Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 27, 1960

"The Fulness Of The Time" --- (II.)

Jimmy Tuten, Jr., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

The former article on this subject was devoted to a discussion of the importance of the time of the appearance of Christ and the preparation that God made for that event. The God of providence made all forces work toward the purpose provided in "the fulness of the time." Having given attention to the contributions of the Romans to conditions favorable for the coming of Christ, we now proceed with the contributions of the Greeks.

The Contributions of the Greeks While Rome was giving the people a feeling of oneness, the Greeks were stimulating thought and inquiry. Sometimes we find these two combined into what is known as the "Greco-Roman" world, meaning that Rome ruled while the Greeks influenced. This influence through artistic and literary genius laid the groundwork of intellectual and moral association. The Greeks, by giving the world its first great teachers in Literature, Science, Philosophy, and Art, molded the intellectual lives of the people. This resulted in a general spirit of inquiry that was most essential to the spreading of the Gospel of Christ. New Testament Christianity is a divinely given system to be propagated by preaching and teaching. (Matt. 28:19-20) Teaching is essential to conversion. (John 6:44-45) Where there is no willingness to learn, no spirit of inquiry, little if anything can be accomplished. The general condition of the world at the appearance of Christ was favorable for the reception of the Gospel and was due largely to the intellectual influence of the Greeks.

Historians tell us that by the time Christ came into the world, Greek Philosophy had drifted into pantheism and that the national religions were shaken as a result of the independence of the nations being broken down by Rome. This brought about a feeling of emptiness and an inward yearning for which the people found no solution. The people of the Greco-Roman world were losing faith in the gods in which they had once trusted. Also there was a mingling of many diverse systems of religions with "motley varieties of ritual" which contributed to these conditions. The result was a disposition of skepticism that even "spread through the Roman educated classes." (G. P. Fisher, History of The Christian Church, p. 11)

Greek Philosophy itself did little to help the prevailing skepticism of the time. About the only thing that we can say for Philosophy is that it "kindled aspirations....the yearning for more intimate communion of mankind which only the Kingdom of God could meet." (Fisher, p. 12) Philosophy ended its quest for truth by the time Christ came, in that it had reached a stand-still; leaving man's mind uncertain, restless, and dissatisfied. Questions raised went unanswered. This vacuum could only be filled with the pristine Gospel of Christ, for "the world by its wisdom knew not God." (1 Cor. 1:21)

This spirit of intensified search for truth in illustrated in the events recorded in Acts 17. Athens, the chief city of human Philosophy, was filled with men who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."

The inquisitive attitude, so favorable to the reception of the Gospel was indeed a great contribution of the Greeks. But they made yet another great contribution. They gave the Mediterranean world a "common language." Words and ideas are inseparable, and it is apparent that the facility with which the gospel was to be proclaimed to all men, sustained an important dependence on the language itself. So that a language of prevailing influence was important to an overall evangelization of the world. Such a language was in existence when the "fulness of the time" came. This language was not the language of the orators or poets, nor of the "vulgar rabble," but it was the language of the common people, a language universally spoken by the masses. This "koine Greek" was the best known language of the time and was an excellent medium for the gospel message. (cf. Machen's New Testament Greek for Beginners, pp. 1-6) According to Machen, this common language prevailed from 300 B. C. to 500 A. D. He describes it as a "cosmopolitan" language and says that it "served its purpose in history well" for it "broke down the racial and linguistic barriers. And at one point in its life, it became sublime."

This Koine Greek is classified as a dead language today, since no one speaks this dialect in this age. The living languages have many words that change from decade to decade and had the New Testament been written in this type of language, the original message would have been lost for the most part. As it now stands it is embalmed and protected from the generations of men; the New Testament is locked in this tongue.

Thus, the Greeks contributed two essential factors to the "time appointed by the Father." They stimulated an intellectual awakening and gave the world a universal language through which to preach the gospel.

The Contributions Of The Jews

God had a chosen people and those people were the descendants of Abraham. (1 King 3:8; Gen. 12:2) Though the history of the Jews was disastrous religiously, they contributed much to the "fulness of the time." The nature of these contributions have caused some to maintain that "Judaism" was the "stalk on which the rose of Christianity" bloomed. The idea is that Judaism was a cradle and Christianity came out of this Jewish religion much like a shoot springs out of a trunk of a tree. (cf. A History of Christianity by K. S. Latourette, p. 13) However, Christianity is not the evolutionary outcrop of Judaism. The second covenant was a New Covenant, and the Old Covenant was nailed to the cross. (Eph. 2:14-15; Heb. 9:1-10, 25)

Unlike the Greeks and the Romans, the Jews did not seek to know God by the process of human reason. As God's chosen people they had been given a special revelation. They were the believers in the One God who revealed Himself through "The Law, The Psalms, and The Prophets." The system of Judaism, though divided into numerous sects, was founded upon monotheism. This idea of the One God, the True and the Living God, was kept alive by the Jews.

They also gave the world the Old Testament canon. From the time of Ezra and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Law became a strictly defined ritual and was guarded closely by those who accepted Judaism. The canon of the Old Testament is important to the appreciation and acceptance of Christ, because of the types, shadows and prophecies which pointed to the Messiah. Out of reverence for the sacred book, the synagogues sprang up and in turn were useful to the proclamation of the gospel. They provided the Apostles and the Christ an appropriate place to do much teaching.

The constant, living hope of the Messiah was a great contribution of the Jews. Through the prophets whom the Father sent unto them from time to time, the people's expectation of the Servant who would establish righteousness in all the earth was acute. (Isa. 49:1-6) They agreed that He would be the King who would reign under divine commission though they differed among themselves regarding the nature of the Kingdom and His work. When God sent His son into the world, the Jews were looking with excitement for the "Coming One" whose word would carry conviction and authority. Their expectation was intense when the time appointed arrived.


Christianity came forth in an age when three distinct lines of influence met. This triple thread of influence, like three rays of light, focused on an enlightened and civilized age. This era with its mixed population, different languages and interests, its intellectual enlightenment and failure of Philosophy, would not have allowed forgery to succeed. New Testament Christianity is no forged system of religion. The "fulness of the time" testifies to that fact.

God governed the affairs of man and made the necessary movements contribute to the "time appointed" that we might receive the "adoption of sons." When the "fulness of the time" came, God looked down and saw that the world as a whole was ready to accept this phase of His scheme of redemption. From a human standpoint, our Lord could not have come at a more fitting time.

There is yet another appointed time. The time when Christ shall appear a second time to judge the world in righteousness. Only Jehovah knows when this shall be. Maranatha!