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The Importance of the Virgin Birth (Part One)

Why was Jesus born of a virgin?  Why is it important that the Church continue to preach that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary?  And what role does the virgin birth play in regard to our redemption?

Some propose that the virgin birth is necessary because of the doctrine of original sin.  For instance, Dr. Wayne Grudem proposes that the virgin birth of Christ was necessary because all humans have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam.  But since Jesus did not have a human father then He partially interrupted the line from Adam.  Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being had descended from Adam.  Dr. Grudem sees Luke 1:35 as a proof text for this.  Luke 1:35 reads,

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.

Notice that Luke records that Jesus would be called “holy.”  He could be called holy because He was born without the corrupt nature inherited by all humans from Adam.  The virgin birth thus ensured that Jesus was born fully human but without inherited sin of any kind.  Jesus could be both fully human and fully God through the virgin birth and He could be called holy unlike us.

In contrast to this, others propose that the virgin birth has nothing to do with original sin.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, for example, rejects the teaching from above.  While Cottrell affirms the virgin birth as necessary and part of God’s plan, he rejects the idea that the virgin birth helps Jesus not inherit a sinful nature.  Instead, Cottrell states that there is simply no biblical basis for such a view either of original sin inherited by humans or about Jesus needing the virgin birth to avoid original sin.

Another theologian who rejects the virgin birth as necessary to avoid original sin states it this way,

Some have supposed that the virgin birth was necessary in order for Jesus to avoid the inheritance of a sinful nature.  However, the Scriptures nowhere state that Jesus was born of a virgin to avoid the inheritance of some type of sinful substance.  Rather, the Bible says that He was born of a virgin because His Father was God.  Though Jesus was born of a virgin and His Father was God, Jesus did not have a different type of flesh from the rest of us.  He had the same type of flesh that we have.  Jesus was not made physically perfect until the third day when He was raised with a glorified body (Luke 13:32; Hebrews 5:9).  If Jesus was born with a glorified flesh, or if He did not take upon Himself a physically depraved flesh like we have, which was subjected to death, He could not have tasted death for every man; and therefore, could not have made atonement for all.  It was necessary for Christ to be made with the same type of physically depraved body that we have, so that He could be capable of physical death (Hebrews 2:9, 14, 16-17).

Another theologian who rejects the virgin birth as necessary to escape from the pollution of Adam’s seed states it thus:

The Bible is clear that the virgin birth is to be a sign (Isaiah 7:14).  That is the point of the virgin birth, a sign.  It points to the fact that the Baby born to the virgin would be God (Immanuel).  We find nothing in the Bible that teaches that the virgin birth is necessary to avoid original sin.  Instead, the virgin birth points to the absolute deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible and Supernatural Births

The Bible lists other supernatural births but none compare to the supernatural birth of Jesus.  For example, the birth of Isaac (Genesis 18:9-14), Samson (Judges 13) Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).  Yet all of these births occurred naturally with a human father and mother.  In the case of Jesus, He was born of a virgin without a human father.  He was 100% human through Mary but was 100% God through the Holy Spirit.  Paul the Apostle never mentions the virgin birth, but when he writes of the Lord Jesus coming into the world (Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7), he uses the Greek word ginomai (“become, come into being”) and avoids the word gennao or the common term for “be born” which would focus on two human parents.

The birth of Jesus was a supernatural event unlike any other.  This birth was a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (see Matthew 1:18-25).  The birth of Jesus pointed to His deity, that He was God and always had been God (John 1:1, 14).  Jesus did not come into being in Bethlehem but He had always been and always will be.  The Word became flesh in Bethlehem but He was always God from everlasting (Micah 5:2 NKJV).  Hebrews 1:10-12 is clear that Jesus has always been and He always will be (Hebrews 13:8).

Encountering the Holy God

Often the god that we serve is the one that we create with our minds.  Our gods are much like us.  They tend to tolerate our sins.  They tend to be there to meet our needs.  They tend to bow down to us rather than us to them.  Our gods are limited in their power and are boxed in by our doctrines.  Our gods are just like us in almost every way including in how they look complete, at times, with flesh and bones like us.  Our god is not eternal in the true sense of the word.  Our gods are not pure and lovely.  Our gods exist for one purpose: to fulfill our every wish and desire.

How different those gods above are to the God of the Bible.  The God that we encounter in the Bible is not like us at all.  He is the uncreated one.  He is the eternal one.  He is timeless.  The God of the Bible has no beginning or end (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 41:13; Romans 16:25-26).  We are so limited in how we view time and eternity because we have nothing to compare it with.  We say that we believe God is eternal but we really don’t understand what that really means nor what that looks like.  We say that God is the uncreated one since He is eternal and since He created all things by His own power (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3) but we have no clue what they looks like since everything we see (including ourselves) was created.

