In Galatians chapter 4, Saint Paul says, “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.” (ESV)
In those God-inspired words Saint Paul talks to those who might be tempted to see Jesus as just some purveyor of positive thoughts who shone for a few years in a backwater province of Rome. Saint Paul’s words explain that the truth is the exact opposite. “But when the fullness of time had come…” tells us that everything about Jesus and His mission had been planned. He came to a very specific time, from very specific family line, and worked His entire life for one very specific task: our salvation. God worked through sinful people to bring mankind to that exact spot in history so that His sinless Son could save all humanity.
That’s what we read about all last year. The plan of salvation began in Genesis when the human race fell into sin and God promised a Savior. That Savior was later prophesied to come from Abraham’s line. That promise seemed threatened when Abraham’s great-grandchildren ended up becoming slaves in Egypt; but even in slavery Scripture shows that God was working. He preserved His people, and His plan, through 400 years of captivity. Then when the time was right He used Moses to free the Israelites and deliver them to the promised land.
In that Promised Land, God’s people turned their back on Him over and over again although He never turned His back on them. Even when He punished them, the main goal was always to bring them back to faith in Him. The Bible shares examples, such as the time when Israel ignored God’s final warnings and He sent them into exile. Amazingly, God still remembered His people and repeated His promise to send a Savior through them. Every single event, and person that we read about in the Old Testament shows how God moved His plan precisely to the exact place where it would accomplish His purposes.
With that in mind, and as we begin the New Testament, it is important for us to know that over 400 years have come and gone since we finished the book of Nehemiah back in May. God has been silent during those years while, on the world’s stage, great leaders and monstrous armies had come and in their passing, had left a changed world in their wake. Alexander the Great was the first to conquer most of the known world. The scope of his conquest made Greek culture and language the common denominator of people all over the Mediterranean. For a while a Jewish revolt led by the Maccabee family ruled the area. Their reign was cut short however when the great Roman general, Pompeii, swept through the region and brought Jerusalem and all of the Eastern Mediterranean under Roman rule.
With God being silent and foreign nations using Israel as their super highway, it might have seemed as if God had forgotten His people, or at the very least forgotten His plan of salvation, but nothing could have been further from the truth. As we pick up the Biblical narrative, God’s word once again speaks about His Son’s entrance into this world. It is important to realize that this is the moment all of the Old Testament had been moving toward. For many reasons God chose this exact time to fulfill His plan. Among those reasons would be listed: this was a time when a majority of the known world was linked by a common language because of Alexander the Great; it was a time when the Empire of Rome had created peace throughout the Mediterranean; it was a time when Roman roads and trade routes criss-crossed the world from Spain to China and from Russia to Africa. Language, roads and routes that would soon allow the Gospel to be exported to the four-corners of the earth.
So, as you begin reading the historical account of our Savior’s life and work, know that it did not happen in a vacuum. All of human history and especially the accounts we read about in the Old Testament, have led up to Christ’s coming. God worked throughout history to save His people through His Son, which is why we read: “when the fullness of time had come.”