The Who What When Where Why and How of Galatians 4:4-5
Philippe R. Sterling
At Christmas time most of our spiritual reflections focus on the birth announcements in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. However we can also consider Christmas according to the Apostle Paul. The Apostle reflects on the wonders of the birth of Jesus in Galatians 4:4-5:
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
These are the six key questions that journalists try to answer in their news articles to make sure that they have covered the whole story.
1. Who? (Agent) Who was involved?
2. What? (Act) What was done?
3. When? (Timing) When did this occur or was performed?
4. Where? (Scene) Where did this occur?
5. Why? (Purpose) Why was this done?
6. How? (Means) How was it done? How can it be described, or understood?
Rudyard Kipling memorialized these six questions in the opening of his poem The Elephant's Child:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
Asking the six journalistic questions of the text can help us to understand more fully the event of Christ coming into our world.
Note WHO. God the Father and God the Son!
Note WHAT. God the Father sent forth His Son.
God the Son had a commission from God the Father. We speak of the Great Commission, but here the Apostle Paul speaks of the Greatest Commission. In the matter of His coming, God the Father agreed to send God the Son, and the Son agreed to be sent by the Father.
Note WHERE. God the Father sent forth His Son into the world. This is not specifically stated but it is inferred in the text.
Note WHEN God sent His Son. Paul says, "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son." Some 2,000 years had passed since God gave His promise to Abraham. For some 1,300 years, Israel had struggled under God’s Law. Finally "the fullness of the time" or just the right time came for God to be revealed to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.
There are several factors that mark the "fullness" of God’s timing of sending Jesus into the world. First, Rome had conquered the known inhabited earth and established the pax Romana, the Roman peace, which provided societal stability. The Romans had also built an elaborate system of roads that would enable the Good News of the Son’s coming to be easily spread. Second, because of Alexander the Great, the Greek culture and language unified the world. The Good News could be spread and the NT written in primarily one language. Third, through their Babylonian exile, the Jews had once and for all forsaken idolatry. The Law had prepared many of them for their Messiah. They had established a synagogue system that would serve as a model for churches and springboards for spreading the Good News. God’s timing was perfect!
Note HOW God sent His Son. Jesus was "sent forth…born of a woman." He was God’s Son but also the son of His mother. He was human as well as divine. He was the God-Man. The virgin birth is implicit in the statement “born of a woman.” The statement also recalls the seed of the woman messianic promise of Genesis 3:15.
Jesus was not only "born of a woman" but He was "born under the Law." He was born to a Jewish mother under the Jewish Law. All His life He perfectly kept the Law of Moses. He said in Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." Jesus was the fully divine Son of God, the fully human Son of man, and the completely righteous keeper of God’s Law. Romans 8:3-4 says, "For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Note WHY God sent His Son. Paul says in verse 5, that Jesus came "to redeem those who were under the Law." "Redeem" simply means "to buy out" or "to buy back." It was used of slaves whose freedom had been purchased. Jesus paid the awful price for our sin by His death on the cross.
Not only was God’s purpose to "redeem" us but also that we might "receive the adoption as sons." "Adoption" means giving son-ship to someone who is not one’s natural son. In Paul’s day, often a wealthy man with no natural children would set free a young slave and then adopt him as his son. That’s what God did through Christ. We were slaves to sin and to the Law. God paid the price for our freedom through Jesus’ shed blood and then adopted us into His family. He transforms us from slaves into sons. Our adoption as sons makes it possible for us to become heirs and joint-heirs with Christ (see Romans 8:15-17).
The Apostle John also commented on the coming of the Word (Jesus Christ) into the world in John 1:10-12, He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, that is to those who believe in His name.
This is not a journalistic question. It is a pastoral question. What is your response?
God sent His Son to make us sons (children of God and heirs with Christ). All that we need to do to become children of God and obtain eternal life is to believe the promise of the Son, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life (John 6:47). Do you believe?