Does the Virgin Birth Really Matter?

December 23, 2016

by Brandon Crowe

If the virgin birth is only found explicitly in two passages (Matt. 1:18–3:12; Luke 1:26–38), can it really be that important? Absolutely! If we did not know about the virgin birth of Jesus, our knowledge of Jesus’s person and work would be greatly impoverished. Consider the following implications:

The virgin birth shows us that salvation is a gift from God alone. Although Israel had been eagerly awaiting its Messiah, and many had presumed to deliver Israel, in reality it took God’s Spirit working in the womb of the virgin Mary to bring the true Redeemer of his people into the world. All human efforts at lasting deliverance come to nothing. Instead, the virgin birth shows us that it was necessary for God to send forth his Son as Redeemer. This was God’s plan and God’s timing.

Additionally, the virgin birth points us to the divine, eternal sonship of Jesus. Jesus already had the identity of Son based on his relationship with his Father before he was ever born in human flesh. The virgin birth shows us that it would be inconsistent to say that Jesus is the Son of God but also the physical son of Joseph. Instead, we see that Jesus’s sonship is a very important indicator of who he is, even before his incarnation (cf. Luke 1:35; John 3:16–17; 6:37-40; 10:36; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:1–4).

The virgin birth also reveals to us how Jesus could really become one of us without the inherited corruption of sin, which can be traced back to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). If death spread to all men through the disobedience of Adam, how could any human redeemer, himself subject to the curse of sin, fully deliver us from that sin? Part of the magnificent answer lies in the great mystery of the virgin birth. Jesus’s lack of earthly paternity indicates that he was not implicated in the disobedience of Adam, but was himself the head of a humanity and a new covenant.

The virgin birth shows us that it was necessary for God to send forth his Son as Redeemer.

Thus, it would be wrong to think of the virgin birth as part of the “superhuman” nature of Jesus. Instead, the virgin birth is the means by which Jesus could be born of a real woman, and really partake of flesh and blood for us and for our salvation! He was made like us in every way yet without sin (Heb. 2:14–18; 4:15). Indeed, part of becoming like us in every way seems to have been his sanctifying for us every stage of life by overcoming every temptation. Since by man came death, it was necessary that the resurrection from the dead also come through a man (1 Cor. 15:21). Jesus is that man who overcame the disobedience of Adam. All of this is possible because of the actual, physical, virgin birth of Jesus.

Finally, we should note how the virgin birth relates to the mystery of Christ’s divine nature and human nature united in one person. The virgin birth reveals how the eternal Son of God could become a real man without sacrificing any of the holiness of his deity: through his supernatural conception in the womb of an ordinary young woman.

The virgin birth is certainly an integral part of the Christmas story, but the reality of what was wrought through the virgin birth should not be relegated to a few weeks in December. As “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” continues:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

The virgin birth is indeed a message for today, for today is the day of salvation.

This piece is adapted from Brandon D. Crowe, Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 26–28. Used with permission of the publisher.

Brandon Crowe

Dr. Crowe (PhD, Edinburgh) is associate professor of New Testament at WTS.

Next Post...

The Most Dramatic Case of Unanswered Prayer

December 21, 2016

by William Edgar