous if we only work hard enough
And so as we submit to the heavy yoke of the law, we are bound in slavery to the god of this world and the elementary principles of this world
We are kept from freedom in Christ because Satan has convinced us that we can do it on our own and we don’t actually need Christ’s grace
But righteousness does not come through works of the Law
It comes through faith alone in Christ alone

The Need for Deliverance

Paul says that we were enslaved
To the Law
To the Elementary Principles of this World
To our sin. Incapable of ceasing it
To Satan Himself
Always working, never improving. Always seeking righteousness, never gaining it. Running after salvation, perpetually damned.


We needed deliverance and freedom.
So God looked on us in compassion and devised a method of our liberation whereby we would be set free from the law and set free from our sin which brought the condemnation of the law.
God accomplished this by taking upon Himself human flesh and coming into this world to be our substitute.
This is the incarnation. And this is what we celebrate during the Christmas season.
We were slaves, But when the fullness of time came…

The Fulness of Time v.4

God determined that the age of man’s immaturity had gone on long enough when he sent His son into the World
So, Jesus did not come when the time was just right. Rather, the coming of the Christ made it the fullness of time.

God Sent Forth His Son v. 4

True Divinity

We see here a testimony to the divinity of the Son. That is, He preexisted His birth in Bethlehem. He was before His birth into this world.
Indeed Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.””
One could forgive Jesus His poor grammar
The Son of God is eternal as the Father is eternal because the Son is God just as the Father is God.
A few weeks ago Pastor Tom spoke of this as he preached from John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus is much more than a mere man. He is God incarnate
He is God Himself, compassionate and full of grace, condescending to become one of us in order to redeem us.

Born of a Woman v.4

And we see that he truly became one of us.

True Humanity

He was born of a woman. That is, he had human parentage and was therefore a human being.
He, like us had flesh and blood. He had a human intellect, a human will, human emotions, and human limitations.
He, God, became man. He humbled Himself. He became lowly in nature, vulnerable as an infant, and subject to pain and temptation.
How many of you here would give up your U.S. citizenship to become a citizen of Afghanistan?
You would not because you would lose privileges and gain suffering. It would be quite a step down.
The Son gave up the citizenship of heaven to become a citizen of Earth. God, the immortal one, became mortal. The Creator Himself became a creature. Or, as Paul says in Philippians, he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And He did this all by His own free choice to rescue those who were enslaved to the elementary principles of the World. To redeem those under the law.
It is interesting that Paul says that Christ was born of a woman here. His point is twofold:
First, He was born of a woman, but He was not born of a man. That is, He had no human Father.
Joseph was His earthly father
This is an acknowledgement of the virgin birth. The Spirit overcame the virgin Mary and she conceived and gave birth to the Messiah.
Second, we see in these words an ancient prophesy fulfilled. Perhaps the most ancient of all prophesies.
Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.””
The Son is born of a woman. He is not just the son of Mary, but He is the descendent of Eve
He is that seed of the woman who would crush the serpent. The One for whom the faithful have looked for millennia.
In the fullness of time the divine Son of God was born of a woman and became a man, fulfilling the gospel promise given to Adam and Eve.

Born Under the Law

But He was not merely born of a woman. He was also born under the law.
That is, he was subjected to the law as a standard of righteousness. He, like us, was required to live a perfectly righteous life according to God’s law.
The only way for God to deem a person righteous and worthy is if they have obeyed the His law perfectly.
That is our curse, because since the fall, all mankind has been completely incapable of performing such a thing.
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
But the Son, becoming a man, and being born under the law like us, perfectly fulfilled that law. He was obedient in every instance and at every point.
He was morally and legally perfect under the watchful gaze of God’s perfect justice
Since Adam, the very first man, no man was able to do such a thing.
But now, finally, in the fullness of time, a man has fulfilled all righteousness and has kept the law perfectly.
And He has done this for us. In our place.

