"When the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son born of a woman...." Galatians 4:4
A few years ago a secular singer named Joan Osborne wrote and sang a popular song, "One of Us," which asked the question, "What if God were one of us?" I found this song riveting. Although the theology was way off, a plea was made, seeking to know why we exist. Where is God in all of this life, and what if He lived my life? The answer of course is yes, Joan, God is one of us, or at least was. That is what the incarnation is all about.
The incarnation simply means God came to be a man. He was fully man while remaining fully God. That way He could identify with our plight in life. As He lived a normal human existence for over 30 years, He experienced all that we experienced, including all the emotions, relationships, and temptations.
He drove nails as He worked with His earthly father. He obeyed His earthly mother when she asked Him to take out the trash. He played, He worked, and He lived the life of a man, a human being, with all that we have in our makeup that makes us human. He went to sleep at night, and awoke to a normal life with all of the stresses and opportunities a human could have in the first century.
Therefore, we can never say to Him, Hey, God, You do not understand my situation or me! He does indeed understand. He has indeed been where we are. He may not have gone to high school in Burbank, driven a car, programmed a VCR, or held a job in a cubical with an annoying boss, but He has experienced all that is important in life that we experience and wonder about!
We need to have a grasp on who we are in Christ, and who Christ is. This is the foundation of being a Christian. Who is He? What did He do for me? What is my role and purpose? These themes stand out as we celebrate Christmas, because Christmas is the celebration of what we call the incarnation, that is, that Christ, being fully God Who created the universe, Who always existed, chose to come down to us, to be one of us.
Consider what you may have learned in school, especially in science, since science demands that every event must have a cause. Science demands the classic if/then statement in logic and reasoning. If it is raining, then it must be cloudy. If you are a Christian, then you have been saved. That event had a cause. If you sinned and you are saved, then you received some kind of a miracle. The cause of sin itself (original sin as well as our willful disobedience) creates the ultimate need of our salvation.
Then comes the other cause of our being a Christian, and that is a Redeemer Who was necessary to save us. God, Who was one of us, lived in this world and in its sin. Yet, Christ remained sinless. He did not concede to the temptation thereby enabling us to be saved so that we would not be lost forever. Then, comes the if of the logical equation of we humans in temptation, and sin, which is in need. The if is the presence of a sinless man in the midst of a universally sinful human race. It all comes down to the cause for which we celebrate, which is the Christmas miracle. That miracle happened, the incarnation happened, for our salvation. So, why have the Incarnation? Why have a Virgin Birth?
Because such a person as Jesus Christ demanded it! This was a special birth that, as the Gospels record, showed us His Divine nature. The HOW of the birth becomes believable when the WHO of the birth is taken into account. We, as humans, are all born into, and with, original sin. By skipping the original sin, Christ became the second Adam (more precisely the first, since He is preexistent). As Adam represented all of humanity in the fall, Christ represented all of humanity in the redemption. Christ needed to be isolated from the original sin so it would not affect Him, so He could do what Adam could not do which was to remain sinless. If this had not been so, then the unique Jesus, who was born as one of us, would have created an unapproachable hurdle without the Virgin Birth. He would be unable, as we know it, to overcome the original sin that plagues us all. Would not the pre-existence of Christ necessitate such a miracle birth? Perhaps He could have come in some other way. We just do not know all of the options. But, if He had, then He would not have been one of us!
However, if we do not accept that Jesus was born special and unique, then we cannot accept that He is God. The incarnate Son of God is pure and holy and thus cannot touch sin. If He did, then He would be corrupted and unable to take our place by living a sin free life. He would be unable to save us. Thus, the Virgin Birth becomes logically inevitable and necessary. Who could be the Father of the Son of God but God Himself?
This doctrine was accepted by the early church and is included in all of the great Christian creeds. Justin Martyr included it among the cardinal items of Christian belief. The apologist Aristides accepted it. Ignatius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther insisted on it. So, how about you?
The Meaning of Virgin Birth
What does the term, Virgin Birth, mean? Jesus was born by the result of what we call the Miraculous Conception. His mother, Mary, who did not have sexual relations with His earthy stepfather Joseph, conceived our Lord in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then Mary gave birth to Jesus without a human father. (why Mary is not the poster women for women's rights and liberation groups, I will never know!) The Virgin Birth does not imply that Jesus was born in a manner different from any other child. He was born in exactly the same way as you and I. Nor, does it suggest that there was merely a Miraculous Conception as in the case of Sara or Elizabeth who were past age. Mary was a young woman, perhaps in her late teens, as was the custom then. It does not mean Immaculate Conception as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, for that dogma asserts that Mary was also conceived and born without original sin, a claim for which there is not a scintilla of Biblical evidence!
