4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
The Fullness of Time
by Doug Weaver, Ph.D.
Galatians isn’t a book about Jesus’ nativity, but chapter 4 is included in Advent readings. It’s a powerful concise statement about the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of a woman to come and redeem people from sin. Christmas tied to Easter. What has fascinated many is that the passage says that Jesus was born in the “fullness of time.”
Growing up, this was explained to me that first century Palestine was the right time and the right place in history for the nativity. This perfect timing included: it was an era of Roman peace, an era of a common Greek culture and language (koine Greek) and the apex of Jewish preparation (Old Testament messianic prophecies). The textbook answer might be right, of course, though some commentators remind us that Asia, Africa, and the Americas were on the map 2,000 years ago, and we are prone to Eurocentric answers without nuance. That’s a fun discussion for another day. Come take a Scriptures class with my colleagues.
I mention the textbook answer because our tendency often is to find security in applying the concept of “the fullness of time” (I’d call it perfect timing) to much in history or much in our personal lives. We like to know it happened that way for a reason. When I interviewed for my first part-time church position, the committee said “you don’t have any experience but we think you will make a fine minister of music/youth.” Being a music major for one semester had finally come in handy! That was perfect timing for me, the newlywed. But other things haven’t had that perfect timing feel. When my dad died with cancer forty years ago, I didn’t then (and still don’t) think the timing was God’s way of saving backsliders in our church—despite what a friend predicted to me. I didn’t think it perfect (or slightly good) timing to feel the fires of religious fundamentalism at a former school—in the name of God. And for the last decade-plus, I’d not call the time I’ve spent at MD Anderson in Houston good timing (alert: I am healthy now, but still go there!).
We often make Christmas Day, or the Advent season, a time that has to be just perfect. We try to create the perfect worship experience, the perfect music, the perfect tree, the perfect family gathering. I love those things as you do (especially after last year’s disaster when my grandson from Georgia got covid and we shared the love); But, what Advent tells me is that while the timing of life’s events are good and bad, the Incarnation happened. God becoming flesh makes it the “fullness of time” for us (to paraphrase a commentator); not the other way around. That helps me. Advent, God-in-Christ, coming to you, in good times or in tough times or in bad times, that is what gives life, sustains life, and gives hope of abundant life, now and for tomorrow.
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Doug Weaver, Ph.D.
Doug Weaver, Ph.D., has been at Baylor University since 2003 and is a tenured full professor in the Department of Religion. He is a member of the Department's Historical Studies area, and his current research and teaching focus on Baptist history and Pentecostalism. Dr. Weaver teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He offers graduate seminars, supervises doctoral students and gives attention to an introductory undergraduate Christian heritage course. Dr. Weaver is part of the Department's administrative team with his service as Interim Department Chair.
In fall 2019, Baylor University Press published his book, Baptists and the Holy Spirit: The Contested History with the Holiness-Pentecostal-Charismatic Traditions. He has also co-authored a book with Aaron Weaver, Different and Distinctive But Nevertheless Baptist. A History of Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, MS (Mercer University Press, 2018). Before coming to Baylor, Dr. Weaver taught and was educated at academic institutions in the Baptist tradition. He is a member of Calvary Baptist Church and has pastoral experience. Dr. Weaver and his wife, Pat, have two children and five grandchildren.