Advent: 23 December
Below is another piece by Stuart Chase, as we consider the virgin birth. You can read more from him over at deformed.co.za.
It is impossible for a virgin to conceive, they argue. And yet the Bible tells us quite plainly that Mary did conceive, and give birth, as a virgin. The question to be asked is, how important is the doctrine of the virgin birth to historic Christianity? Its significance is at least fourfold.
First, it is significant because it shows that his birth was supernatural. Right from the outset, Jesus’ life was shown to be one of supernatural significance. The story of Jesus of Nazareth commenced with a supernatural birth and concluded with a supernatural resurrection and ascension. As Donald Macleod notes, “The virgin birth is … blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find offence there is no point in proceeding further.”[1. Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology (Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 37.]
Second, it is significant because it shows that humanity can’t redeem itself. The human race was infected by sin. The sin nature, it seems, is passed from father to children; Jesus was therefore born without a sin nature because he had no biological human father. This made him uniquely qualified to serve as humanity’s Saviour.
Third, it is significant because it displays God’s initiative. Mary did not plan to bear the Messiah, and she was not asked whether she was willing to do so. She submitted, to be sure (Luke 1:38), but God had already decreed that the Saviour would be conceived in and born from her. God was determined to save his people from his sins (Matthew 1:21) and he took the initiative to do so.
Fourth, the virgin birth highlights the dual nature of Jesus. He was fully divine, conceived by the Holy Spirit and not by means of ordinary human intercourse. At the same time, he was fully human, born of a woman. Wayne Grudem captures it well:
God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.[1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 530.]
In short, the virgin birth of Christ proved that he was uniquely qualified to be the one who would save his people from their sins.