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I hang around the Apostle Paul’s adoption texts quite a bit (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:4-6; Romans 8:15, 23). There’s rarely a day when I’m not reflecting or thinking upon them for at least a portion of my day. They are amazing texts, the depths of which will take an eternity to fully comprehend.

Lately, I’ve been giving more thought to the phrase “born of woman” in Galatians 4:4-6. When God sent His Son into the world, He sent him born of woman. I don’t know about you, but born of a woman is one of those phrases that my eyes can just fly right over without a second look, and that’s very unfortunate.

Here’s why. To say that I, Dan Cruver, was “born of woman” is no big deal whatsoever. Six billion other earth-dwellers can lay claim to that very same “distinction”. But to say that the eternal Son was “born of woman” is quite the deal: God does not become man (without ceasing to be eternal God, mind you) without the created order being radically changed, forever. For example, the radical change promised in Romans 8:23 would be an impossibility without events of John 1:1-3, 14 (especially note the event spoken of in verse 14). God’s becoming man without ceasing to be God brought tangible life-transforming hope into the world. So, with the world-changing reality of the incarnation in mind, I’ve decided to make a practice of giving “born of woman” consistent sustained looks by asking and answering questions like this one:

What’s ‘born of woman’ really have to do with me—here, today, now and every tomorrow?

If the incarnation of the eternal Son is world-changing, shouldn’t it have an effect upon my life—today, tomorrow and everyday following? Yes, and profoundly so.

For one thing, the fact that the eternal Son became man must mean that we should understand Jesus’ life as immeasurably more significant than just an example to follow, as important as imitating Jesus is for the Christian. For God to become man surely means that he came to be much more than an example for us to follow.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that Jesus’ life of love and service should not serve as an example for us to imitate. Far from it. What I am saying, though, is that the incarnation of the Son of God has in-the-beginning-like significance that goes far beyond any exemplary value Jesus’ life of love and service has. In other words, more was happening when the Son of God became man than when God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing in the beginning. The incarnation is the biggest thing that ever happened; even bigger than the creation of all things in the beginning! Now that’s something to ponder, isn’t it?

Here’s one way that the happening in the incarnation is bigger than what happened in Genesis 1. Consider what I wrote in Reclaiming Adoption: “As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would ultimately do in the last day, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection life to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out” (Reclaiming Adoption, p 45). Creation out of nothing in the beginning can’t hold a candle to what happened in the incarnation.

The more we understand what is meant by the phrase “born of woman”, the more we will realize that Jesus is our Redeemer and Renewer before he is our example to follow. As a matter of fact, we will only be able to imitate his life when we look at it through the lens of his incarnate work. Think of it this way: Jesus as our Redeemer and Renewer is the oxygen we breathe and the heart that pumps blood through our spiritual veins enabling us to follow his example. Seeing Jesus’ life primarily as an example to follow will crush us. If we see Jesus primarily as our example, we lose the oxygen and blood flow we need to follow him. In reality, without the incarnate Son it is impossible to imitate his life of service and love. Who of us can even begin to love others the way he loved?

What does this mean for the evangelical orphan care movement? It means that more orphans will be cared for as we focus more on the importance and significance of the incarnation for us—here, today, now and every tomorrow. In the beginning creation came into being by the Word of God. New Creation, and all the self-sacrificial and loving obedience to be found within it, came into being when the Word became flesh. We visit orphans because God has first visited us in Jesus. And the redemptive visitation of God in Christ is what empowers and sustains our visitation of orphans.

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