The Importance of the Virgin Birth of Christ
In Luke 1:30-35, we read the story of the angel Gabriel revealing to Mary that although she was a virgin she would conceive in her womb and bear a son who would be the Son of the Most High God. Naturally Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” The angel answered that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and by the power of God she would conceive and bear a son, who would be called “the Son of God”. The angel then reminded her that, “nothing will be impossible with God”. Nevertheless, I recently saw a Pew research report that almost half of Americans do not believe in the virgin birth account of Luke 1. Even worse, I have been alarmed at how many Christians don’t think it matters, or don’t think it is a fundamental necessary Christian belief. I can definitely tell you one person that is delighted about this—the adversary of God. You see the virgin birth teaches both the humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ, both of which are foundational to who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us on the cross. If Jesus was not born of a virgin as the Scripture says, then He was just human and not able to make a perfect sacrifice of infinite value to atone for our sins.
What the Virgin Birth Does Not Mean
I think it’s important to understand what the virgin birth does not mean. It does not mean Jesus was born differently from any other human baby. He is fully human and had a normal human birth. It does not mean he was just another miracle child like Isaac, Jacob, Samson, John the Baptist or any of the other biblical babies born to mothers who had before been barren. It does not mean the Immaculate Conception taught by the Roman Catholic Church, which says Mary was conceived without original sin. It DOES mean that Mary had no sexual relations with Joseph or any other human, but she conceived our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. You could say then that God Himself was the only father Jesus had. Mary gave birth to Jesus without a human father. The natural man we encounter would say “But that’s physically impossible”. Remember the angel said to Mary “nothing will be impossible with God”. A guy once told me that he found the virgin birth hard to believe, and so I asked him if he believed that God created all things. He replied that he did. My response was, “So you believe God created the incredibly huge universe, and He created all living things, yet you have trouble with Him creating one tiny baby in Mary’s womb? So you think that’s the thing that seems too hard for God?”
Why is it so Important?
If we don’t believe in the virgin birth, then we may deny the very deity of Christ. The denial of the deity of Christ is the foundation of almost every heretical cult that has sprung from Christianity. In order for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to be sufficient for the atonement of our sins past, present, and future—Christ must be fully human so He could die, but fully God so His sacrifice would be of infinite value in forgiving sin. Does the Scripture make it clear that Jesus claimed deity? In John 10:30, after the religious leaders asked Him who He claimed to be, He answered “I and the Father are one (of the same essence)”. In John 8:38, when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, they said Abraham was their father, to which in John 8:58 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say unto you before Abraham was, I AM”. Jesus not only claimed to preexist Abraham, He used the holy name of God in referring to Himself. In Exodus 3:14 when Moses asked God’s name, God replied “I AM THAT I AM, tell them I AM sent you”. In Mark 14:61-62, when the High Priest was questioning Jesus he said, “Are you the Son of God?” and Jesus replied “I am and you will see me seated at the right hand of Power (God)”. What about the New Testament authors, what did they believe and reveal? Peter called Jesus “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). John said Jesus existed from the beginning and He is the creator of all things. Paul also is very clear as well about the deity of Christ.
Did the Old Testament Prophets Predict the Virgin Birth and the Deity of Christ?
The major prophet that God chose to reveal the clearest prophecies about the expected Christ was Isaiah. In Isa.7, the people of Jerusalem feared a coming invasion, and God sent Isaiah the prophet to speak to King Ahaz. Isaiah told the king not to fear, and that the invasion would not happen. More importantly, Isaiah told the king that he and the city needed to repent of their idolatry and return to the Lord. Since the king was so stubborn, Isaiah told him to ask for a sign from God, but King Ahaz refused. Since Israel refused to repent, the prophet told them that in the future God would give them a sign that since Judah had rejected God, the only sign they would get is the virgin birth of the Messiah who would be the only remedy for their sin. Only through a virgin could help come to Israel. Only through God’s intervention of the virgin birth could all the promises of God to bless the world come true. In Isaiah 7:14 the prophet predicted 700 years before Christ, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call him God with us”. In the New Testament fulfillment of this prophecy of Matthew 1:22-23, the author interprets Isaiah 7:14 for us by quoting from Isaiah 7:14 and saying Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Isaiah 9:6-7 also predicted Jesus, “For us a child will be born, a son will be given…and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”. These four descriptive titles tell us Jesus would be a great teacher, He would be God in the flesh, and He would bring peace between God and man.
The Inspiration of Scripture is at Stake
In the last 200 years liberal theologians have tried to redefine doctrines while using the same terminology. In an effort to deny the deity of Christ, they reduce the importance of the virgin birth. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, then His father was a human being, which removes the first evidence of His deity—that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb. The other side of the coin for evangelical Christians was that the virgin birth became a test of a person’s position on the inspiration of Scripture. By asking someone if they believed in the virgin birth, you could quickly ascertain their position on interpreting the Bible literally. It’s also a convenient way of determining their position on the supernatural in general. Those who deny the virgin birth or limit its importance are in danger of repudiating the authority of the Bible. Theologian Millard Erickson wrote, “If the Bible tells us it happened, it is important to believe that it did because not to do so is a tacit repudiation of the authority of the Bible”.
Why is the Virgin Birth Important to Us Personally?
The authors of the Bible are clear that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22, Lev.17:11). Sin must be atoned by the innocent blood. God is spirit and He has no blood. Salvation was lost by man, so it must be paid for by man, and just any man won’t do—it must be a perfect man without sin. We are all descended from Adam, and his sin is passed down to us somehow in his genes. Therefore if I wanted to die for your sin, it would mean nothing because I deserve to die for my own sin. If Jesus had of been born like we are He would have been born a son of Adam, and just another sinner. God’s answer is the God-man, Jesus who is 100% human, but also fully sinless and innocent. The question may be asked then, “Whose blood was in the baby Jesus?” Remember that every baby has separate blood from the mother, and the mother may have one blood type, but the baby have another blood type. The baby Jesus’ blood was determined by the Holy Spirit, which was sinless innocent blood created by God. Apparently through the man’s seed sin is passed, so a perfect sinless child could not have been born from a male descendant of Adam. Another way of looking at it is that every person is the sum total of the recessive or dominant genes of their two parents. Therefore, Jesus had the dominant genes of God and the recessive genes of Mary, and no genes from Joseph.
If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He would have been born of Joseph or some other naturally sinful man. Being born by God He was sinless and able to die the perfect substitutionary death for us to atone for our sin. Jesus came to earth (the incarnation) so that we might go to heaven. What we could not do for ourselves, He did for us. If God was to save us sinners, He had to come up with a suitable sacrifice because being holy, God required that justice be done. Silly people like to think that God just overlooks sin like a kindly grandfather, or that God grades on the curve so since we are better than bad people we are safe. God is perfectly holy and righteous, and we will all be judged by God’s perfect standard. The question then on judgment day will be “Are your failures, lies, selfish acts, and sin in general paid for by a perfect substitutionary sacrifice?” God Himself was the only fit sacrificial offering qualified for the atonement, and therefore Jesus had to be literally the Son of God.
Once I was watching the Larry King show, and a caller was asked, “What would you ask Jesus if He were here?” The caller replied, “I would ask Him about the virgin birth. Was He really born of a virgin? The answer to that question would define history and the future for me because if Jesus was virgin born then He was truly God’s Son.”