GALATIANS 4:4,5

Brother Beebe: I have never troubled you for your views on any passage of scripture; but I will now ask your views on Galatians 4:4,5. There we read that Christ was made under the law to redeem them that were under the law. Now I wish to know if the church of God with all the posterity of Adam fell under the law in the same sense spoken of in the text; or whether the apostle is here only speaking of the church of God? May the Lord spare you long to wield the sword of the Lord and of Gideon, and may you never shun to declare all the counsel of God is my prayer.

Jacob Richards, Sr.
Grant County, Ia.
September 23, 1866.

Reply: The words proposed for consideration are, “But when the fullness 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.”

We understand the apostle to be addressing the church of God exclusively. All the epistles are addressed to the people of God, or churches of Christ, and none to the world. As the law and prophets were all given to the people of Israel under the old dispensation, so the ministry of the gospel is exclusively addressed to the spiritual Israel under the gospel dispensation.

Neither the church nor the posterity of Adam came under the law by the fall; but all came under its penalty by disobedience of the law under which they were created. If man had not been under the law of God he could not have fallen at all; for sin is the transgression of the law. If Adam and his posterity had been created (as some contend)free agents to act out unrestrained the freedom of their own will, they could not be condemned for so acting. But the very fact of their falling from a state of innocence into sin and under condemnation and wrath proves that they were not free agents, but were held amenable to the law of God under which they existed before their fall. Neither did Christ come under the law by a fall, but was made under the law by being made flesh, or by his incarnation by which he was legally identified with his members whom he came to redeem. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” In doing this he was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

It is true that all the human family sinned in Adam, and fell under the condemnation of the law of God, but it is not true that Christ identified himself with all mankind in his assumption of flesh; but we are told that he took on him the seed of Abraham, not Adam. Abraham was called out from his kindred, and from all the families of the earth, made the father of the faithful; and his seed, the faithful, were not reckoned in the fleshly descendants of Abraham for the children of the flesh, even of Abraham, “That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Romans 9:8).” “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).” In the passage before referred to in Hebrews 2:14, we learn that the flesh which Christ took on him was the same that his children are partakers of. And of these children he said in verse 13 of the same chapter, “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me (Hebrews 2:13).” These children, which were the special gift of God to Christ, are partakers of flesh and blood, and he, in being made flesh, took part of the same. And this assumption of their flesh was for the suffering of death, and to bring many sons unto glory.

Let us examine our text: “But when the fullness of time was come.” The fullness of what time? In the context we are told that in this subject the children which God had given to Christ are Abraham’s seed, in the true meaning of the type, and that these children, until an appointed time, differed nothing from servants, though joint heirs with Christ himself; but were under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father. At that appointed time they should attain their majority, or become of age. At that time (the fullness of the time appointed of the Father), “God sent forth his Son.” In whom was secured their life, their sonship, their relation to God as children, in whom they were chosen, sanctified, or set apart, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love (Ephesians 1:3-4).” That his advent was delayed until the fullness of the time was come shows that there was a purpose of God going before; that he came as it was written (or decreed) of him in the volume of the book. It was not a mere adventure, experiment, or uncertain enterprise, but it was the fulfillment of a promise which God, that cannot lie, had promised before the world began. It could not be hurried on prematurely; the time must be fulfilled, and not a moment lost or wasted. God sent him forth; “Made of a woman.” Not only in that by a miraculous conception he was born of a virgin; but in full harmony with the declaration of God, as the seed of a woman, that should bruise the serpent’s head. The church of God is called a woman, and of her it is said, “For thy Maker is thy Husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” The name, or title, woman, was given to Eve because of its signification. “She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of the man.” As Adam is the figure of him that was to come, so Eve was a figure of the church. As such, Christ has recognized her as the bone of his bones, and as the flesh of his flesh; and as having her origin, her creation and spiritual existence in him before she was ever seen coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband; and she is called woman to signify that her life and immortality are hidden with Christ in God. To the church the promise was made that “a woman shall compass a man.” “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11:26).” “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren (Matthew 12:49)!” “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.” From these, with many other scriptures, we learn that while in Christ all his members are made partakers of the divine nature (see II Peter 1:4). So Christ, in being made of a woman, has taken part of the flesh of which his children are partakers; and in our flesh he has taken on him our infirmities; and has so identified himself with his children in their flesh; as to be legally held responsible for their offenses; and made to bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and have the chastisement of our peace laid upon him, so that with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4,5). But to pass:

In being made of a woman, he was necessarily made under the law that the woman was under. Had he taken on him the nature of angels, that nature would not have brought him under any other than the law which holds dominion over angels; but in becoming the seed of the woman, the church, he becomes a subject of the law which she was under in the flesh of which she was a partaker; for “he likewise himself also took part of the same.” In doing this, he took on him the form of a servant, learned obedience, and became obedient unto death.

All this was, as our text assures us, “to redeem them that were under the law, that we (the children) might receive the adoption of sons.” We, though sons of God, as created and existing in Christ, sons in his sonship, being secured in him as his seed; that should serve him, and be counted to the Lord for a generation (Psalm 22:30), yet being partakers of flesh and blood, in our relation to the earthly Adam, differed nothing in our fleshly relation from servants, were by nature children of wrath even as others. His advent was to save his people from their sins; and he took part of our flesh, for the suffering of death, that he might bear our sins in his own body on the tree, and put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, being put to death in that flesh, and quickened by the spirit of immortality in which he embodied and represented us in his Sonship, before the mountains were brought forth or ever the earth was. In this mediatorial work he has been perfectly successful. By one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified, or set apart; and we are freely justified, through the redemption that is in him. Now the impediment is removed; the fullness of the time of our minority has elapsed; and the Spirit of adoption is given, and the redeemed are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. No more servants under the law, but as sons in union with the risen Jesus, are we admitted into the family of God, and under law to Christ; whom God hath raised from the dead, and exalted far above all principalities and powers, and given him to be the head over all things to the church which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

Middletown, N.Y.
November 1, 1866.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 405 - 408