The Virgin Birth
by Robert J. Young
Our study is the virgin birth. Isa. 7:14; Mt. 1:23, and contexts.
- 1. Many deny the virgin birth.
Is the virgin birth harder to accept than the resurrection?
Is the virgin birth more difficult to believe than other miracles?
We must determine: exactly what is the difficulty?
- 2. These denials come from atheists (expected) but also from those who profess to be believers.
Non-Christian denials are expected.
- 3. In our brotherhood, there is confusion. Isa. 7 is ambiguous, capable of double fulfillment, hidden meanings. But in Matt. 1:23, there is no doubt.
- 4. So called Christian denials must be examined carefully, they demand our attention.
- 1. One must attempt to understand how the virgin birth ties to the divinity of Christ. Is a denial of the virgin birth a denial of his deity? We must determine what is at stake in accepting or denying the virgin birth. What is the importance of the virgin birth?
- 2. One must ask, On what grounds is the virgin birth denied or doubted?
- 3. One must learn what are the consequences of denying the virgin birth.
- 4. We shall try to determine what is the message of the virgin birth for us, and what it demands of us. Why is it important? What difference does it make? How can our lives be different if we believe and act correctly in this matter?
If Christ's departure from the world was unusual, it should not surprise us to find that his entry into the world was unusual. The virgin rests, first of all, on the reliability of the New Testament. Luke 1:1-4 finds Luke professing to write real history. He insists he checked everything carefully. He claims to have had access to other writings, and to eyewitnesses. Matthew does not reveal his sources, but he was an apostle with apostolic authority (19:28) and guidance (John 16:13-14; 14:21-26). He is associated with the group in Acts 1, and testifies of the virgin birth (Mt. 1:18- 23). Second, I am suggesting there is a certain consistency or "oughtness" to the virgin birth. The virgin birth is a fitting beginning for one who is identified as is Jesus. If the death and resurrection are beyond the norm of the natural, we might expect that the birth would also be beyond the natural.
I. On what grounds is the virgin birth denied or doubted?
- 1. It seems the primary problem, for most atheists and too many Christians, is that miracles have been outlawed. If miracles cannot happen, the virgin birth did not occur. But where is the proof? Such is a priori reasoning, circular. We are assuming what is to be proved. What does the NT say? We must deal with miracles. A correct understanding of miracles will avoid the extremes on both sides--complete denial of the possibility and seeing a miracle in everything that happens.
- 2. Mark and John do not mention the virgin birth of Jesus. Because they are silent, some have suggested they were either ignorant of the virgin birth or considered it unimportant. Can such really be the case? What are the chances of John the apostle being ignorant of the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. He and his brother James were first cousins. The first century church knew of it. If we doubt or deny everything that is not recorded by all four of the gospels, we do not have much left.
Have you considered the silence of Acts regarding the virgin birth? Luke wrote Acts also. Since he knew of the virgin birth in his gospel, why did he not include it in volume 2. If the book of Luke were unavailable to us, would someone come along and tell us that the author of Acts knew nothing of the virgin birth simply by its omission?
Charles Hodge was fond of the illustration: I can provide 200 honest men who can truthfully say they didn't see me do it.
- 3. It is claimed more and more that the virgin birth doesn't matter, that it is unimportant. It is claimed that the virgin birth adds nothing and detracts nothing from the Jesus story. God could have done it some other way. This is not Bible, and not consistent with a belief in the Bible. We must ask, What does the Bible truthfully say? Our attitude must not be, how much of the teaching of the Bible can I reject and still be acceptable to God?
The virgin birth does not add to the Jesus story, Jesus and his life make the virgin birth believable. The story is consistent--miracles, signs, wonders, his entire life--because of who He is. It is because of who Jesus is that we expect, accept the resurrection. The cross is special because it is his cross, on our behalf. The virgin birth is not bizarre, but is God's chosen way for his son to enter this world, declaring his ability to provide the connection between divinity and humanity.
II. What are the consequences of denying the virgin birth?
- 1. If the virgin birth is denied, there are two options: human origin or he was never born and the Jesus story is a fabrication.
- 2. Denying the virgin birth undermines the authority of the Bible because the Bible affirms it. If one cannot depend upon this section of Scripture, what can one depend upon? How can we know what to keep and what to discard? To reject one part of scripture is to deny authority to all of Scripture.
- 3. The denial of the virgin birth opens the door for the denial of the miracles, and even the resurrection which is the distinguishing and significant factor in Christianity. I do not believe one can accept and have the resurrection and deny the virgin birth.
- 4. We line up against Mary and the authors of Scripture who insisted that the baby was conceived by the power of God and independent of human origin. If she was not correct in her claim, how was Christ conceived?
- 5. We leave ourselves without a solid word of Scripture as to the time and context of the incarnation. If we dismiss the record of the virgin birth, we have no knowledge of the how of the incarnation, for they are inextricably connected. We are involved in speculation more than proclamation.
- 6. We weaken the case for the deity of Jesus. Historically and logically, the divinity of Christ, the Incarnation are bound up with the virgin birth, and no one can successfully affirm any one of them without affirming all.
What does the virgin birth mean for you and for me? 1 Cor. 15:1-4 is a definition of the gospel, but it is not exhaustive. When Paul speaks of Jesus, does he not include the incarnation of deity born of the virgin (Gal. 4:4). Isa. 7:14 is translated virgin by the LXX. This is not a question of literal meaning, but what is being communicated. 250 years before Christ, this text was understood as meaning virgin. The gospel includes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but it is clear in romans that the gospel embraces the response of faith (as opposed to law). This is the good news of Rom.; 3:21-26. Some have tried to distinguish the Jesus Paul proclaims, but Rom. 1:3-4 are a lot like Luke 1:29-35. One can discuss the virgin birth as a topic, perhaps somewhat independent of the person of Jesus Christ, but one cannot abstract the Jesus of the Bible from the Christ born of a virgin. That is the very truth of the Jesus who died, was buried, and rose for our sins.
Is Christ's deity a part of the gospel? Are his appearances part of the gospel? Can the resurrection be gospel without those witnesses? The good news is not only that Christ accomplished his work, but is centered in who Jesus is, and that God has given us through him the message of reconciliation.
It is a denial of the Bible to deny the virgin birth, yet many who fill church pulpits today deny the importance of the virgin birth.
The virgin birth says important things to which you and I must respond.
1. It declares a time in history when God became flesh, that God intersected the human dilemma with his own presence.
2. It points out that Jesus is unique, not just another baby, but is Lord and Christ, in his birth, life, actions, death, and resurrection. Any concept of Jesus that divorces him from his deity, divinity, lordship, and sovereignty is inadequate.
3. It proclaims how deeply God longs to have fellowship with his creation.
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Last updated November 23, 2002.