Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Virgin Birth

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town of Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”


“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”


The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”


“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her
(Luke 1:26-38).

Here is what the Bible tell us about the virgin birth of Jesus:
  • Jesus was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary. Mary contributed to Jesus exactly what any human mother contributes to her child. He was “the fruit of [Mary’s] womb” (Luke 1:42 ESV). David Mathis writes, “Some theologians have stressed that the main significance is virginity in conception, not birth, and so offer the more precise term virgin conception. This may be helpful in capturing the key emphasis, but we likely are in no need of a new term because Matthew 1:25 states that Joseph ‘had no union with [Mary] until she gave birth to a son.’ Mary was a virgin at Jesus’ conception, and she was still a virgin at his birth.” (For more on the virgin birth, read Mathis's blog post “The Virgin Birth”.).
  • Jesus was conceived by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s humanness was not created ex nihilo (“out of nothing”), but ex Maria (“out of Mary”). As Adam was made from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), Jesus was made from the substance of Mary. Jesus is called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). His humanity was a new creation in the womb of Mary.
  • Jesus was conceived without a human father. Luke writes, “[Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” After Adam and Eve's sin, God said to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the protoevangelium, which means “first gospel.” Many Christians believe the reference to “her Seed” looks beyond Adam and Eve to Mary and Jesus. The seed of the woman (Jesus) would crush the head of Satan.
Donald MacLeod writes, “The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further” (The Person of Christ, p. 37)