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“The eternal Son of God, He through whom the universe was made, did not despise the virgin’s womb! What a wonder is there! It is not strange that it has always given offence to the natural man. But in that wonder we find God’s redeeming love, and in that babe who lay in Mary’s womb we find our Saviour who thus became man to die for our sins, and bring us into peace with God” - J. Gresham Machen1
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many sceptics who have attacked the Christian faith. One doctrine which has been questioned is the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. For example, in the 1830’s a German liberal theologian, David Friedrich Strauss, wrote The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined. He denied the historical reliability of the Gospel records, particularly supernatural events like the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. He claimed that these are the creations of the gospel writers and are no way less than legends of the Greek world.2 From unbelievers to liberal Christians, many have attacked and denied this crucial doctrine. But the Scriptures assert the virgin birth of Jesus. Rejecting its claims is a direct attack on the authority of the Scriptures.
Why the Virgin Birth is Difficult to Believe
Our Lord Jesus was not born into this world out of a normal sexual relationship. Both Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:34-35) speak of the conception in Mary’s womb as a miraculous work of God. Miracles are supernatural acts of God and they are beyond man’s capability to explain and fully understand. Be it the creation of the world or any of the other miracles recorded in the Bible, skeptics have found miracles difficult to believe. Thus, it is understandable that people struggle to believe and accept that Jesus was born of a virgin.
The Virgin Birth is the Work of God
Luke 1:35 says, “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.” The original word for “come upon” is used for the Holy Spirit’s activity of empowering a person. The same is used of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the Apostles at the Pentecost in Acts 1:8. And the Greek word for “overshadow” is used in the Greek translation of the OT (LXX) to refer to the hovering of God’s Spirit over the creation, in the beginning, to bring things into existence (Gen.1:2). The same expression is used for the cloud of God’s glory that came over the tabernacle (Ex. 40:38) and the cloud that overshadowed the Mount of Transfiguration from which the disciples heard the Father’s voice (Matt. 17:5).
In the context of Jesus’ birth, the use of the words “come upon” and “overshadow” suggest God’s powerful presence which rested upon Mary, so that she would bear a child who would be the Son of God.
In Matthew 1:20, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and declares that “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.” The significant point here is that Jesus had no human father. The Holy Spirit created a new human life without any normal process. That’s the miracle of the Holy Spirit.
Does the Virgin Birth Matter?
The Virgin birth of Christ is important because the Scriptures say so. God deemed it as the way for Christ’s incarnation. Here are a few reasons which show its importance:
- The Scriptures show us that the Messiah must be from the lineage of David. The heir to David’s throne must be his offspring and that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:12-13, 16; Ps. 89:3-4; Isa. 9:6-7). The Lord Jesus descended from the lineage of David (Matt. 1:1-17; Lk. 3:23-38; Rev. 22:16). The Son of Man sits on His throne when He comes in His glory (Matt. 25:31-34). Since the Messiah’s throne lasts forever, He must be God at the same time. Even the Pharisees, who hated Jesus, agreed that the Messiah should be the Son of David (Matt. 22:42). Jesus points to David who calls the Messiah as his Lord (Matt. 22:43-44; Ps. 110:1). John clarifies that the Word, referring to Jesus who became flesh, is God incarnate (Jn. 1:1,14).
- Jesus existed as God from all eternity and his human nature had its beginning in Mary’s womb. If the Messiah had to come from David’s lineage, he should not be contaminated with Adam’s sin. He had full human nature which was not stained by sin. The Holy Spirit guaranteed the sinlessness of Christ (Jn. 7:18; 1 Jn. 3:5).
- The Holy Spirit made it possible for the two natures, human and Divine, to exist in one person. Through the virgin’s conception, God came into this world as a man to save sinners. Jesus’ human nature was necessary to make propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17). Our sin could not be erased by any other means, except by the offering of Jesus’ body (Heb. 10:4-16).
Therefore, we can conclude that without the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. The virgin birth of Jesus prepared an apt body for him to make an acceptable atonement for our sins.
Apostle Paul said, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Praise God for his wonderful and miraculous acts!
1 J. Gresham Machen, Virgin Birth, pg. 394.
2 H. Wayne House, The Jesus Who Never Lived, pg.137