He became one of us

Paul’s point here is that He became one of us in order to save us.
He was born of a woman. He became a man like us.
He was born under the law as we were under the law.
And He has done this so that he could do that which were were required to do yet could not do.
As a man, He obeyed the law for mankind so that we could be considered righteous.
But also, as a man under the law, He suffered the curses of the Law that we could not bear.

Redeemed us From the Law by Becoming a Curse for Us

Ga 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Since we all mankind are lawbreakers, all mankind deserve the punishment and the curse that the Law demands.
We deserved infinite torment for our transgressions against an infinitely good God.
Yet Christ, on the cross, took that curse upon Himself for our sakes.
It was here that He redeemed us.
Redemption is a purchase. and the currency He put forward to purchase us from our slave masters was His own blood.
As we say, he died the death that we deserved so that we might go free.
In Christ we are counted as dead. As Romans 6 states
A dead slave is a free slave. But as Christ did not stay dead, so neither have we. We are free, and we are alive.
The Incarnation was how the great problem of redemption was solved.
It took death to purchase us. It took blood to redeem us. And God, determining that He would save us has no blood and He cannot die.
So how would He do that which He had determined to do?
The only way He could save us was by clothing Himself in mortality.
By becoming incarnate.
Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
God became one of us. He became flesh and blood under the law.
God the Son entered into our prison so that we could go free.
He bore our chains to purchase our liberty.
The incarnation was the only way that God could redeem mankind from our lifelong slavery.


But not only are we free from elementary principles of the World.
Not only are we free from the curse of the Law
Not only are we free from sin.
We are heirs. We are children. We are adopted.
The One who is God’s Son by nature came to make us sons by adoption.

Here we see A great Trinitarian work

Galatians 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””
The Father sent the Son to redeem us and the Father and the Son have sent the Spirit into our hearts
The Son came into the World to accomplish our salvation in an objective sense
The Spirit has come into our hearts to accomplish our salvation subjectively

The Sending of the Spirit

We have been made sons by adoption, and so the Spirit of the Son is sent into our hearts

Into the Heart

The Seat of the will, intellect, and affections
The inner man
And the Spirit changes all of these internal realities.
Causing our minds to believe Our Father’s Words
Enabling our wills to submit to our Father’s will
Freeing us to love what is most lovely
Our adoption is more than a mere legal status. It changes who we are in our inner being

Crying Abba, Father

And it is here that the spirit cries out to us and to God that we are children of God
The Spirit of Christ in us Speaking the Words of Christ our brother to our Father
It is a perpetual assurance to us of who’s children we are
If God is our Father, and if His spirit cries to Him that He is our Father, then how could He not hear our prayers and grant our requests?

No longer a slave, an Heir

V. 7 says that we are no longer slaves, we are heirs
That is, we have the full benefits of sonship


All the promises of God
Eternal life
Dominion with Christ
An Everlasting City whose builder and maker is God
Eternal Joy in the presence of God the Great Good One


The Father loves us as He loves the Son. Infinitely
He will honor us as He honors the Son.
We have an intimacy with God as our Father, not some distant frowning Creator


Because He loves us as Sons in His Son, He accepts us
When we sin, it is so tempting to fall again under a yoke of slavery. To think that we relate to God on the basis of our obedience to the law
And when we fail we think we’ve lost God’s love. And that we need to somehow regain it by making it up with good works.
But it will never happen. It can never happen.
We have been adopted by God into His family through His Son. And If God the Father cannot cease to love His only Begotten Son, He will never cease to love His adopted Sons


Furthermore, we will always have the care of our Father.
No matter our circumstances, our trials, our sufferings, our temptations, Our Father will care for us.
He will not allow us to be overcome. He will protect us from all evils
This freedom is not given to everyone. Only to those who receive it
John 1:12–13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”


This is what the incarnation means
We were slaves, But God has sent His Son into the World to become one of us
To redeem us from the Law and to bring us into His family
Not as slaves, but as sons
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