Jesus Christ, Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary
Sunday, November 16, 2008 -
“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
In our last study we began unpacking what difference the virgin conception of Jesus makes. Why is it so important? We looked at one reason (a), The virgin birth attests to the fact that salvation must ultimately come from the Lord, and not from the work of man (studying the texts: Genesis 3:15 and Galatians 4:4-5). Today we move on to the second and third reasons:
2) b) The virgin birth makes possible the uniting of the full humanity of Jesus with the full deity of Jesus in the same person.
The virgin birth is the way God chose to unite full humanity and full deity in one person. It’s interesting to consider other ways in which Christ could have come to us:
i) Since God created Adam and Eve and hosts of angelic beings all by Himself, it would have been possible for God to simply create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and then just send Him down to earth. He would simply descend from heaven just as He actually ascended before the eyes of the disciples after His resurrection. In this way, Jesus would come without the involvement of any earthly birth or parent. He would simply arrive, a complete, saving package from heaven.
But there would be two huge problems with this plan: First, who among us would truly feel that Jesus was fully human, just as we are human? We might respect Him as a divine visitor from another realm, but few of us would actually believe He could relate to us in any meaningful way. And second, there would be no actual tie with the fallen race of Adam. Jesus would probably look and perhaps even act like one of us, but He wouldn’t truly be of Adam’s race. And that has tremendous theological implications for you and me. It is Adam’s race that has to be reconciled to God.
And if there is no tie with Adam’s race, then Jesus couldn’t possibly be the mediator between us and God. Real redemption is no longer an option. The early church fathers used to say “What Christ does not assume He cannot redeem.” This visiting Jesus may provide a good example and give some good teaching. But he could never provide a beneficial sacrifice for sin on our behalf.
ii) On the other hand, it would have been possible for Jesus to come into the world naturally, through two ordinary human parents and then have Father God infuse His mighty divine nature at some early point of childhood. But then it would have been very hard for us to imagine how Jesus could really be God among us, since His origin was exactly like ours in every way. He may turn out to be a great leader or teacher or religious prophet, but in what real sense would He be different from other great leaders, teachers and prophets?
I think when you look at these two hypothetical options, you begin to see the wisdom and necessity of the actual virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The virgin birth holds together the full deity of Jesus as God’s only Son and the full humanity of Jesus Christ as a member (albeit a sinless member) of Adam’s race. This is why Paul calls Jesus the last, or second Adam: 1 Corinthians 15:45 - “Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam “became a life-giving spirit.
So, because Jesus had an earthly mother, he is legitimately a member of Adam’s race. But, because He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, rather than any earthly father, His full deity is graciously manifested right from the moment of conception.
So remember where we are in our study, we are tracking the importance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. First, it attests to the fact that salvation must come from the Lord and is not the work of man. And second, it makes possible the uniting of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus the Christ. There is a third reason the virgin birth is of such great importance:
c) The virgin birth is important because it makes possible the full humanity of Jesus without the taint of inherited sin.
Studying the virgin birth is like studying the Trinity - you end up walking right up to the limits of your own feeble understanding. But it does seem that the angel of the Lord rests the sinlessness of Jesus the Christ on the foundation of His virgin birth: Luke 1:35 - “And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
While expressing the very same truth, the Revised Standard Version hits the phrase with an even stronger emphasis: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore for that reason the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” In other words, the holiness of the child - the enablement to resist the corruption of the fallen sinful nature the rest of us are conceived in - will be due to the fact that the conception of the child is from the Holy Spirit.
Now there is a question that arises right at this point. We all know that our human nature is not only passed on by the genetic line of the father. You inherit many traits from your earthly mother as well. Our Roman Catholic friends try to solve this problem by maintaining the sinlessness of Mary as well as the sinlessness of Jesus. In that way there is no link, either on the father’s side or the mother’s side to a sinful past.
But besides being totally unsubstantiated by the Scriptures, this solution only begs the question, why didn’t Mary receive a sinful nature from her mother? Was Mary’s mother sinless as well? And then what about her grandmother? Somewhere along the way, at some point, there must have been an ordinary sinful nature somewhere.
No, the Scriptures give a better answer. The angel says the reason Jesus was conceived with the capacity for consistent holiness was due to the unique conception by the Holy Spirit.
This is what the angel was explaining to Mary: “The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God”(Luke 1:35).
So the virgin conception of Jesus is important for at least those three reasons: First, it shows that salvation must be a divine work, and not the result of human effort. Second, it makes possible the uniting of full humanity and full deity in the one person of Jesus. And Third, it makes possible the full humanity of Jesus without yielding, as we all do, to the habitual downward pull of the Fall.