Yet the one attribute of the God of the Bible that separates Him from all other false gods is His holiness.  C.S. Lewis said that it was God’s grace that makes Christianity unique among world religions and while I do agree with Lewis, I believe that the one attribute that is mostly displayed in the Scriptures is not the grace of God nor the mercy of God nor the wrath of God nor even the power of God but it is God’s holiness.  God’s holiness makes God altogether different from us.  The holiness of God separates Him from His creation.  And yet when we encounter the true understanding of God’s holiness, the cross of Jesus Christ becomes the much more precious to us.  When we see the holiness of God, we see our sinfulness in light of His perfection and we see that we have no defense but only can plead the blood of Jesus to wash away all our sins.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah the prophet of Yahweh encountered the Lord.  Ironically, two different Hebrew words are used in Isaiah 6 about God.  In verse 1 the Hebrew name Adonai is used but in verse 3 the divine name of God, Yahweh, is used.  Adonai pictures the lordship of God and His eternal reign.  In Psalm 110:1 we read that Yahweh speaks to Adonai.  Psalm 110:1 is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament because it directly points to Jesus Christ who was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:1).  Jesus was the one being spoken to in Psalm 110:1 according to Hebrews 1:13.

What we learn from Isaiah 6 is that when we encounter the utter otherness of God, His absolute holiness, His uniqueness.  This causes us to see ourselves in light of who He truly is.  Notice that Isaiah’s reaction is to cry from deep within himself, “Woe is me!”  Isaiah didn’t begin to sing to God.  He didn’t begin to laugh in God’s presence.  He didn’t begin to lift his hands in worship of God.  He didn’t break out in declaring the glory of God.  He falls on his face and cries out, “Woe is me!”  This dread comes over him.

What will it be like on that day when I leave this earth and enter into God’s presence?  I believe that we really don’t grasp the holiness of God.  Notice in Isaiah 6 something about the angels that Isaiah mentions here.  He says that these angels have six wings on them.  Two of them were to cover their faces and two to cover their feet and two to fly with.  The glory of God is so great and His holiness is so supreme that even these created angels (who have never sinned) must cover their eyes lest they look on the glory of God.  What kind of God is this?  How holy must He be that even His own angels who are there for His bidding cannot even look upon His glory?  How much more can we?  Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:16 that God dwells in “unapproachable light”.  Isaiah saw this glory and he fell on his face in utter ruin.

In Revelation 1:12-16 John saw Jesus in His glory.  In Revelation 1:17 we read that John did just what Isaiah did, he fell on his face in ruin.  Even John the beloved saw how holy Jesus was at that moment and he too fell on his face in ruin.

This should be us as well.  So much about God is beyond me.  While I try to understand God, I never will.  I know that He loves me in His Son and that I can know Him through His Son (John 17:3) but God is so holy, pure, powerful, wise, etc. that I really can’t grasp Him.  And rightly I shouldn’t.  The gods of paganism are easy to figure out.  The false gods look like us and act like us.  But the God of the Bible is beyond our imagination.  He is too pure and holy to approach but through the grace given to us in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Isaiah 6:3 was the Hebrew expression for emphasis.  Isaiah is not just saying, “God is holy” but Isaiah is showing us, “Look, God is holy, God is holy, God is holy!”  God has never nor will He ever sin.  He thinks nothing evil and nothing evil can enter into His presence.  No doubt He sees all evil but He Himself has never been and can never be touched by evil.  He is absolutely holy.  He is absolutely, altogether different from us.

This holiness should make us tremble.  How can we serve such a God?  How can we even pray to such a God?  And it’s here that the cross of Christ is magnified through us seeing the holiness of God even but for a glimpse.  The cross shows us not just the great love of God for us (John 3:16) but also the holiness of God in dealing with our sins (1 John 2:1-2).  Jesus fully satisfies the wrath of a just and holy God against sin (Romans 3:21-27).  Through Christ, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  Through Christ, we are imputed with righteousness (Romans 10:4).  Through Christ, we can now pray and worship in the presence of God.  While we still don’t see God in all His glory, we can at least come to Him through His Son and someday see Him face to face (Revelation 22:3-4).

How I long for that day when I can see the Lord face to face and I know that I too will cry with Isaiah, “Woe is me!” yet I will be able to also rejoice that my sins were washed away through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21-22).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/15/2011 at 12:23 AM

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