The Person of Christ (03): His Unnatural Virgin Birth
Over the past few months, we have been considering the great truth of the eternal sonship of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The matters with which we have been dealing are true of Him eternally; indeed, they would be true even if He had never come into this world. Now we turn to that which is very much to do with His coming here – His birth.
First, a word of explanation regarding the title: “His Unnatural Virgin Birth.” The word “unnatural” is there simply to lay emphasis on the word “virgin.” After all, the virgin birth is most certainly “unnatural.” His birth was contrary to the laws of nature; but how could this be? He was born of a virgin. There is nothing in the Scriptures to suggest that the actual birth, in Bethlehem, did not take place in the way a birth normally would. It is what took place nine months earlier that makes this birth unique.
We will look at the importance of the virgin birth in regard to the Old Testament Scriptures. Next month, Lord willing, we will consider the record of it in the New Testament. We will consider four reasons, from the Old Testament, why the virgin birth was necessary.
We do not have to proceed too far from the start of our Bibles to encounter the first reason – Genesis 3, where we have the sad story of the entrance of sin into the world. While the record is given in Genesis 3, a very concise statement of its implications is given in Romans 5:12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” From the day Adam sinned, both a sinful nature and death became inevitable results for his posterity. Thus, anyone born of a human father could neither be sinless, immune from death, nor able to die for sinners. And yet this was precisely what was necessary if sinners were to be saved.
What was the solution? In the latter part of Romans 5, two men and what they did is contrasted: Adam and Christ. The former performed a sinful act (in the garden), resulting in many being made sinners and being subject to death; the latter performed a righteous act (at the cross), resulting in many being made righteous, and receiving eternal life. Only One Who had not inherited Adam’s sinful nature could bring this about. How could this be possible? It was only by the virgin birth, whereby God’s Son came without any trace of Adam’s sinful nature, without death having any claim upon Him. He, and He alone, could voluntarily lay down His life for sinners, and that is what He did, with all the blessed consequences for us.
Still in Genesis 3, we find another reason. The Lord speaks to the serpent and tells him, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (v15). Doubtless, the significance of this statement would not have been known to Adam and Eve, but, looking at it in the light of New Testament revelation, we can see its full import. We have the great promise that a human being would defeat Satan. But it could not be just any human being – it had to be one fitting the description “her seed,” and that condition could only be satisfied by the virgin birth. Every other person born in this world had a human father, and thus could not be called “woman’s seed.” If this prophecy of the defeat of Satan was to be fulfilled, the One to do it must come by virgin birth.
For our Lord Jesus Christ to reign as King upon the throne of David, in fulfilment of Isaiah 9:7 and other Scriptures, He must be of the kingly line. Matthew 1 shows us that Joseph was of the kingly line. However, one of the kings listed there (v12) is Jechonias (“Jeconiah,” also called “Coniah” and “Jehoiachin”) and of him the Lord says, “No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer 22:30). So, while Joseph was in the kingly line, neither he, nor any other of Jechonias’ descendants, could sit upon the throne.
It is marvellous what God did. Joseph took Mary as his wife, accepting responsibility for her child, and thus legally the Lord Jesus inherited the rights to the throne of David. Yet, because of the virgin birth, He did not come under the curse of Jeconias’ posterity. The way was clear for Him to be “born king of the Jews.”
Finally, the virgin birth was necessary because the Scriptures had explicitly stated that it would happen. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). There were particular circumstances at that time to which this prophecy related, but, as is the case with many OT prophecies, the temporary and partial fulfilment foreshadowed a far greater and fuller realization of the prophecy. That this is so here is confirmed by the fact that it is quoted in Matthew 1:22, 23. “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” God had said it would happen, and so (as with all His promises) it must take place.
Thus, in order that a sinless One could die for sinners; that a Person could have victory over Satan; that One of the kingly line could reign upon David’s throne; and that the Scriptures could be fulfilled, the virgin birth was an absolute necessity.
The Person of Christ (03 Pt2): His Unnatural Virgin Birth
Last month, we looked at the basis for the virgin birth in the Old Testament Scriptures. Now we turn to consider the record of it in the New Testament.
The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin is recorded in only two chapters (Matthew 1 and Luke 1), but it is stated unequivocally in both, leaving us in no doubt as to the actuality of it. Consider the final words of Matthew chapter 1: “And [Joseph] knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called His name Jesus” (v25).
The virgin birth was an absolute necessity. Without it, there is simply no salvation for anyone. It is therefore not surprising that (with the exception of the resurrection) there is probably no event associated with the Lord’s life here on earth that has been more strongly denied by opponents of the gospel. We will look at three attacks that are made on the doctrine of the virgin birth; attacks against which we ought to be on our guard.
This is the overwhelming view in the present day of rank unbelief. In a society that pays homage to naturalism, the standard line can be summarized: “That is impossible – it is contrary to all the laws of science – a woman cannot have a child without the involvement of a human father. The record in the Bible is proof of the gullibility of those primitive people – and if you believe it you are as gullible as they were!”
To which we respond that, yes, the virgin birth is contrary to scientific laws. Indeed, it is a miracle (which is what it was), by definition, contrary to the normal course of events, and thus outside the realm of science. And the God Who made everything, sustains it, and will bring it all to His desired goal, is perfectly capable of doing something that is contrary to the normal.
