Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Necessity of the Virgin Birth

The following is my message for the Nursing Home this Sunday and I thought it would be a good post for this time of year.

Mat 1:18  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. Mat 1:19  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. Mat 1:20  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. Mat 1:21  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Mat 1:22  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Mat 1:23  "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). Mat 1:24  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, Mat 1:25  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

There have always been those who have denied the virgin birth and I would like to say a few things about it that might be of interest.  There are two things in particular that are most important to understand about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.  1. The Bible unmistakably teaches it and 2. If there is no virgin birth, there is no Christianity; it is vital to understanding who Jesus Christ is and how he could save us from our sins.

1. Both here and in Luke we are told that Mary was a virgin at the time she had Jesus.  He was her first child.  Matthew tells us twice that the child formed in her was from the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.  It happened while they were only engaged.  And we are told that this was what Isaiah was referring to in his prophecies.  Luk 1:34  And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Luk 1:35  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.

So if someone says that this is impossible I would want to ask them a question.  If God can make all that is why can’t he form a baby in a womb?  If God can’t do that then he isn’t much of a God.  Yes, it was never done before and will never be done again but that is no proof that it didn’t happen.  It is a one of a kind event because Jesus is a one of a kind person.  The fact of the matter is that if you believe the Bible, you believe in the virgin birth because it tells us it happened.  If you don’t believe it then you don’t believe the Bible.

2. But the virgin birth isn’t just something that we are to believe as a fact; there is a reason why it happened.  It isn’t just a neat miracle to impress us; it had to happen for Jesus to do his work of salvation.  And this is most important to understand and is another proof that it happened.

The first thing to keep in mind is what Jesus said in Joh 8:56  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." Joh 8:57  So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Joh 8:58  Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." Joh 8:59  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.  He plainly states that he existed in Abraham’s day and then refers to himself by the name given at the burning bush when speaking to Moses; he calls himself Yahweh, I Am.  The Jews immediately got this and so tried to stone him.

One reason Jesus had to be virgin born was because he did not just become a human but already existed as God.  In John 1 we read that Jesus is the eternal Word of God who came into the world, Joh 1:9  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. Joh 1:11  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  So the first fact is that Jesus existed as God before he was born into the world.

All this begs the question then, why did he take on human flesh and become the God/Man?  This is what Paul answers in Php 2:6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, Php 2:7  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Php 2:8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

If he wasn’t formed by the Holy Spirit in a special way but was just the product of a man and a woman, then he would have been just a regular, sinful man like you and me.  But as God he took on human flesh so that he could do something that being only God or only man could not do.  Being God he was sinless and lived a purely righteous life.  Being man he could die for men, as a man on the cross.  He could pay the penalty of sin for us so that we could be forgiven. 

What the Bible teaches us is that God alone is righteous and he alone is the only one who could save us from sin and so he became a man so that he could suffer the wrath of God that was due us.  It had to be this way because God must be glorified in everything.  So salvation could not be something that we could do on our own or we would be able to boast in our works.  God took on human flesh precisely because we are unable to do anything to merit God’s favor.  Salvation is a free gift from God which is what the word “grace” means. 

We know that this is fully in line with all that the Bible says about our salvation from 1Co 1:28  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 1Co 1:29  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  One thing no man will be able to do when he stands before the Lord is to point to something he did to merit God’s favor.  

So the virgin birth isn’t just some sentimental story that should only be told at Christmas time; it is one of the foundational truths of our salvation.  If it never happened then there is no mediator to stand between us and the Holy God.


  1. Nathan,

    I know this is off topic, but back in 2011, you did a post on Psalm 50:10ff stemming from the John W. Peterson little song called "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills."

    The first 5 lines of the song describe God's ownership of said cattle, plus wealth, riches, the earth, the universe. Then, line 6 says: "He is my Father, so they're mine as well".

    Could you comment on your take on that 6th line of the song?

    Kenny B

    1. Hi Kenny, thanks for the response. I had to go back and reread the post but think I have it in my mind pretty well. You actually asked me to comment on the line in the song so I assume you want me to comment on what I think the song writer is suggesting and not my take on Ps. 50 which I have already answered in the post.

      It appears to me that the writer is inferring from Ps. 50 that since God has created and owns everything then he is fully able to use anything to supply our needs. I would agree with his point. In fact if you read Matthew 6 which was the passage that led me to write that post, the overriding and underlying fact was that God owns the lilies of the field and the sparrows and cares for them as so he will and can take care of us.

      I do not believe as the Health and Wealth Gospel adherents do that since we are God's children, God necessarily wants us to have the cattle on a thousand hills! Some assume that since God can supply all our needs that he will also supply all our wants if we have enough faith or live good enough lives. All this merely means that whatever we need to do his will is ours for the asking and if we don't get it, then we must not need it.

      Hope this hits what you were asking for.


    2. Yeah, it does hit what I was asking about.

      I appreciate and value your reply.

      I like the way you interpret that 6th line of the song from a minimalist need standpoint and not a Health & Wealth Gospel standpoint.

      I could get harsh on the little song, because when you get down to brass tacks, that 6th line literally says that what God owns is mine. And this is what tends to happen in Health & Wealth gospel preaching--trying to get more of God's stuff to be our stuff.

      In the parable of the talents, the opposite view is proferred: All of our stuff isn't really our stuff at all, but the man who went away entrusted his stuff to the servants. The servants were only supposed to act wisely with the master's stuff, and return it to him when he returned, and really never had ownership for themselves. Our stuff isn't even our stuff, but really his stuff.

      But I think the little song means well. And John W. Peterson's other songs are really really good and solid. I think Peterson just slipped a little on that particular line and wrote something that if taken at face value, is anti-Biblical.

      Kenny B

    3. I agree. I believe we should be doctrinally sound in our songs but sometimes we have to sing them as we understand them and not as the writer meant them and sometimes that can be tricky. Many of the songs in a standard hymnal were written by those in the deeper life movement but the songs don't always have to be sung with that in mine but can be understood differently. But I am not above every once in a while explaining a problem I have with the wording in a song and how we should think of it when we sing it or why we shouldn't sing this song at all in rare cases.

      The one area that we are perhaps the most inconsistent is Christmas Carols. Many of them put sentiment over what actually happened but as a rule it is not a battle worth fighting over. For instance the Bible never says that the angels sang; they spoke. Yet you would never know that by the carols we sing. Like I said, it isn't something I would make an issue over but I wonder if it is because only the redeemed have something to sing about?

      Thanks for the conversation,


    4. Yes. Thanks, Nathan.

      Kenny B