2008-06-22 (pm) LD 14 Matt. 1:18-25; Heb. 9:11-28 Christmas in June
I find this absolutely fascinating. We know that the catechism is going through the Apostle’s Creed. But don’t you think that by the 16th century that the church would’ve assumed the truth of the virgin birth?
I mean, if the Roman Catholic Church named her parishes back then, the way they do now, there wouldn’t be any doubt, would there? Every Sunday during college, I drove past the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Wouldn’t you have expected to see less stress on this point of the Catechism. Wouldn’t have you expected the authors to say, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, okay we’ve got that. It’s in the Bible, it’s clear. Isaiah prophesied about it. Matthew and Luke record it, in detail. So, we’ll just skip it and jump to the nitty gritty, suffering under Pontius Pilate.
Obviously, these guys were led by the Spirit. No, they were not inspired in the same way as the Biblical authors, but rather they were led, as I pray I’m led by the Holy Spirit to explain God’s Word clearly.
And really, the virgin birth is a very important Biblical truth.
What I find truly astounding is the flippant attitude that some people have toward it!
There are people, who call themselves Christians, there are pastors who think that the virgin birth isn’t a fundamental truth!
There are people who say, “You can’t put God in a box. When you go about defining God, you’re putting him in a box.”
The reason they say these things, the reason they have these ideas come from pure motivations. They come out of a respect for God’s awesomeness, his power, his majesty, his indescribableness. So, rather than having any definitions of God, they don’t want to limit God by placing limiting definitions on Him.
So, they, out of respect for God, refuse to limit him by describing him.
But there’s a really, really big problem with this idea. First, if you don’t define God, God can become anything. He’s that rock. He’s nature, He’s the earth, the universe. He’s love, He’s power, He’s eternity.
No matter what, you can’t help limiting God, even by describing him, even by trying to be unlimiting in your descriptions. So, these people say, language fails, so we’d better just not do it at all.
They criticise those who do as being God limiters. They’d probably say it would be like buying a vehicle that can go 300 kph, but is governed at 50kph. What a phenomenal waste of horsepower!
The second thing they fail to recognise and this is by far most important, they fail to realise that God chose to limit himself. God, who created us, who is far more aware of our limitations than we are, chose to make himself known to us in a way in which we can understand Him, but also in a way that makes us realise that he is far more than we can ever imagine.
In spite of this reality, that God is far more than we can know, God revealed himself so that we can know him. God purposely limited himself so that we could know him.
And the virgin birth is the most amazing, powerful, incredible expression of God’s revelation!
The Holy Spirit conceived the Son of God in Mary, a virgin.
Now, the detractors, the people who refuse to box God, at this point try to show that though the Gospel writers were quoting Isaiah, Isaiah was merely talking about a young woman, not necessarily a virgin.
That is complete rubbish. Any person can figure out that these guys are, for whatever reason, grasping at straws.
It is based on a couple of presuppositions that remain prevalent in Biblical studies today. First, they assume that Isaiah must have meant young woman, not virgin. Why? Because they believe that it is unlikely that Isaiah was talking exclusively about Mary. Because he was preaching to a specific group of people, in a specific context, his words must have had a specific, contextual message for those people. And that that particular message just happened to fit with Jesus and Mary, and the disciples really were just doing a bit of proof texting, but because they were inspired, they could get away with it.
This is, I’m not sorry to say, pure nonsense. Utter blasphemy. Isaiah was talking about Jesus. There are lots of prophecies that were far off. Or how do we understand the words God spoke to the serpent, if he wasn’t talking about Jesus?
Adam, picking up on that, called his wife, Eve, which means living. Adam, having just been reamed out by the creator, having tried to avoid punishment by blaming the woman God put there with him, is now transformed. He’s a man. He’s shouldering his responsibility and he demonstrates his love for his wife by naming her Eve. If he’d named her before the curse was laid on the serpent, he’d have called her something meaning leads her husband into sin, or sinner, or lousy wife, or something like that. But now, in his wife, he saw God’s grace, and he saw that her future offspring would be the saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.
Isaiah likewise was encouraging his people by telling them to look beyond their present suffering, and to look toward Jesus. Job spoke of Jesus, saying, “I know my redeemer lives!”
So don’t be fooled. God deliberately placed himself in a very small, very humble, very human sized box. Anything else and we wouldn’t understand God at all.
