“WHY THE VIRGIN BIRTH IS SO IMPORTANT”
Open your Bible to Luke chapter 1. Please stand and read along silently as I read Luke 1.26-38:
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
“In these verses we have an amazing story - mysterious and glorious! For here is described how God sent a celestial being to the earth with the tidings of the impending incarnation of His Son, Jesus, the Saviour of the world.” I would like to reflect on the great miracle that made Christmas possible, the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The dictionary defines the word “virgin” in a way that precisely agrees with the assertion that Mary made to the angel in our text about her experience, or absence of experience: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” However, there are skeptics who call into question the accuracy of the Bible and who challenge the doctrine of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to respond to these infidels.
Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 7.14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Never mind that Mary said “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Never mind that Luke 1.27 records that the angel Gabriel was sent “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” There are people who deny that the Bible requires the virgin birth of Christ.
Allow me to address their errors: “The Hebrew word rendered ‘virgin’ [in Isaiah 7.14] is almah. It is the only biblical word that truly signifies a virgin. Prof. William Beck, who researched this matter with great precision, declared: ‘I have searched exhaustively for instances in which almah might mean a non-virgin or a married woman. There is no passage where almah is not a virgin. Nowhere in the Bible or elsewhere does almah mean anything but a virgin’ (“What Does Almah Mean,” The Lutheran News, April 3, 1967, p. 6).” “Robert Dick Wilson, the incomparable Hebrew scholar who was proficient in forty-five biblically-related languages, declared that almah ‘never meant ‘young married woman,’’ and that the presumption of common law is that every almah is virtuous, unless she can be proved not to be (Princeton Theological Review, XXIV, 1926, p. 316).” “Even the Jewish scholar, Cyrus H. Gordon, who made some of the archaeological discoveries at Ras Shamra, conceded that recent archaeological evidence confirms that almah means ‘virgin’ (The Journal of Bible and Religion, XXI, April, 1953, p. 106).”
So, where did this notion come from that almah is not referring to a virgin? “The notion that almah merely signifies a ‘young woman’ was first argued by the anti-Christian Jew, Trypho, in the mid-second century A.D. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue, 67).” But Trypho was hardly an unbiased scholar. “Isaiah’s text plainly says ‘the virgin’ (note the definite article, denoting a specific virgin) ‘shall conceive.’ The passage does not speak of a virgin who would marry (thus surrendering her virginity) and then conceive. She conceives as a virgin. If this alluded to some contemporary of Isaiah, who was the mysterious lady? Were there two virgin births – one in Isaiah’s day, and another involving Jesus? There is no credibility to this view.” “The suggestion made by some, that Matthew took Isaiah’s text and gave it an application alien to the original meaning, is unworthy of a correct view of Bible inspiration. Preachers today who take a text, extract it from its context, and make it a mere pretext for points they wish to establish, are strongly chastised and their credibility is compromised. Yet men, under the sway of modernism, do not hesitate to so charge God’s inspired apostle in the case of the virgin birth [of doing that very thing]. This is a shameful circumstance.”
To show how unassailable our position that Jesus was born of a virgin is, how thoroughly orthodox our conviction is, it should be noted that “The ‘church fathers’ were of one mind that Jesus was born of a virgin, and Isaiah 7.14 was appealed to as an Old Testament prophetic proof-text. For example, Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202) wrote:
“Wherefore also the Lord Himself gave us a sign, in the depth below, and in the height above, which man did not ask for, because he never expected that a virgin could conceive, or that it was possible that one remaining a virgin could bring forth a son, and that what was thus born should be ‘God with us’.” (Against Heresies, 19.3).
If there is such proof that almah in Isaiah 7.14 can only refer to a virgin, providing the Old Testament basis for the assertions in the New Testament that Jesus was born of the virgin named Mary, why are there so many people who question the virgin birth of Christ? My friends, the supernatural basis for the Christian faith has always been assailed by unbelievers. “The earlier scholars of Christendom (e.g., Calvin, Lowth, Gill, Henry, Clarke, Alexander, Hengstenberg, etc.,) argued that Isaiah 7:14 was exclusively messianic in its import. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, as the influence of German rationalism made its presence felt, both in Europe and in America, even writers who were generally considered ‘conservative’ began to yield to the pressure. They thus suggested that perhaps Matthew only ‘applied’ Isaiah’s text to the circumstances, when, in reality, there was a primary application to a ‘young woman’ of the prophet’s own day.” Understand, there was no credible basis for such a view, but unbelievers will do anything to undermine the credibility of the Bible. They had a reason.
