The Sovereign Timing of the Incarnation

Taigen Joos

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Paul writes in Galatians 4:4 that “when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son….”

The historic timing of Christ’s birth is fascinating to consider. What made the time full? What was going on in world history that made the timing of the incarnation right?

While there are, no doubt, many answers to that question, consider one fascinating point of world history around the time of Christ’s birth.

The famous Roman leader, Julius Caesar, became the dictator of Rome in 49 BC. A strong leader, he accomplished things in the kingdom that many would consider to be great. One interesting thing Julius did was make his great nephew Octavian his adopted son and successor upon his death.

If you are familiar with the Shakespearian play about him, you know that Julius Caesar was famously assassinated on the Ides of March—March 15, 44 BC. Two years later, the Roman Senate deified Julius Caesar, calling him “The Divine Julius.”

Julius Caesar’s presumed successor, Octavian, was eventually put on the throne in 29BC, and would be known as the first Roman Emperor. Being the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar (The Divine Julius), Octavian became known as “The Son of the Divine” or “The Son of God.” Eventually he would take the title, “Caesar Augustus,” the venerated and exalted Caesar. This is the same Caesar Augustus who ruled during the time of Christ’s birth.

Paulus Fabius Maximus was a Roman Senator at the end of the first century BC. He made the following pronouncement about Caesar Augustus. It reads, in part,

Whereas Providence that orders all our lives has in her display of concern and generosity in our behalf adorned our lives with the highest good: Augustus, whom she has filled with arete (virtue) for the benefit of humanity, and has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us [A Savior] who has made war to cease and who shall put everything [in peaceful] order; and whereas Caesar, [when he was manifest], transcended the expectations of [all who had anticipated the good news], not only by surpassing the benefits conferred by his predecessors but by leaving no expectation of surpassing him to those who would come after him, with the result that the birthday of our God signaled the beginning of Good News for the world because of him.”1Paulus Fabius Maximus – Letter of Paulus Fabius Maximus and Decrees by Asians Concerning the Provincial Calendar | Genius.

Essentially, this proclamation described August as “Savior,” one who would bring peace, and that his birth was the beginning of “good news.”

Isn’t this interesting, in light of the contents of what the angels told the shepherds in Luke 2:10–11 that the birth of Christ was “good news,” that this child was a “Savior, Christ the Lord,” and that this birth would bring “peace” on earth.

And isn’t it interesting that the angel told Mary before she conceived that the child produced in her would be called “The Son of God” (Luke 1:35)?

Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, was born during the reign of Augustus, who was called the son of God.

Jesus Christ, the Savior, was born during the reign of the human leader who was called a savior.

Jesus Christ’s birth was proclaimed by the angels as being good news of great joy for all people during the reign of the one whose birth was elevated as good news for the world.

Jesus Christ is the bringer of peace, even prophetically referred to as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), during the reign of him who was said to bring peace to the kingdom.

It is as if the almighty God was declaring that no attention should be given to the fraudulent titles given to Augustus, but that the true incarnate Son of God was born, the Savior, who brings with him the true good news for all mankind.

At a time in world history when arguably the most powerful man in the world was being elevated to a position he should not be, God sent forth his Son, the God/Man, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace!

This Christmas, give praise to our Sovereign God who sent forth His Son into the world, Jesus, our Savior, at just the right time!

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th’incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Charles Wesley
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