This article is about the mystery of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The author also discusses the incarnation of the Son of God, and Jesus Christ as being human and God.

Source: New Horizons, 1989. 2 pages.

And the Word Became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Anyone who reads the New Testament with the reverence of divinely generated faith will sense the awe and wonder of those who eye-witnessed the Savior. The reader will come to know beyond doubt that he was human. On the other hand, the reader will have to ask, as did his contemporaries, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him." (Mathew 8:27) No wonder," the crowd was amazed and said, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel'." (Mathew 9:33)

 In one person were all the marks of humanity (except sin); yet he wore the insignia of deity.

Recall your own reading of the New Testament account. Was Jesus not truly human? He issued from the womb of the virgin Mary, born of her substance (Luke 1:35). Like all of us, he grew and developed (Luke 2:40, 52). He was tempted (Mathew 4:1-11). He felt sensations (John 4:6) and emotions (Luke 10:21, John 11:35). There were things he did not know (Mark 13:32), so he confessed that the Father was greater than he (John 14:28) and that he could do nothing of himself (John 5:19). He was a man of humble conduct, living in dependence upon his God. He was a man of prayer. He sought not his own, but the Father's honor (John 8:49-50). Finally, his human nature was fully manifested in his bitter suffering and death. How clear that he was truly human.

Is it not equally clear that Jesus was God? The Bible assures us that he was not conceived by ordinary means. The Savior had no human paternity (Luke 1:34-35). Nor is there the least evidence that he ever committed a sin. When he was brought to trial, even Pilate could find no fault in him (John 18:38). The Jews determined to kill him because he made "himself equal with God" (John 5:18). He said that all men should "honor the Son just as they honor the Father" and that "the Son (has) life in himself" just as truly as the Father (John 5:23, 26).

The Jews were correct in their perception of his claim. His claim was also a divine revelation. Jesus plainly demonstrated that what he claimed was true. He multiplied food for the multitude (John 6). He exercised control over natural forces (Mathew 8:26). He knew the minds of people (Luke 6:8). Three days after he laid down his life, he took it up again (John 10:18). When "doubting Thomas" saw him, raised in the flesh, he worshiped him as Lord and God. Thus the absolute deity of Christ is no less certain than his humanity.

What a contrast in these two natures of Christ! Yet there is no doubt that his deity and humanity constituted one person. Jesus never referred to his human nature as if it opposed his divine self. He did not speak as if he were merely human in contrast to some divine nature outside himself. No, his two natures were perfectly integrated into one personality. He always referred to himself as "I" – "I am the good Shepherd … I am the way, the truth and the life" – not "we." There were not "two" Christs – one divine and one human – but one only, the divine-human Lord Jesus.

What a great mystery! Precisely for this reason we find the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ essential to our faith. Far from presenting us with difficulty, it is the answer to what would otherwise be a greater enigma. To say that Christ was born of the virgin is to provide an answer to these questions: How could he be truly human and sinless? How could he be very God and human? How could he die and save his people? The answer is that Christ took unto himself "a true body and a reasonable soul" (Shorter Catechism Q. 22). He did this when he received the substance of his human nature from Mary. But since this was not by ordinary generation, that nature was received without the taint of original sin.

The doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is stupendous to believe. If it were ascribed to any other person in history, we would be unable to believe it. That is just the point: Jesus is unlike any other person in history. It is the heretical doctrine of his birth by ordinary generation, rather than the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth, that is out of place. John Murray said,

Supernatural generation is thoroughly in accord with the incarnation as properly defined. Natural generation, on the other hand, would be incongruous.

The practical importance of this doctrine is great. It is the beginning of the gospel, the good news, of God. Without it there is no gospel, because without it we would have no Christ who was "thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety" (Westminster Confession VIII, iii). Small wonder, then, that the Bible warns us so clearly:

If anyone comes to you, and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house, or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.2 John 10-11

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