Sunday, December 09, 2012

Luke 1:34-38 - What the Virgin Birth Was

The Nativity in the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto...
The Nativity, Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto. (Wikipedia)
The Virgin Birth has been an important-enough doctrine to be held with confidence by the Church for 1850 years and then important enough for post-Enlightenment liberals to vilify, negate, downplay, and impugn for the last 160. A main argument used against the Virgin Birth is its supposed insignificance and even irrelevance, but the fact that liberal theologians make it their punching bag betrays the reality that the Virgin Birth is important.Let’s look at this vital but for some people controversial, doctrine by reading the following passage.

Pray & Read:  Luke 1:34-38
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 1:34-38 to teach believers that the Virgin Birth happened without the agency of a man, was free of the corruption of sin, established Christ’s Davidic ancestry, his identity as the Last Adam and the last heir to David’s throne.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Virgin Birth.

Sermon Points:
WHAT THE VIRGIN BIRTH WAS (Luke 1:34-38)
4.   Jesus’ conception had no man involved (Luke 1:35a)
5.   Jesus’ conception had no corruption involved (Luke 1:35b)
6.   Jesus’ conception overcame the impossible (Luke 1:36-38)


Exposition:

4.           JESUS’ CONCEPTION HAD NO MAN INVOLVED (Luke 1:35a).
a.   The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;”
b.   “Holy Spirit will overshadow you” v. 35: Jewish term to describe the presence of God. Reference to prayer shawl over couple who get married. Greek: “come upon” used in LXX in Isaiah 32:15 HS come upon land to make it fertile; Exodus 40:35 ref to Shekinah presence overshadowing tabernacle in cloud (Num 10:34); Ruth’s desire for Boaz to spread his garment over her (Ruth 3:9); Transfiguration (Luke 9:34).
                       i.    Exodus 40:35: 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Numbers 10:34: 34 The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. Ruth 3:9:  9 "Who are you?" he asked. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." Luke 9:34: 34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
c.   Validity of Virgin Birth is often assailed, usually along three lines:

                       i.    Textual— it is alleged that NT references to virgin birth were not in original text and added later to somehow elevate the birth and person of Christ. Not supported by a scrap of evidence, neither in the texts we have nor in later transmissions of texts. In no place on the virgin birth can an editorial addition be substantiated.

                      ii.    Historical – It is denied that early church believed in it, even if Matthew and Luke teach it. While no other NT writers mention it, neither MK nor Paul had reasons to mention it. The considerable differences between Matthew and Luke suggest that the belief in virgin birth went back to a period before either of the two were written. How far back in the early church did belief in virgin birth go?  Luke wrote from Mary’s viewpoint.  Mary believed it b/c she experienced it!

                    iii.    Philosophical and scientific – It is contrary to laws of nature and impossible. A person’s attitude toward scientific possibility of virgin birth will depend on general assumptions of revelation, miracles, and the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. If we believe in the deity of Christ and the miracles in Scripture, then we can agree that two of our gospels teach the virgin birth.

d.   A 1959 Christianity Today editorial reads, “Many theologians, like Schleiermacher, have thought that they could accept a supernatural work of God without the Virgin Birth. Many others have tended to agree with Brunner that it is an unnecessary and inquisitive biological intrusion. Many would argue that they can confess the true deity and incarnation of Christ without it. Evangelicals often leave the impression that it is a kind of embarrassment which they are prepared to accept because it is in Scripture but which they do not find to be particularly significant or meaningful.”[1]

e.   Besides an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture, which is serious enough, denials of the Virgin Birth are dangerous for many other areas. “Denial of the Virgin Birth almost invariably accompanies, or is accompanied by, a more basic theological defection in which the divine initiative, the inadequacy of man, the reality of original sin, the miraculous nature of regeneration, the primacy of the Word of God, and the importance of the faith which it brings are either abandoned in whole or part or drastically reinterpreted. . . . In itself the abandonment of the Scriptural testimony may seem to many to be of little account. But quite apart from the serious impugning of the written Word, it is a conditioning and resultant sign of more widespread abandonment of evangelical doctrine. For the Virgin Birth itself carries by implication the sum and substance of the gospel.”[2]

f.    The unique feature of Jesus’ conception was that it was supernatural, not of human generation. There is no magic here or fantasy or mere legend. This is fact. Mary did not conceive by way of a man (Matthew 1:18, 25). Mary conceived by way of the Holy Spirit who fathered Jesus’ humanity (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:35). Jesus’ prenatal development within Mary and birth were natural processes (Luke 1:57; 2:7), but his conception was radically different. The Holy Spirit produced of Mary’s substance a complete human nature, consisting of body, soul, and spirit (Matt 26:12, 38; 27:50). Thus God the Holy Spirit was the father of Jesus’ human nature.

g.   Jesus’ personhood did not begin at conception, for Jesus’ person and divine nature existed from eternity (Micah 5:2; Gal. 4:4; John 1:1; 8:42). Jesus did not acquire another personhood so that he was a combination of two persons, one divine and one human. Rather, he acquired at conception a human nature, so that they were united in Him, one Person, the nature of God and the nature of man. This acquisition made him the God-Man. This is why the angel says in 1:35 that which was conceived in Mary’s womb was “that Holy One/thing.” The gender is neuter, indicating that Mary gave Jesus only his human nature, not his personhood and his divine nature.

h.   Mary bore a human male child who was already the Second Person of the Trinity. She was not the mother of God.

i.     APPLICATION: “Just as Our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a "Bethlehem" for the Son of God? I cannot enter into the realm of the Kingdom of God unless I am born from above by a birth totally unlike natural birth. "Ye must be born again." This is not a command, it is a foundation fact. The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.[3]

j.    Have you done that? Have you yielded yourself to Christ? If you have, then FEAR NOT!  If you haven’t, then you should have great fear for your eternal destiny. Right now is a good time to give your life to Christ.

