Summary: The miracle of the Virgin Birth is an essential, non-negotiable truth of the Christian faith. We consider the importance, confirmation, and necessity of this doctrine.
“I Believe”…sermon series on the Apostles Creed
“Born of a Virgin” Matthew 1:18-23 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Some Christmas trivia: The verses of the song Twelve Days of Christmas each stand for one of the 12 beliefs stated in the Apostles Creed.
Today we’re reflecting on our Savior’s miraculous birth: “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary”. Back when I was in high school, one of my instructors remarked one late December, near Christmas Break: “I attend church, but as a science teacher I just can’t buy the Virgin Birth.”
It matters what we believe. Are our beliefs in line with Scripture? Anyone who accepts the Bible as God’s authoritative word should agree that the miracle of the Virgin Birth is an essential, non-negotiable truth of the Christian faith. It is a major doctrine, which is why it’s included in the Apostles’ Creed.
When we affirm belief in this miraculous birth, we’re saying that the Lord Jesus became a human being through being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. By this birth the world received a unique Being. At Christmas we point to our Savior’s birth and say, “You see--this is no ordinary child. He is set apart from everyone. He is God-the-Son.” I want us to consider the importance, confirmation, and necessity of Christ’s virgin birth…
>The importance of the Virgin Birth
Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the Virgin Birth; to confess this truth is to profess the deity of Christ. Jesus was not an ordinary human; He was the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior. If we reject this doctrine, we would be left with a good teacher, but not One who came from Heaven; and so we could just as easily dismiss his teachings. It is not enough to hold that Jesus was an admirable person.
The bottom-line is whether miracles are possible. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Whatever experiences we may have, we shall not regard them as miraculous if we already hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural…modern people dislike miracles; admitting that God can, they doubt if He would.”
If we cannot accept this teaching, then we must conclude the Gospel writers were either mistaken or liars--making the Bible an unreliable document, a book of fiction and myth. And if Jesus was not born of a virgin, he was illegitimate.
>Confirmation of the Virgin Birth
In order to verify this teaching, the first place to look is among the historic writings of the early church. The Church Fathers (those church leaders who followed the Apostles) received and accepted this teaching without dissent. They trusted the internal witness of the Biblical record.
Let’s start at the beginning, the very beginning, the Book of Genesis, chapter 3. God tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.” Scholars regard this as the first prophecy of Christ found in Scripture. How does this refer to Mary? The One who will crush Satan is called the seed of the woman rather than the seed of the man, which would be the normal usage. Mary fulfils this promise. As the spiritual death of humankind occurred through the disobedience of a woman (Eve), so the redemption of the world was made possible through the obedience of a virgin. Eve’s story is incomplete without Mary.
Next, Galatians 4:4, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” There’s no mention of Joseph, unusual and noteworthy. Jewish boys and girls were referred to as their father’s children. Mark calls Jesus “the son of Mary.” The Virgin Birth raises a faith question: Do we believe God is in control of history? Can He intervene in the events of civilization? Galatians 4 says that at a pre-ordained time Christ was born; this assumes a God who is sovereign, in control. If we believe this, we can believe the Virgin Birth.
Perhaps the strongest reference in Scripture is the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, where the prophet foretells that, “a virgin will be with child and bear a son.” Hebrew scholars say that the word “virgin” is a precise, clinical term that always means a pure, chaste, unmarried young woman. The word refers to a total absence of physical intimacy.
Luke (who was a physician) is believed to have interviewed Mary during the preparation of his Gospel account. His Nativity narrative emphasizes Mary’s unique conception. Mary’s surprise at the angel’s announcement comes because, as she states, she is a virgin (Luke 1:34). The angel then assures her that “nothing is impossible with God” (vs 37).
(Note--unlike our Catholic friends, we do not accept their doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” which claims that Mary herself was conceived without sin and remained a virgin all her life, then ascended bodily into heaven. We respect and admire Mary, but we regard her as a normal person who was privileged to give birth to the Messiah, and who referred to God in the as her “Savior.” And we certainly disagree with the Mormons, who claim Mary conceived by a physical union with God the Father.)