In Jesus, we can relate. We see humans all the time! Jesus is a human. True, he’s also divine, and now, since his ascension, he’s also all powerful, all authoritative and almighty, but he’s still human. As to his resurrected human nature, he’s still very much like us, but of course, apart from Sin.
The virgin birth is vital. It is important. It is a small box very much worth keeping and defending. I don’t care if some modern Christians call me a wall builder, or a God boxer, or whatever. I believe that this is how God limited himself on purpose so that we can have a good, healthy, positive relationship with Him, and have communion with Him, and become His children! Amazing. No, an undefined, unlimited God is of no use. A limited, specific, relatable, knowable, human and divine God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that’s amazing.
Quickly, we’ll go over why Christ had to be born of a woman: so that he could take on human flesh, so that he could atone for human sin. Why did Mary have to be a virgin? So that there would be no shadow of a doubt that Jesus is also divine. He had no biological father. He has a spiritual father and an adoptive human father.
How then does the virgin birth benefit us?
What a great question. This is so important, and again, it stresses the importance of allowing God to place himself in a box. Without this box, we have no benefit. Without the virgin birth, our faith is useless. As the apostle Paul says, if that is false, then we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:19).
But it is not false. It is true. Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, is fully God and fully human.
It is necessarily true. For without Jesus taking on human flesh, he couldn’t have atoned for human sin. A human sacrifice was necessary in order to pay for human sin. A divine sacrifice was necessary to pay for the sins of many. Jesus Christ perfectly fits those requirements.
In order to satisfy God’s justice, such a sacrifice had to be made. Jesus Christ, out of love for God, and love for us, willingly humbled himself right out of heaven, lived, willingly suffered, was tortured, and died, placing the sins of those who are being saved upon himself. His blood, cleansed us from all our sin.
So that now, right now, when God the Father looks upon us, what does he see? Does he see our sins? Does he plot our suffering?
No! A resounding no! When God the father looks upon us, he sees Jesus’ righteousness!
And that righteousness came only through Jesus Christ because he was virgin born. Jesus Christ took on human flesh and blood, so that human blood could be sprinkled on the true altar in the true temple.
Again, we see in the book of Hebrews the amazing difference in Christ’s sacrifice versus the sacrifices offered throughout the Old Testament.
In the OT, the blood was sprinkled on the outside of a person, so as to sanctify the outside. But as Jesus reveals in Matthew 23:25-26, you can have the cleanest outside, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference if the inside is still dirty.
Jesus’ blood is completely different from all other sacrifices. The pure, unblemished lamb of Christ cleans us from the inside out.
Christ offered his sacrifice once and for all. It is a done deal. Jesus Christ can never be crucified again. His sacrifice was perfect and eternal!
That is such a blessing! That is such a benefit!
Think about it!
What is your attitude when you sin? You feel remorse, you repent, really repent, but then, boom that same old sin, or maybe a brand new evil comes along and whammo! It knocks you off track and into a sinful state once again!
All the stuff you’d worked for, all the supposed righteousness you’d built up. All the good feelings you’d had about yourself are gone. Wiped out in a moment.
You come to the point where you don’t even want to confess your sin to God. You don’t feel worthy to be in his presence, with his people, serving him at work or school or in your family. You messed it up big time.
But this passage benefits us! It assures us that Christ’s sacrifice was made even before we were born! Even before we had a single opportunity to be righteous, even before we had a single opportunity to sin, Christ’s righteousness was already given to us! Christ’s atoning sacrifice was already perfected, done, made right.
Now, about specific sin, what is worse, the original sin we’re already born into, or the specific sins we commit. We know that the wages of sin is death, so if everyone is guilty and deserving of death simply by being born into sin, then, will God be surprised by any specific sin we do? Not at all!
So, there’s nothing that can surprise God, nothing in fact that can separate us from the love he has for us in Christ.
That’s comfort! That’s assurance! And without the virgin birth, there is no perfect sacrifice of Christ. If he was just the progeny of Mary and Larry, our hope is futile. If Jesus is just a man, we’re toast, literally. But no, Jesus was born of a virgin, so that his divinity and his humanity might combine in order to produce in us the greatest gift ever! Everlasting life with God our creator. No Christmas present, in December or July can ever come close! Amen.
Q & A 36
Q. How does the holy conception and birth of Christ
A. He is our mediator,^1
and with his innocence and perfect holiness
he removes from God's sight
my sin—mine since I was conceived.^2
^1 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 9:13-15
^2 Rom. 8:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19