By Pastor John Patnode
Princeton Evangelical Free Church
“The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 NASB
Even in the title of this article there is a tension and conflict that has arisen and is still around today. The subject of the virgin birth is one of the most debated events in the life of Christ, right along with the event of His resurrection. The subject of the literal virgin birth has separated theologians, churches, and flies ultimately in the face of the rational modern man of science and pits him against the supposed simple-minded person of faith (sort of speak). Yet the truth is that the Bible itself and its authors assume the virgin conception of Christ as truth and the skeptics of this truth were just as numerous then as the skeptics of today. Through all of this, what can we conclude? Would the authors include and record this event of Christ’s life if it were not true knowing it would not be readily accepted? No. Just as in the recording of the resurrected Christ there are details no man, trying to convince others of true events, would include. One can note in this narrative of the birth of Christ: Joseph’s surprise, the abstinence from intercourse (protected by parents and chaperones), the Angel’s explanation of the divine origin of Jesus, and the scriptural prophecy that told of the virgin birth. All of these specific details leave the reader of the New Testament to deal with the truthfulness and validity of God’s word found in the Bible. In fact, in the ordination of ministers it was once a common question to ask if one held to the literal virgin birth of Christ in order to assess one’s conviction and belief regarding the inerrancy of scripture. So besides controversy and an event to be wrestled with, what else can we learn about the person and work of Jesus from the virgin birth? I believe there are three core concepts that the doctrine of the virgin birth can teach us that make it relevant and important for Christians today.
The first concept one can learn, or relearn, from the virgin birth is that salvation comes from the Lord and is His supernatural work. One can read the very first whisper of the gospel in the protevangelium of Genesis 3:15 that culminates in the fully revealed plan of God that Paul speaks about in Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Millard Erickson most rightly puts this into perspective in his book on Christian Theology when he says “Not only is humanity unable to secure its own salvation, but it could not even introduce the Savior into human society.” This should leave us in awe and wonder as we ponder the incarnation of Christ and the giver of such a beautiful gift of grace, which is the true gift of Christmas.
Secondly, in the doctrine of the virgin birth one can see and appreciate the evidence of the true uniqueness of the Son of God. The term that is used to describe Jesus in His likeness and relationship to humanity and divinity is known as the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union is a fancy word that tells of God, being 100% divine, and taking upon Himself humanity in its entirety. That is to say, Jesus is not a demi God, 50% God and 50% man, but Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. Could we accept Jesus humanity had He never had parents? Or have been born of a woman? In the song Joy has Dawned it gives us the delicate, humble, and human description of the Christ child who clung to His mothers breast. What a picture of humanity in experience! What a picture of God coming from heaven and dwelling among us! What a picture of a God who being divine also knows deeply and intimately our trials and sufferings! The converse idea is true as well. That is, could we accept Jesus full divinity if He was the product of two human parents? It would surely be hard for one to see Jesus as truly divine and not just a special child who became divine which is a popular concept amongst other religions and cults.
Lastly, one can see once again through the virgin birth of Christ Gods ultimate sovereignty over nature. God has a history of miraculous births – just look at Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Not only this, but in God’s sovereignty and giving of life the Messiah has come is was both in the line of King David yet interrupted in the line of Adam and completely removed and unstained from original sin. This conception of the Holy Spirit left Jesus without the legal guilt of original sin which provided us with the perfect spotless lamb who would be Immanuel: God with us and be named Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It may seem funny to talk about the cross during the Christmas season but to use the words of Paul Tripp: “The suffering of Jesus didn’t begin on the cross, it began in His straw bed and continued through to the cross, all for our redemption.”
May the God of salvation be with you this Christmas season and into eternity!