The 2000 Year Old Virgin

Merry Christmas! As you are celebrating today and this week, I pray that you are reminded once again how great the love of God is as displayed in the incarnation. And I pray that you eat well, have safety in your travels, and enjoy some fun with family and friends (even some board games?! there’s probably a post somewhere in my brain about those). In light of Christmas, I want to talk about a central doctrine this week: the virgin birth of Christ. Just how important is it to our faith? And what impact does, or should, it have on our youth ministries?

The Virgin Birth of Christ

I want this blog post to be a brief consideration of the virgin birth, and to ultimately serve as a jumping off point for further study personally – both on your end and on mine. There are several books that informed what I’ll be saying, and while I’ll make a note when I directly cite something, I’ll simply provide the information on those books here[1]. This isn’t a school paper after all haha. As we get started, I’ll also say this: if you arrive at a fundamental disagreement with me at the end of this post, this blog might not be for you. That’s how essential the virgin birth of Christ is. So why is it so important?

1. The virgin birth shows that Jesus is human and divine.

There is perhaps no more important doctrine than the incarnation, when Jesus took on flesh. If Jesus did not become a man, he would not have died on the cross and the resurrection would not have happened. Those are pretty important aspects of our salvation, right? The fact that Jesus was actually born lends credibility to the claim we have that he is fully man. If he was not born, and simply appeared on Earth, there could be a question as to his humanity.

However, if we were only concerned about the humanity of Jesus, a normal birth would be fine. But we are not simply claiming that Jesus was a human being, but that he is also fully God. In order for Jesus to be fully God, the virgin birth must have actually occurred. If Jesus was the offspring of a normal birth, how could he then be God? The truth that we hold onto however, that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, demonstrates his divinity. In the virgin birth, we see the two natures of Jesus. Fully man, fully God. The virgin birth is a crucial event in the story of redemption. One question might arise, though, as we consider Jesus’ birth.

2. What about original sin?

Another core belief that is tied into the gospel is our sin nature, and the original sin of Adam that causes us to be born sinful. Why wasn’t Jesus born with a sinful nature, thereby stopping him from living a perfect life? Here is where the virgin birth comes into play. Because Jesus’ birth came about by the Holy Spirit, God prevented the transmission of sin to Jesus in his birth. In addition, because Jesus did not have a human father, the line of descendants from Adam was interrupted. I don’t have the word capacity to do full justice to this point, but I encourage you to ponder and look into it more yourself. The virgin birth is a concrete solution to the question of Jesus and original sin.

The reason it is important for Jesus to have been born without a sin nature has already been mentioned. The atonement is possible because of the sinlessness of Jesus. If he was not perfect, he could not have been a sacrifice in our place. To this end, I can understand how someone who has not put their trust in Jesus would doubt the virgin birth. But how can anyone who has claimed salvation by the blood of Jesus say, “He wasn’t really born of a virgin.” The two are unmistakably intertwined. It’s kind of a big deal.

3. Our view on the virgin birth reveals our view of Scripture

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”[2]

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’

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.”[3]

In two different gospels, one written by a Jew (Matthew) and one written by a Greek (Luke), the virgin birth of Jesus is clearly recorded. The Old Testament also prophecies a virgin birth, both in the passage quoted from Isaiah, but also in the protoevangelium: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”[4] Notice that God tells Satan his head will be bruised by her offspring. In the world of Genesis, descendants were linked to their father – but here the woman is highlighted, a very clever and really interesting prophecy of a virgin birth.

Regardless of that specific prophecy, however, the virgin birth is claimed very clearly in Scripture, and to deny it is a blatant denial of the inerrancy and reliability of Scripture.

R.C. Sproul sums up the importance of the virgin birth well: “Those who do not believe in the Virgin Birth usually do not believe that Jesus is the true Son of God. Thus, the Virgin Birth is a watershed doctrine, separating orthodox Christians from those who do not believe in the Resurrection and Atonement.”[5]

What does this have to do with youth ministry?

I hope you can already see countless ramifications the doctrine of the virgin birth has for youth ministry, and for any ministry really. The full humanity and full divinity of Jesus in the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, and Scripture are all tied into the virgin birth. As we ourselves seek to know why we believe what we believe, we are able to help others, especially teenagers, to grow in the same way. We are responsible for a large portion of the doctrine our teens have, and so we have to take that seriously.

Another aspect is the questions teenagers will have, and we ourselves might have, about how the virgin birth could happen. When we’ve done our homework and understand the credibility of the virgin birth ourselves, we are better equipped to dialogue with the questions that arise. Two resources I would recommend to this end are C.S. Lewis’ Miracles, specifically chapter 15, and Normal Geisler’s The Big Book of Christian Apologetics, pages 577-582.


As you celebrate Christmas (or have already celebrated, if you’re reading this later than when it posts), I pray that you are struck by the necessity of the virgin birth. That you are overwhelmed by love and grace evident in it. And that you are filled with joy as the effects of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection work out in your life. Merry Christmas.

 

[1] Miracles by C.S. Lewis, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul, The Big Book of Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics by Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner, and Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

[2] Matthew 1:18-23 ESV, the prophet quoted is Isaiah 7:14

[3] Luke 1:30-35 ESV

[4] Genesis 3:15 ESV

[5] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, 90.

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