What was their reason for denying the virgin birth of Jesus Christ? “The virgin birth of Christ plays an absolutely fundamental role in the plan of redemption. It is the one event of Christ’s life that has received the greatest amount of attention next to His crucifixion and resurrection. Certainly, next to the resurrection, it is the most debated and controversial doctrine in Christology.”
Historically, it has been the case that the “Virgin birth is one of the criteria to determine one’s belief in the deity of Christ and supernatural. As a general rule, one who accepts the virgin birth as true will also accept the other miraculous elements in Scripture, while one who rejects it will also reject a considerable portion of the other miracles.” Therefore, “The doctrine of the virgin birth is important, not only because of its bearing on the doctrine of the person of Christ, but also because of its representative character.” Generally speaking, then, infidelity typically shows up first with doubts about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Over time, doubts about other vital Christian doctrines will then appear. But the real issue is the credibility of the Word of God and the natural man’s unwillingness to take by faith what God asserts to be true.
Do you deny the virgin birth of Jesus Christ? You can do what you choose to do. However, if you deny the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, be forthright enough to admit that you are not a Christian, recognize that your refusal to accept the doctrine of the virgin birth is an emotional decision that is not based upon sound reasoning and honest inquiry, and show enough strength of character and integrity to stand for what you believe by refusing to celebrate the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, what we call Christmas. We who are Christians openly admit that our Christian faith rises or falls on, among other claims, the claim that our Savior was miraculously conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin named Mary. We know we cannot prove that Jesus was born of a virgin, so we simply declare it as an article of our faith, an integral foundation of our belief system, and a key issue that separates real Christians from pretenders. For you to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin after being miraculously conceived, for it to be a conviction upon which you are willing to base your understanding of the Savior of our eternal and undying soul, will require that you accept the Bible as true in the face of this lost world’s rejection of the Bible. You recognize, do you not, that the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was in all likelihood quite normal. There is no indication in God’s Word that Mary’s delivery of her firstborn child was in any way unusual or abnormal. Of course, the angelic choir and the arrival of the shepherds that night and the wise men from the east a year or two later are not typical of most deliveries, but those things occurred after Jesus was delivered. They were not actually a part of the delivery. The real miracle was when the Holy Ghost overshadowed that young virgin and when the Third Person of the triune Godhead performed some stupendous feat by which the Second Person of the triune Godhead took upon Himself the nature of man, though without sin. Of course, the God-Man grew and developed within the womb of Mary for the proper amount of time. Then, “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” When we refer to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ we are encompassing the entire process, from supernatural conception in the womb of a virgin all the way to the Christ child’s safe delivery nine months later, of Jesus Christ’s journey from heaven to earth. If you liken the Christian faith to a building, a structure, then it is quite reasonable to admit that this structure of our faith is built upon a number of foundational pillars that are absolutely essential to the structure’s integrity. If one of the foundational pillars fails the entire structure collapses.
Orthodox Christianity, the Christianity that is contained on the pages of God’s holy Word (not that which is practiced by most so-called Christians these days), rises or falls on such key doctrines as the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and so on. Central among these vital truths is the doctrine of the virgin birth. Through the centuries there have arisen men who claimed to be Christians though they denied the virgin birth of Christ. Yet it is admitted by reasonable men, that things that are different are not the same. Therefore, if a central tenet of Christianity is the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, no matter what you call yourself, no matter how sentimental you may feel about the matter, if you do not believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the virgin, you are not a Christian. I know I am preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, it is important to pack the earth around the footing from time to time, to tighten up the screws from time to time, to torque once more the nuts holding things together from time to time. Therefore, I want to spend a few minutes reminding you why the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is so important.
First, THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST WAS PROPHESIED
We earlier looked at Isaiah 7.14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” It is generally recognized that Jewish commentators have never interpreted this passage as a prediction of the virgin birth of the Messiah. Indeed, prior to Christ’s earthly ministry Jewish scholars never saw this verse in any messianic light at all. However, that only shows that, #1, the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unique and not derived from Judaism, and, #2, that Jewish scholars and commentators did not understand this prophecy. It was not until the angel informed Joseph in Matthew 1.23 that this Old Testament prophecy was correctly understood.
As well, be mindful that Isaiah 7.14 is not the only Old Testament prophecy wherein the virgin birth is predicted. Turn, please, to 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.” This verse is referred to by theologians as the “Protoevangel,” or the “First Gospel.” Notice the phrase “her seed.” “The ‘seed of the woman’ can only be an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who would have no human father. Biologically, a woman produces seed, and except in this case Biblical usage always speaks only of the seed of men. This promised Seed would, therefore, have to be miraculously implanted in the womb. In this way, He would not inherit the sin nature which would disqualify every son of Adam from becoming a Savior from sin. This prophecy thus clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ.”
So, though it was completely missed by Jewish scholars, and was likely not grasped by the prophets of God who wrote those portions of scripture, there can be no doubt that the doctrine of the virgin birth of the Messiah was predicted in the Old Testament, in two places, and the assertion was made in the New Testament that the birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies. That makes the virgin birth of Jesus Christ important.
Second, THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS WAS PLANNED
In Psalm 119.89, the psalmist wrote, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” It must, therefore, be recognized that during the centuries when God sent men to write portions of scripture those men did not originate the portions of God’s Word they wrote. Neither did God originate those portions of scripture as those men were writing them. God’s Word has always been a settled matter in heaven. When men were sent to write portions of the Word of God they were simply tools used by God to convey to man what was already settled in heaven, and what had been settled in heaven from eternity past.
As well, to corroborate this truth, consider Ephesians 1.11, which reads, “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” The thing to note in Ephesians 1.11, as it applies to our concerns at present, is that God works things after the counsel of His Own will. That is, the decisions that God makes are decisions that were made in the council chambers of the Godhead.
Thus, with God’s Word being a settled matter forever, and the decisions that God makes being decisions that He makes after seeking His Own counsel (meaning that such counsel and the decisions that followed such counsel took place in eternity past), the fact that the virgin birth of Christ was an integral part of the eternal plan and purpose of God cannot be argued against. That makes the virgin birth of Jesus Christ important, does it not? I mean, if something is important to God then it is important, is it not? And if something is important enough to be written about from eternity past, and if it is important enough to be decided about from eternity past, then it is important, is it not?
Third, THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS WAS REQUIRED
We have already touched on this just a bit, but further elaboration is beneficial, I think. Allow me to explain what I do not mean when I say that the virgin birth of Jesus Christ was required. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace, does it not? Being of grace means that God was not in any way obligated to save a single sinner. Being of grace means that Jesus did not have to suffer, bleed, and die for the sins of others. He could have justifiably punished every sinner without saving a single one. Thus, nothing associated with the redemption of lost men was in any way required by God. He is sovereign, meaning His will is completely free and unencumbered. However, having embarked upon a course of action to demonstrate His grace and mercy by saving undeserving sinners, it then became necessary for His Son to be born of a virgin.
The concept of the kinsman-redeemer is found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus and is illustrated in the lives of Boaz and Ruth in Ruth chapters 3 and 4. To redeem another one must be a near kinsman, one must be willing to redeem, and one must be able to redeem (which is to say, be able to pay the price of redemption). But you must understand that the passages dealing with the kinsman-redeemer in the Old Testament are types and shadows of the fulfillment that is found only in Jesus Christ.
Because of man’s sin he stands in need of redemption from the marketplace of sin, which is where the Old Testament kinsman-redeemer fits into the picture. Only a kinsman is qualified to redeem the sinner. But the sinner’s kinsman who is himself a sinner is thereby unqualified. Therefore, what is needed is one who is a near kinsman, but who is not himself tainted by sin. Such could only have been accomplished by the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, whereby the eternal Son of the living God took upon Himself man’s nature without taking upon Himself man’s sin (because, being virgin born, God is His father rather than some sinful man).