As for the allegation that those concerned with those momentous events were “gullible,” the record in the Bible shows that this was far from the case. When Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive and bring forth a son, she asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Here are the words, not of a credulous candidate for being duped, but of a young woman who knew very well the “impossibility” of such an event. And, as far as Joseph was concerned, when he came to know that Mary was with child, his resolving to “put her away” (Matt 1:19) showed that he knew only too well the implications of her condition, from a natural perspective. For both Mary and Joseph, it was only when the angel clearly explained the reality of the case, that it was of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matt 1:20) that they realized they were not looking at the normal course of things, but at a divine work, and they readily believed God’s Word, and submitted to it.
And this is what we must recognize as well. The words of Gabriel to Mary are as pertinent to us as they were to her: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And our response should be like theirs; acceptance of God’s Word, and obedience to it.
Another attack on the truth of this great event comes from the addition to the Word of God by religious systems, which seek to embellish the facts with the introduction of doctrines that do not have any foundation in Scripture. Two immediately come to mind: the teaching that Mary was herself conceived without sin (“Immaculate conception”) and that she remained a virgin throughout her life (“Perpetual virginity”). Both these dogmas can readily be refuted from the very records themselves: Mary refers to “God my Savior” (Luke 1:47), showing that she was a sinner, in need of a Savior; and Matthew records that Joseph “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt 1:25), clearly implying that she did not remain a virgin after the Lord Jesus was born.
We mention these things, not to court controversy, but simply to remind ourselves of an important principle: to base all that we believe on the Word of God alone. We must avoid either taking away from what the Bible says, or adding to it.
There is a third error, maybe even more dangerous than the previous two, since it is more subtle. It concerns attempts to probe into what was involved in the virgin birth.
It is a perilous thing to try to dig into Scripture beyond that which is revealed to us, and we would save ourselves from many problems if we stayed to the words that Scripture uses, rather than over analyzing. The subject before us illustrates this perhaps better than any other.
Modern advances in the study and understanding of human biology, and of genetics in particular, have led some to try to speculate on what took place. Often those doing so are well meaning, and they would be horrified if they were told that they are in error; but they are. This is a subject that we must approach with the utmost reverence, and any attempt to try to explain it is to intrude beyond where we are allowed to go. Indeed, we can be unwittingly guilty of profanity in even attempting to do so. Let us be content with the sublime words of Gabriel to Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). This is as far as we are allowed to go, and we venture no further. We happily believe it, and we bow in worship.
The Person of Christ (03 Pt3): His Unnatural Virgin Birth
In the past couple of articles, we have looked together at the basis for the virgin birth in the Old Testament, and the record of it in the New Testament. The purpose of this month’s article is to summarize the uniqueness of this great event. It is a bridging article, as it will refer back to some of the issues we have already looked at, while anticipating points that will be considered in future months, Lord willing.
Here, briefly, are six ways in which the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ was different from that of every other person.
Every one of us came into existence at the time of conception. That was not so for Him. As we have already seen, He is eternal; He never had a beginning.
For all of us, our appearance in this world was totally outside our control. We became part of the “human race” involuntarily. It was altogether different for our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2:14 summarizes it succinctly: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” We became “partakers” of flesh and blood; not of our own knowledge or choice. He, knowingly and willingly, “took part of the same.”
There were people whose births were foretold, such as Isaac, Samson, and John the Baptist. But none of their cases can compare with the quantity (or the variety) of the prophecies made regarding the birth of the Lord Jesus, nor to the length of time between the making of the prophecies and their fulfilment. We have already looked at the Old Testament prophecies of the virgin birth. But there are many others concerning His coming. For example, where He would be born was foretold in Micah 5:2, written some 700 years before the event: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel.” And there are so many other prophecies concerning His birth.
As we know only too well, every one of us, descended from Adam, is born with a sinful nature. How different it is for the Lord Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, as we have already seen. The word “holy,” as used of Him by the angel in Luke 1:35, is true of Him alone.
How do people come into the world? The Scripture record is clear. Adam was created by God, from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7) and Eve was made from Adam (Gen 2:21-23). Each of these was a unique event. From then on, with one exception, all the billions of human beings who have ever lived have come as the offspring of their parents, a process that began with the birth of Adam and Eve’s children.
Who is the one exception? It is, of course, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. He came, not by creation (Adam), nor by formation (Eve), nor by generation (everyone else), but by the Incarnation. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16). “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
There are records in the Scriptures of people, the purpose of whose birth was clearly stated, sometimes even before they were born. John the Baptist is an evident example in what was said before his birth (Luke 1:16, 17) and shortly after it (Luke 1:76-79). But the purpose for which the Lord Jesus came was unique.
He was “made a little lower than the angels … that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb 2:9). There is no doubt as to this. The reason He became a man was in order that He might die for everyone.
His birth was also with a view to the blessed result of His death: “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4-5). His coming was so that through His death, we might have the blessings of redemption, being placed as sons, and so much more. In the context, this passage is speaking of those of a Jewish background, but the Scriptures make it clear that these blessings are not restricted to them.
His birth was not only with a view to what He has already done for us, but what He continues to do in the present: “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God” (Heb 2:17; see Heb 4:15, which also links His suitability for priesthood with His experience of humanity). That He might be our Great High Priest, it was necessary for Him to become a man.
Hebrews 2:5-10 shows that God’s purposes for the future are also dependent on the humanity of His Son. The coming age is not to be in subjection to angels, but to a man. And there is only one Man Who can fulfil that; our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the coming of the Lord Jesus was unique in its purpose: that He might die, provide salvation, be our High Priest, and be the One under Whom God will place the whole of creation.
Truly the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is an event unparalleled in history. Nothing like it had ever happened before, nor will ever happen again. We marvel at it, and we will be eternally grateful for it.