Jesus came into this world as a baby, with all of the human weaknesses, needs and desires. He had to be fed, changed, cared for, nurtured, educated, protected and loved, just as one of us. Yet, it was a virgin conception, an event entirely without parallel! Yet, He was still fully god Creator and Sustainer of all things. Modern science with test tube babies, artificial fertilization, and insemination still requires the seed of a man and the egg of a woman. Even in the case of cloning, the building blocks of the human geneo are already in place, for God created them. Science does nothing but rearrange the "Legos" that God created. Contrary to the course of nature, Jesus was miraculously conceived in the womb of Mary. She was the host or segregate, as the Spirit overshadowed her. To which percentage of her DNA did God use, 100%, 50%, 10%, or 0%? We do not know. So, our Lord and Savior could not only be identified as humanity's own, as one of us, but also still be able to save us.
The normal process of original sin was short circuited so He could be the Adam who did not sin, so He could take our place in life and in death, so He could live for us in the perfection that we could not, and take the punishment of God's wrath that we deserved, not Him! All this was possible because of the Virgin Birth. The transmission of humanities sinful nature and heritage was interrupted by this miraculous conception. Yes, Christ was one of us, He was fully human born without corruption, and yet, He was also, and still is, and forever will be, fully God. Was He still able to sin? Yes. Although this may be debated theologically, the Biblical evidence is that He was able to fall, but He did not! That was what His temptation in the wilderness was all about; yet He remained steadfast as our Protectorate and Savior.
Alternatives to the Virgin Birth
It is argued by liberal thinking people that the Bible does not insist on our believing in the virgin birth as a requirement for salvation. It is further argued that the virgin birth did not even take place, but that Believers added it later. Many pastors and denominations dismiss the supernatural aspects of the Bible and cut the virgin birth from their beliefs. So, does a belief in the virgin birth require our obedience? The Bible plainly teaches the fact of the virgin birth. If you believe the Bible to be true, then the virgin birth must be true also. And, Jesus has to be God for us to be saved. Is it possible for a person to be saved without knowing the details of the process? I believe so. Just as babies are born without any knowledge of embryology or just as I type this article into my computer without knowing all the details of how a computer works, the process continues. It is the integrity of the fact of whom Christ is, not our knowledge of every detail that lays the basis for our salvation.
Let us consider the alternatives, and ask if this doctrine is fact or fiction.
If the Virgin Birth did not happen, then…
1.…The New Testament narratives are proven false and the Bible's authority is raided. Thus, it is also inaccurate in other matters.
2.…Mary, instead of being blessed among women, is a fornicator, an adulteress, and must be branded as unchaste, for Joseph asserted that Jesus was not his son.
3.…Jesus becomes the ordinary child of sinful parents with the corruption of original sin, and is not the result of incarnation. Thus, His preexistence did not happen, and thus He not only is not God, but also, He is not able to redeem us, and is not worthy of our worship and adoration.
4.…We no longer have a sufficient explanation of His unique character, if He had one. Thus, He did not have a sinless life, and was unable to take our place in life, living the sinless life that we could not live. He was unable to pay the price of our sin and appease God's wrath for us.
5.…He was begotten of a human father. This could be the only alternative to the virgin birth. He was just a man, a good teacher, maybe a prophet. Jesus Christ could not be the Second Person of the Trinity as He claimed, and therefore has no power to forgive our sin.
6.…The miracle of Miraculous Conception is refuted and nullified. We no longer have a Savior, thus there is no need to "do" church.
7.…Logically, we should deny all miracles, as they do not nor cannot happen. The question we should be asking and seeking is, are we willing to accept the super-naturalistic claims of Scripture or not?
The virgin birth is the starting point of knowing who Christ is. It points to His humanity, as He became one of us, and His Godhood, as the One Who came to save us. When we deny this essential doctrine, we deny Scripture. We set ourselves up, as fallen humans, to be the ultimate authority. We say in essence that God is irrelevant and perhaps even non-existent in our lives. We say there is no sin, which even the daily newspapers testify to be a false statement. We make the claim for ourselves that we have no need to be saved. What extreme arrogance and hopelessness we would have.
It should be stated that this doctrine is at variance with nothing taught elsewhere in the New Testament. But, on the other hand, it positively correlates the pre-existence of Christ and His incarnation.(See Isaiah 7:10-16; Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:34-37; John 1:1-18; Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:45-49, Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:1-14; 2:14-18; 4:15)