(Originally posted December 2015)
Which virgin birth do you believe in?
In today’s day and age, talking about a virgin birth just sounds like foolishness. There aren’t many virgins out there to start with, and they’re certainly not giving birth to babies. Then, when we say that we can know someone was a virgin 2,000 years ago and actually gave birth, people throw their hands up and say, “How can you believe something that just seems so foolish?” Only they probably leave out the word seems, because they actually think it’s foolish.
WHY IS THE VIRGIN BIRTH REASONABLE?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today: the virgin birth of Jesus. We’re also going to talk about a different virgin birth. There are actually two virgin births. Christianity believes in the virgin birth of Jesus, and, from another perspective, the atheistic world and culture believes in the virgin birth of the universe. This is pointed out just beautifully in a quote by Glen Scrivener, when he says, “Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.”
I think that’s a great, insightful little quote. Because what it does is show that yes, Christians do believe in something that is miraculous and can’t be explained by any natural means: how even a normal man could be born from a woman who had not had sexual intercourse. But, the other side, the materialistic side, would say that the universe came about without any cause for no purpose, from no person. Choose your virgin birth. I think that’s a very interesting way to think about the divide between Christianity and atheism or materialism.
Just as a recap from previous episodes, materialism is the belief that only material things exist. There would be no God since God’s not made out of material. He’s not made out of stuff. He’s immaterial. There would be no soul. There would be no mind. You are just your brain in your body. That’s it. You are reduced to your physical components on a materialistic worldview.
On that worldview, like I’ve just pointed out, it has its own sort of virgin birth, the virgin birth of everything, mainly the universe and everything it contains. On the other hand, Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Now I want to answer a question. Is it reasonable to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus? I actually think it is.
There’s this interesting kind of dynamic that comes into the Christian life sometimes where you’ll hear someone say, “I struggle when I tell people that Jesus rose from the dead.” It’s like they pause because they know what they’re about to stay just smacks a little of the ridiculous. Because to most people, it does.
That same person wouldn’t bat an eye a lot of times at saying, “God created the whole universe. God created the world. God created man.” When we start to say this guy rose from the dead, that feels different. I think it’s also the same type of feeling we get sometimes when we start talking about the virgin birth. We pause because we believe it but we know it just sounds a little silly or ridiculous.
Now I think this is evidence of us living in a very secular society. Even though we don’t intentionally go out to believe things that secular society says, I think nonetheless it influences how we think just existing in this society. We have to be very careful about how we think about the core truth claims of Christianity, things like the virgin birth and the resurrection.
I myself have at times felt this tendency to shy back a little from these types of claims, the miraculous claims. Now I still believe them; don’t misunderstood me. Nonetheless, there’s a slight hesitation because I know this just sounds weird.
I want to put forth a helpful thought. If we’re very confident in the universe needing a cause, and everything not being able to come into existence from nothing, or said differently, if we reject the virgin birth of the cosmos, then that means God created everything. For a God who can create everything from nothing, then how hard would a virgin birth be? What possible difficulty could resurrecting a person from the dead prove?
For a God with enough power to create everything that exists as finely tuned as it is, and as well as it works, none of the miracles in the Bible would be difficult at all. They would be child’s play, as William Lane Craig has pointed out. We can take confidence in that.
If you start to feel a little, maybe, self-conscious about your belief in the birth or the resurrection, or any other biblical miracle, remember you believe in the God who created everything from nothing. There could be no more powerful, miraculous act than that. If he can do that, he can do any of the other miracles described in the Bible.
So that’s the first point: why is the virgin birth reasonable. I think it’s more reasonable than the alternative: the virgin birth of the cosmos.
WHY IS THE VIRGIN BIRTH IMPORTANT?
I think this is something we don’t often understand. We sing about it in our Christmas carols and we recite at Christmas time as part of the – not Christmas story (as we talked about last week) – as part of the account of what happened. Why is it important?
First, we see in Matthew 1:20 that an angel tells Mary and Joseph that what’s conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit. This came about not because of her physical union with a man, for she had been with no man, but it came about as a miracle as we just discussed. Now why did this need to happen? Is this just Jesus coming to earth with a bang to say, “Look what I can do? I came into existence as the result of a miracle.” No. I think the very humble beginnings of Jesus show that that wasn’t really the intent. Angels proclaimed to shepherds, not kings, that Jesus has been born. He’s placed in a feeding trough, in a manger. That’s not the most ostentatious of beginnings.
It can’t be that Jesus just wanted to come into existence via a miracle to make a statement. No, what’s really important to understand about being born of a virgin is ultimately about what Jesus came to accomplish. Remember, he was born to die. He was born to go to the cross. His main purpose in coming to earth was to go to the cross, to be the sacrifice for the sin of those who would believe in him.
Why the virgin birth? First, we need to understand a few things about Jesus. For starters, he’s fully man and fully God. He’s not half man and half God. He’s not mostly man and fully God. Scripture teaches, and the Christian church has always affirmed, that Jesus is fully man and fully God. He was born of a physical woman. He was born in a physical body with a human nature. But He is literally God come to earth. In that way he is fully God also. He has a full divine nature. So, He has two natures. He’s both fully man and both fully God.
Now this would not have been the case had he been the results of procreation between Joseph or Mary, or any other two people. Notice I am not fully man and fully God, because I have two human parents. Jesus was not that way. Now, why did he need to be fully man and fully God. He was fully man because, as Paul says in multiple places, he was born of a woman and he was born under the law so that he can live under the law and he could fulfill it. In that way he would be able to be the pure and blameless sacrifice on the cross so that sin could actually be forgiven through that sacrifice at that time on the cross.
Had he not been a man, that would not have fulfilled God the Father’s requirements. He was fully God, because only God could live a perfect life. Jesus lived a perfect life as a man under the law, but he was only able to live that perfect life because he was fully God. When he died on the cross and provided for the forgiveness of sins, he accomplished the purpose he came to earth to accomplish.
It’s more than that because oftentimes we think about Jesus atoning for sin and then separately, like maybe a half a year later in a Bible study, we think about the fact that Jesus is our high priest. The fact of the matter is Jesus intercedes for all of those he atoned for. He atoned for those who will believe on the cross. He intercedes for those as their high priest also. This is what Hebrews 4:15 is getting at. “For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we were, yet without sin. Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”
Elsewhere in Hebrews it says that Christ lives to intercede for those for whom he atoned. This Christmas, when you think about the virgin birth, and when you sing in those carols, and read the Christmas account, remember that the virgin birth is significant because it is the very beginning of Christ on earth, in the flesh, come to fulfill his ultimate work of redemption on the cross. That is just so vitally important.
A celebration of Christmas should really be a celebration of the gospel, of what Christ accomplished, of those whom he loved and came to save. Our gratitude should be all the greater as we think about that at this grateful, wonderful time of year.
I’m going to leave you with one other verse on this subject that I kind of quoted earlier: Galatians 4:4. “When the appropriate time had come, God sent out his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.”
That is the best Christmas gift that could ever be received and that has ever been given. To come to earth, to live your whole life perfectly with the intent to sacrifice it for those who were your enemies. There could be no better Christmas gift than that, than the one Jesus gave with his very life and death in resurrection.
This Christmas, think on that. Remember that it is reasonable to believe in the virgin birth. The virgin birth is important, not solely because of the miracle it is, though that certainly is important, but because of what it says about Christ and the work he ultimately came to accomplish. I look forward to spending this time with you next week on Unapologetic