The Why and What of The Virgin Birth
Tomorrow is Christmas, a day traditionally set aside by Christians to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, Christmas is very much commercialized these days. And, that’s not all bad. Who does not like getting presents, having a day off, eating too much, and spending time with family? But, as Christians, we are offered an extraordinary day in which to remember the second person of the Trinity coming and taking on human flesh in order to redeem a people to God. We should remember and celebrate that every day, and especially on the Lord’s Day each week. There is, though, one point of Christ’s life I want us to zero in on here. From the inception of the Christian church, believers have confessed both the reality of the virgin birth and its necessity to the Christian faith. The doctrine is one of the most primitive doctrinal confessions of the church. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we maybe have gone our entire Christian walk confessing this truth without a proper grasp of its importance. So, why do we believe in the virgin birth, and what makes it so important to the very fabric of Christianity?
Why Do We Believe?
- The Bible teaches the virgin birth.
This one sounds like a no brainer, but we cannot pass it by. As Christians we believe that the Bible is true and trustworthy, and that it contains no error in what it teaches.
- Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
- Matthew 1:18, 20: “ Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit…. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
- Luke 1:34, 35: “And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
Why do we believe in the virgin birth? Because God has revealed it in His word.
- The Christian church has confessed the virgin birth since the beginning.
What the church has confessed and believed for the last 2000+ years is important. Christians have for a long time examined the scriptures and systematized certain doctrines believed to be important to the church. Often, their matter of relative priority varies. All doctrine is important, but not all doctrinal convictions have the same priority as others. One example list, so to speak, of theological priorities in the early church are found in The Apostles Creed; this creed was produced by the early church as a summary of the Apostles teaching. Here are lines 3-5:
“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.”
If the virgin birth has mattered to the Christian church for this long, it should matter to us.
What Makes The Virgin Birth Important?
- The virgin birth is a sign.
Isaiah 7:14 says: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” We all expect signs to give us some indication of where we are headed. In the Bible, God both gave signs and promised signs of what He was doing and where He was leading. The virgin birth is a sign the God was doing something; it was a sign of the Lord’s presence and blessing; it was a sign that the Lord was not done yet; it was a sign that the Lord was going to do something that mankind was not capable of doing. The virgin birth was a sign that the Lord Himself would dwell with man and redeem His people from their sins:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’”
- The virgin birth and Christ’s two natures.
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and by no means had a natural father. The mechanics of the virgin birth is simply a divine mystery that will not be solved on this side of glory. We do know this from the Gospel of Luke: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” The conception of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary was a work of God. This means two things. First, the Son of God took on human flesh and was truly man. This is of the utmost importance. Mankind needed one who was like himself in order to be saved. This is one reason “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Christ took on our nature in order to save us. Without the virgin birth we could not conceive of Christ having a real human nature. Second, the Son of God came as God in the flesh. Jesus Christ was truly God. No mere man could satisfy the Lord’s holy, righteous, and just requirements for sin. Jesus Christ was no mere prophet, and He certainly was not merely man. He was God, the second person of the Trinity come to save His people from their sins. But, if Jesus’s birth were the product of normal human relations, then He could not have been divine. The virgin birth is necessary in order to maintain Christ’s divine nature. In the virgin birth of Christ, we see revealed one who has two natures and was truly God and truly man.
- The Virgin Birth and Christ’s Sinlessness
Every human being born of natural birth is born under Adam and inherits sin, both the guilt and pollution of sin. Sin is guilt in that we are breakers of God’s law and deserving of God’s judgment. Sin is pollution in that it corrupts the entire person. Sinful humanity is by nature haters of God. We are born in sin. Part of this reality has to do with the idea of headship. All of humanity exists under its head Adam (Romans 5:12-14), unless the Lord does miraculous saving work and puts us under a new head, a new representative. Adam failed to represent humanity before God in the garden. So, who can represent sinful people before a righteous God? Jesus Christ came as the God-man to be the new representative for a saved people (Romans 5:15-19). The virgin birth means that Christ was not born as one in Adam, that He did not receive Adam’s sinful nature because He was born under the covenant that Adam broke. It would be hard to believe that Christ could have a sinless nature if He were born simply from a human father and mother. But, as it is, Christ was born of a virgin, revealing that His Sonship was not of Adam, but of God. That He could be the sinless representative and savior of His people.
Friends, we believe and confess what the Bible teaches, and along with the ancient church, that Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit and was born of the virgin Mary. We hold this out as essential to the Christian faith this season. The virgin birth is a sign that God saved His people from their sins.