“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.”
I draw our attention to that phrase, “born of woman.” It’s an appropriate Scripture. This is the second Advent Sunday. Moreover, Cornerstone Bible Church loves children. And just this week a new child entered God’s good world and our church.
Paul in this epistle is teaching a vital truth: we are justified, or made righteous before God, by faith in Jesus Christ, not by keeping the law. Paul isn’t attacking the law. “[T]he law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). But the law wasn’t created to justify us before God. It’s like using a chainsaw to repair a flat tire. Nothing wrong with a chainsaw; it just wasn’t designed to fix a flat tire. In the same way, the law is God’s gift to man, but not his gift to justify sinners.
In verse 4 Paul is telling the Galatians how God designed to bring sinners into his family. Jesus was born to obey the law, in order to redeem everybody who was held captive by the law. The law is good, but when we break God’s law, it holds us captive to God’s justice.
God is a righteous God, and he must punish law-breaking. God made Jesus “under the law” to fulfill the law’s righteousness. Jesus then died on the Cross to suffer God’s righteous punishment as a substitute for us. In this way, we can be justified by trusting what Jesus Christ has done done for us and not what we can do. This is why we can (and must) be justified by faith, and not by keeping the law. If we could be justified by the law, Jesus wouldn’t be necessary. The Galatians were being seduced away from this vital truth. And Paul was correcting them.
A big part of this salvation plan is the full humanity of Jesus. This means Jesus isn’t just fully God. He’s also fully man. This isn’t a minor point. If Jesus wasn’t totally man, he couldn’t suffer the penalty for sin in the cross in our place. His death wouldn’t have been real, and if his death wasn’t real, we can’t be saved. This is why denying the full humanity of Jesus is a false doctrine.
That false doctrine began very early in the church. John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn. 7). Pay close attention: those who deny Jesus came in the flesh are deceives and antichrists.
What better way to teach that Jesus came in the flesh than to use that expression “born of woman”? We know that babies came from a union of man and woman and are developed inside the mother’s body. Jesus didn’t have a human father, but he did have a fully human mother (Mary). This fact assured he was fully human.
The baby comes out of the mother’s body and, if healthy, has all the physical characteristics of a human. We marvel at the newborn baby’s tiny feet and fingers and ears. We marvel at how quickly they grow. We’re marveling at their humanity, being made in God’s image.
Jesus, too, was born of woman. He was entirely human, though without sin. Only a man totally human could die and save us.
Implications of the Incarnation
I’m going briefly to touch on two important implications of Jesus’ being born of a woman, of his being totally human, that we dare not miss this Advent season.
The goodness of creation
First, Jesus’ total humanity highlights the goodness of creation. We know that God created the universe and pronounced it “good” (Gen. 1:31). Man sinned, and God cursed the ground for man’s sake (Gen. 3:17), but that didn’t make creation inherently bad. God’s created world is good.
We really need to ponder the implications of God’s good world.
The creation isn’t man’s problem. Sin is man’s problem. Wealth isn’t sinful. Filets aren’t sinful. Sex isn’t sinful. Alcohol isn’t sinful. Man is sinful.
If we think that sin inheres in creation, we’ll never get to the root of sin. That root is man’s evil heart. We’ll always be blaming something in creation: Demon alcohol. Or a woman’s beautiful body. Or tobacco. Or music. Or earthly possessions. But they aren’t the problem. Man’s sin is the problem. Creation is never the problem.
God gave us the world to enjoy. It’s a good world. It reveals God to us. It’s the world Jesus was born into — Jesus with a human body and brain and emotions and kidneys and a pancreas. All of creation is God’s good gift to man, and man should glorify God in all of these good gifts.
Jesus’ Advent in Bethlehem 2000 years ago stands as an eternal testimony to the great fact that God’s creation is good.
The sympathy of Jesus
Second, and finally, “being born of woman” reveals the sympathy our Lord has for us his people. We read in Hebrews 2:14-18 some of the most comforting words in all the Bible:
Since therefore the children [Christians] 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. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Let’s think about this. God created man so that the Father and Son and Spirit could share their own glorious communion (Jn. 17). God wanted more people to get in on the great fellowship that God shares.
But when sin entered the world, God couldn’t share that fellowship until he did two things. First, he had to redeem man to get him back into fellowship. Second, he had to fellowship with man in a world that was still under sin’s curse.
That’s what Jesus does. He came into our sin-scarred world. He become part of it (without sinning). He lived in the world we live in. So, he knows our grief and our loneliness and our weakness. He knows what it feels like to suffer persecution and poverty and pressures and slander and pain and weariness. He suffered all these so that God could commune with us as we are, not as we’ll be one day in a sinless eternity.
We need help in this sinful world. Big help. We can’t make it through this world on our own. We were never meant to. Jesus was made like us so that he could come to our aid:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15—16)
God pleads with us to plead with Jesus when we’re suffering from temptation and trials. I don’t care if it’s cancer or job loss or emotional weakness or financial pressures or unkindness by friends or family hardships: Jesus knows by experience — not simply abstractly, at a distance — what this is like, and he sympathizes and he longs for us to ask him to come to our aid. He lived and died in our world just so that he could aid us just when we need that aid.
When our ladies are enduring hardships peculiar to womanhood (like childbirth), we elders always ask women to pray for them. Why? We men can sympathize at a distance but only another woman who has endured this hardship can deeply empathize in prayer.
Similarly, Jesus empathizes with our pain and weakness and tribulations. He came into the world, “born of woman,” not just to die for our sins but to be a “merciful and faithful high priest.” He has mercy on us. He knows we’re weak. He’s here to be our advocate, to help us.
Therefore, how foolish we are not to take advantage of his help. We’re like the diabetic that carries insulin but refuses to use it during a diabetic spike. Jesus longs for us to rely on him when we’re failing and weakening.
These are two significant implications of Jesus’ being “born of woman.”
Let’s ponder them — and act on them — this Advent season.