Being the virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ is fully man and of near kin to men, so that He might redeem men from their sins. His willingness to redeem us was established by His willingness to leave heaven’s glory to become a man, first, and then by His willingness to take upon Himself the sins of others that He might suffer God’s just punishment for those sins. And shedding His blood a ransom for all demonstrated His ability to pay the ransom price to redeem us.
Is the virgin birth of Jesus Christ important? Had Jesus not been virgin born He would have been unqualified to mediate between sinners and God. Had Jesus not been virgin born He would have been unable to satisfy God’s demands on our behalf. So, if your eternal destiny, an eternity of bliss versus an eternity of wrath, is important to you . . . then the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is important.
Finally, THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS ACTUALLY OCCURRED
Though it seems to be less and less important to people every day, facts are facts, history is history, and what happened really did happen. Is it important that what God’s Word says happened actually happened?
Genesis 3.15 predicted, using words easier to understand after the fact than before the fact, that the Savior would be virgin born. Isaiah 7.14 predicted, using words easier to understand after the fact than before the fact, that the Savior would be virgin born. The angel who was sent to Joseph had a message declaring to him that Jesus would be virgin born. As well, the angel, we are told in Luke, was sent to a virgin. Additionally, Paul certainly communicated to the Galatian churches that Jesus was virgin born. He said our Lord was “made of a woman.” Therefore, we have an angel who thought Jesus would be virgin born, Joseph thought Jesus would be virgin born, a virgin who was quite sure her child was virgin born, and the apostles Matthew, Luke and Paul, who were so convinced that their Lord was virgin born that they were willing to die martyr’s deaths for Him.
This brings to the forefront the credibility of God’s Word with respect to this matter of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Does not Romans 3.4 say, “let God be true, but every man a liar”? Yes, it does. Does not Titus 1.2 say, “God, that cannot lie”? Again, it most certainly does. Does not Second Timothy 3.16 say, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable”? Yes, that too is true. Does not Psalm 119.160 declare that “Thy word is true”? God’s Word is true. Did not Peter affirm that “We have also a more sure word of prophecy”? He did affirm that.
Therefore, my friends, if the Lord Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin then a great many people were simply wrong. Mary was wrong, but how could a virgin not know that she was truly a virgin? I am not a woman, so I don’t know about such things. Ladies, does a woman know whether or not she has ever known a man? The angel was wrong, but he was a messenger dispatched from the very throne of God. You would think an angel dispatched with a message from God would be accurate with respect to the delivery of his message. The apostles Matthew, Luke and Paul were wrong, but they were the handpicked envoys of the Son of God. Chosen to be eyewitnesses to the truth, would they be wrong about something like this? And the Bible is wrong, though the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, in John 17.17, “thy word is truth.” Is nothing to be believed? Or is God’s Word, Christ’s apostles, God’s holy angel, and the virgin whose name was Mary to be believed?
So you see, if Jesus Christ is not virgin born everything unravels. If Jesus is not virgin born we have no kinsman-redeemer, we have no atoning sacrifice that is acceptable to God, we have no eternal purpose of God, we have no reliable prophecies, we have no infallible Bible, we have no authoritative prophets or apostles, we have no Son of God, we have no Trinity, we have no Christian faith. Now, I know people who claim to be Christians while denying the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. However, they have not thought this issue through to its conclusion; they have not properly reflected on the matter, they have not considered the interdependence of one Bible doctrine upon another. The fact is, if you deny the virgin birth you cannot possibly be a Christian. If there is no virgin birth then the Christian faith is a fraud.
So, is the virgin birth of Christ important? The virgin birth is only important if you want a Savior, if you want your sins forgiven, if you want a trustworthy Bible, if you want sure prophecies, if you want . . . . Well, figure it out for yourself if the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is important. Whatever you decide, I promise you that there will come a day when you and I will be agreed that the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is important. I just hope for you that that day does not come too late.
Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary On The Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), page 74.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2124.
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Ibid. 12/13/03
 Galatians 4.4
 Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, 1995), page 13.
 Matthew 1.22-23
 Ephesians 2.8
 1 Timothy 2.6
 Matthew 1.23
 Luke 1.27
 Galatians 4.4
 2 Peter 1.19