5.   JESUS’ CONCEPTION HAD NO CORRUPTION INVOLVED (LUKE 1:35b).
a.   “that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
b.    A sinner cannot pay the sin debt for another. He has his own sin debt which he cannot pay himself. Jesus’ conception preserved his sinlessness, qualifying him to make atonement for the sins of the whole world (Heb 2:9; 7:26-27).
c.   Jesus’ unique conception prevented his receiving from a human parent the inherent corruption of sin (1:35) and from the father the imputed, federal guilt of Adam’s initial sin (Rom 5:12-19; Gen 5:3; 1 Cor 15:22).
d.   Being absolutely sinless (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5), Jesus was able to pay for us our terrible debt burden of sin (Rom 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24; Heb 9:26; 1 John 2:2).

e.   ILLUSTRATION: “No, the point is that though the Son of Mary as such stands in solidarity with sinners, his real birth is directly from God, so that unlike all others he is not himself a sinner, but has come to bear their sin in God's own work of salvation. A man born in the normal way could have been one with sinners, but he could not have been the sinless sin-bearer. The sinless sin-bearer comes into the world in such a way that he is also one with man, yet there is a decisive break with the old humanity as well as continuity with it. He is not sinful man accomplishing in a more worthy representative his own salvation. He is the second man, the Lord from heaven, the Son of Man who is also the Son of God incarnate for us men and for our salvation.”[4]

6.   JESUS’ CONCEPTION OVERCAME THE IMPOSSIBLE (Luke 1:36-38)

a.   Luke 1:37Nothing is impossible with God: What is harder? For an old woman to give birth? Or for a virgin to give birth? Elizabeth is too old to give birth. Mary, just entering her teens, betrothed yet not wed, is too young. God takes the impossible and the unlikely and uses them extraordinarily. (Matt. 19:26). Mary’s miracle is intended to be greater and to surpass Elizabeth’s, because Jesus is greater than John. Note the similarity to Sarah, too impossibly old to bear a child (Gen 18:13-14). Mary has more faith that God will birth a child through a virgin than Sarah did through an old woman (Gen 18:12-15).
b.   APPLICATION: The Virgin Birth is an historical fact and is a non-negotiable in our faith. Jesus’ conception was without the agency of a man (Luke 1:35a), and was free of sins corruption (Luke 1:35b), but he was a fully human descendant and heir of David (Luke 1:27, 32-33) and the Last Adam (Luke 1:31) yet without the imputed, federal guilt of Adam’s initial sin (Rom 5:12-19; Gen 5:3; 1 Cor 15:22).
c.   Luke 1:38 – I am the Lord’s servant – Notice what Mary did not say. She did NOT say: “How shall I explain this to Joseph?”  Not: “How will this affect my reputation?” Not: “You mean I’ll be pregnant and unmarried?”  No – May gave a humble answer. Mary expresses her humility in the OT terms of submission (Hannah- Hannah uses this same phrase (1 Sam 1:11, 18; Abigail submitted to David - 25:41; 2 Sam 9:6, 11; 2 Kings 4:2; David- 2 Sam 7:25). Being the servant of God is significant. The first servant was Abraham “my servant” who is an example of belief to whom Luke refers much in his gospel and Acts, then Moses “my servant”, but Moses did not enter the land because of unbelief.
d.   APPLICATION: Humility and willingness are the qualifiers for being used by God, not education, talent, or gifts.  John Maxwell: “Your gifts and talents can take you where your character cannot keep you.”
e.   Note that in contrast to Bathsheba the adulteress from whom David bore Solomon the greatest king of Israel, this humble servant Mary would bear the son and Lord of David, the greatest King of all.
f.    David’s firstborn son from Bathsheba died as punishment for the bloodguilt of David’s murder of the loyal Uriah, but the firstborn, virgin-born Son of David would die to remove the punishment for the bloodguilt of an entirely disloyal world.
g.   So – did Jesus have Mary’s DNA, her genetic data? The short answer is yes, he did. There are two reasons. The more important one is Scriptural. One is scientific. He had to in order to fulfill Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and her Offspring (seed); He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.”  Paul explains in Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” Galatians 4:4 “But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to the regulations of the Law.”

h.   The second reason is simply speculative science, because God is sovereign and can do whatever he wants. We do know from the field of medicine the natural processes involved in fertilization cause the father’s mitochondrial DNA never to be passed on to his children. Mitochondrial DNA is passed only through the female from one generation to the next. Mitochondria the body to aerobically respire and without mitochondria, human tissue would be unable to sustain its metabolic pathway – without the mother’s mitochondria, the new person’s tissue would produce so much heat that it would boil.[5] Unless the Lord overruled this process then, Jesus carried Holy-Spirit-overshadowed, human mitochondrial DNA – what the theologians call human nature – from his mother.

i.     APPLICATION: FEAR NOT! Because Christ’s conception was free from the corruption of sin, you can be confident in your salvation and eternal security.

Invitation:


[1] Christianity Today editorial, December 13, 2007, reprinted from December 7, 1959, http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2007/decemberweb-only/150-42.0.html.
[2] Christianity Today editorial, December 13, 2007, reprinted from December 7, 1959, http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2007/decemberweb-only/150-42.0.html.
[3] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 25.
[4] Christianity Today editorial, December 13, 2007, reprinted from December 7, 1959, http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2007/decemberweb-only/150-42.0.html.