The Virgin Birth of Jesus
John Martin, although a busy man in the American Steel Industry, conducts a weekly Bible Class in Pittsburgh. He has forwarded the studies in the Virgin Birth of Christ used in that class, to the readers of Food for the Flock. We believe that they will be both profitable and thought provoking. —Ed.
There are interpretations of Scripture about which we may legitimately disagree without affecting in any way the basic truths of the Christian faith. However, if fundamental truths are the issues, there MUST not be any disagreement. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).
The importance of a truth is evidenced by the zeal with which it is attacked; usually, men do not fight strenuously about doctrines which have no strategic value. I have observed that most writers who deny the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus, do so because of its supernatural element. It is not surprising to learn that they also refuse to recognize the supernatural element throughout the life of Christ; with bold effrontery, they preach a Saviour who is no more supernatural than they.
Was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of a virgin supernaturally, or was He born by the same human agency as we? The question will be considered under three headings: the prophecies of His birth; the narratives of His birth; and the doctrine of His birth. The latter two will be covered in a subsequent article.
Prophecies of His Birth
The first reference is found in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” Here is a statement that clearly reveals the supernatural element in the conception of our Lord.
Note those two important words, “her seed”, an expression which is consistent with the view that although Messiah was to be born of a woman in a natural way, His conception was to be supernatural; that is, without the agency of a human father.
This view is further confirmed by the Apostle Paul in his Galatian letter: “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Gal.4:4), thus proving that even before He was “made of a woman”, Jesus could be described as the Son of God; an indication that His birth was not the origin of His personality, but only its entrance into human life.
Other Scriptures suggest the same view; for example, “the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:22). Here is a striking prophecy that in a new and extraordinary way never known before, a woman was to enclose in her body a man-child. Since Scripture records the virgin birth of no child other than Jesus, it is quite likely that Jeremiah was foretelling the virgin birth of our Lord.
Isaiah uttered a similar prophecy when he related an incident full of significance. The house of David was discouraged, and king Ahaz continued in unbelief. The Lord suggested that he ask a sign, but Ahaz refused, saying, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord (Isa. 7:12), and so the Lord told him that He would give him a sign: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
Matthew interpreted this prophecy as a reference not only to a sign for Ahaz in his day, but also to the virgin birth of Jesus several centuries after the death of Ahaz (Matt. 1:23).
Luke recorded the virgin birth of Jesus as a sign unto the shepherds, “this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:12), but with reference to God’s word to Ahaz, this great event was also a historic sign that nationally the house of David would never perish. Thus the birth of Christ was both a miracle necessary for the redemption of mankind, and also a sign indicative of the preservation of Israel.