This meeting has seriously become a high point of my week. I love this group and I love this topic!
Today we talked about chapter 5 of Word of Life, “The Manner of God’s Coming.” It is an entire chapter dedicated to the virgin birth of Christ. I have to admit, when I saw the topic of this chapter, I thought to myself, “But we already spent four or five weeks talking about the Incarnation — shouldn’t this be covered already?
Not quite. There are many layers of significance in the fact that Jesus chose to be born in such a unique way.
One of the things that becomes immediately apparent with this aspect of His humanity is that it indicates to us that something transcendent is going on. Jesus loves the human process, and chose to be born in all other respects in the normal, natural human way. He never took any developmental shortcuts at any point in His life, yet the wisdom of the Godhead chose to forego the help of a human father in Christ’s conception. Why? There are undoubtedly many reasons that yet remain hidden to us, but there are a number of motives the Lord had in this unprecedented supernatural act.
To begin with, it’s good to note that this is not a snubbing of the natural human method of reproduction. God invented it. He is neither ashamed of the intimate union of marriage, nor of the human body — after all, He became a human being, born to a woman betrothed to be married. So what else is at work here?
Oden points out several possible reasons in his book. Some of them I agree with, some of them I’m not sure about. But I’m only going to comment on the ones that particularly struck us in our group today.
Firstly, we discussed the reason that we had all most often heard preached: that in the bypassing of a human father, Christ did not inherit a sin nature. None of us were entirely sure what to think about this. On the one hand, there are a couple of verses that mightly imply that sin is passed down through the fathers, or through Adam (Ex 20:5; 1Cor 15:22). However, sin is not a male problem. It’s a human problem (Rom 3:23). Though I am sure she was an excellent, righteous woman, I do not believe Mary was sinless. And I also do not believe that mothers have no impact whatever on the heritage of their children. The question in our group was not whether or not Jesus had a sin nature — that answer is clearly no. The question was whether or not being born to a virgin was what did the trick. We didn’t exactly land an answer on this, and I, for one, am very open to discussion on this point. So feel free to comment below if you can set me straight!
A reason I like, though, is that God chose a virgin to carry His Son so that there would be no confusion as to who the real Father was, or to who Jesus was. Jesus was God from eternity past, He was God at the moment of conception, and from now until eternity He will be God. It’s not like God found a nice little carpenter’s family, said, “I like that kid,” and moved in. Can you imagine Jesus trying to explain that one when He grew up? “Well, Joseph’s My father… but God’s also My Father. In fact, He’s kind of more My Father, but if you want to be technical about it… Um… it’s complicated.” As silly as it sounds, this idea is actually a very old heresy commonly known as adoptionism.
Adoptionism holds that Jesus was born as just a normal baby in the natural way, and then at some point (most people say at His baptism), the Holy Spirit essentially possessed Him, and at that point He became God. This has two very crucial flaws. Firstly, it undermines the deity of Christ in general. If He was not always God, He was never God at all, because God never changes. Secondly, it muddles the idea of the Person of Christ. Remember our four pillars of Christology from the very beginning of this study? Jesus is 1) fully God, 2) fully Man, 3) two distinct natures, and 4) One unconfused Person. It’s not like there was a human-Jesus and a God-Jesus who happened to share one body. It’s not like there was a human-Jesus puppet being manipulated via remote control from heaven. The Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, literally became flesh. A whole, singular person.
By being born of a virgin, confusion on this issue was eliminated from the very beginning, for any who are willing to receive the miracle. This Baby was more than a little boy from Nazareth. This was literally God, literally become flesh. There was no other way to explain it.
Another reason for Christ to be born to a virgin is one we’ve talked about briefly in the Incarnation studies. He wanted to redeem and dignify the entire human race — both genders. To be born obviously and necessarily requires an adult woman, but, as God demonstrated, His creative power can form life within that woman without the normal contribution of a man. So in the Incarnation, Jesus came as a Man, born to a woman, thus dignifying both male and female as He did in the Garden of Eden (Gen 1:27 — male+female=image of God).
In addition to the theological reasons above, it’s helpful to note that the promise that Christ would be born to a virgin is highlighted several times in Scripture. We’re all familiar with the prophecy of Isaiah 7, that “the virgin shall be with child”. But actually, the promise is practically as old as creation itself. I Genesis 3:15, in the tragic state of Eden immediately after the fall, God makes the first promise of the coming Messiah. As a side note: How awesome is our God? Even as the curse of sin is being delineated, He is instantly providing a means of hope and mercy. The promise is a familiar one, stating that a Man would come who would crush the head of the serpent. Yet this Person was not just the seed of humanity, and not just the seed of Adam (seeing how descendents are most commonly traced by the fathers in Scripture). The coming Savior would be the seed of the woman. The promise was spoken specifically to Eve. I don’t believe this is meant to exclude Adam at all; I believe instead that in the first Messianic prophecy, God is already hinting at His plan to be born to a virgin.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to wrap it up here. But if you haven’t yet, be sure and read Word of Life chapter 5, read Luke 2, and take some time to marvel at the wisdom of God’s plan. 🙂
Next Week: We’re reading through Word of Life page 180 (halfway through chapter 6). See you then!