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
The fulness of time? What is Paul talking about? Is he saying Jesus came into the world nine months after conception? Maybe God was just waiting for the right time to jump in, like a small child timing the rope perfectly before entering a fast paced game of double dutch? Could God have been waiting for the political landscape to be just right, like Goldilocks choosing the right bowl of porridge? Is it possible that God sent His Son into the world because the world was finally ready linguistically, with essentially the entire known world being able to communicate together through the Greek language? Was the fulness of time a distinction regarding the immoral state of the world under the Roman Empire, so that God could no longer, in good conscience, wait to send His Son? Might it have been connected to the success Judaism had in propagating monotheism throughout the known world?
God is certainly not being passive in any of these ways before mentioned. God does not simply wait for an opportune time to act, He orders all things by His sovereign and gracious will. It is no news to the student of the Bible that God is in control of all things. However, it is true that the state of the world was absolutely in perfect position for the Father to send the Son, but it is vitally important to remember that God is not passive in the work or order of His creation. God had been providentially ordering world history for the express purpose of His redemptive work. When Paul speaks about the fulness of time, he is speaking about God’s ultimate divine appointment.
“The fulness of time” is not speaking about any other divine appointment than the manifestation of Jesus for the purpose of redeeming the world. Arthur Pink says, “From all eternity God designed that our world should be the stage on which He would display His manifold grace and wisdom in the redemption of lost sinners: … For the accomplishment of this glorious design God has governed the world from the beginning, and will continue it to the end.”
Before God created the world, the Holy Trinity decided to redeem a people. The “fulness of time” Paul speaks of, was a planned event. There was no plan B. God created with a plan and a purpose. The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith says, “It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; to be Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the Judge of all the world. To the Lord Jesus He gave, from all eternity, a people to be His seed. These, in time, would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus. (emphasis mine)” Paul was speaking about the reality of redemption, decided by the Holy Trinity before creation, had finally arrived. This reality was being promised, pictured, and prophesied since the first Adam failed to obey God in the garden. The time was full. God’s chosen moment to enter into humanity had come. The Father had sent the Son, “in the fulness of time, in the likeness of sinful flesh, “made under the law”, to accomplish the work of redemption according to the Father’s will, “to redeem them who are under the law.”