Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great Christmas Miracles P2: The Incarnation & Virgin Birth

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday we considered at length the first great miracle that led up to Christmas: The Spirit's work of Divine inspiration of the scriptures.  We considered the meaning of inspiration, as well as its attendant doctrines of inerrancy, infallibility, clarity, sufficiency and Unity.  We concluded that without a Bible like this, the Holy Spirit could not had prepared for nor explained the otherwise inaccessible truth of the Divine identity of the baby in the manger.  Today we turn our attention to two more Christmas miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit: namely the incarnation and virgin birth.

The significance of the Incarnation to Christianity and salvation
When we speak of the term "incarnation", we are referring to the event in which the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, came and assumed in the virgin Mary's womb a fully human nature.  Incarnate literally means "in the flesh" (Latin "en" (in) and "carne" (the flesh).  The incarnation, the event of God in human flesh, has along with it two other miracles: the virgin birth and the hypostatic union.  Though we are treating these other two as miracles unto themselves, they all fit under the main event of the incarnation.  As Bible believing Christians, we can certainly explained what happened: the incarnation.  We can also describe what God used to bring it about: the virgin birth.  We can even explain the outcome: the union of Divine and human natures in One Person (hypostatic union).  However no man can explain how the Holy Spirit did what He did.  The "how" part is enveloped in mystery, however this does not take away the fact that the miracle did take place and that we can communicate its details and outcomes to other people.  (1 Timothy 3:16)

Great Christian minds weigh in on the incarnation
Dr. B.B Warfield, a Bible believing, Conservative Theologian of the late nineteenth century had this to say about the foundations of Biblical Christianity and the incarnation: "Were I asked to name the three pillars on which the structure of Christianity, as taught in the New Testament in its entirety, especially rests, I do not know that I could do better than point to these three things: the supernatural, the incarnation and redemption."1 Warfield later concludes in page 165 of the same book: "The incarnation appears in (the New Testament), not for its own sake, but as a means of a further end - redemption."

In terms of explaining comprehensively what took place in this miracle, no man can say.  However what we can say is clear enough to show that the event of the incarnation was a real event, in time.  Another wonderful theological mind, the late Dr. John Walvoord in his book "The Holy Spirit", has this to say about the incarnation: "The inscrutable mystery can be stated then, that Christ was begotten of the Holy Spirit; the life which was joined to humanity was that of the Second Person, and the First Person became the Father of the humanity of Christ."2

The Virgin (conception) birth - The significant means used by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ into this world
So we have already seen the miracle of the incarnation. The next miracle, a miracle which explains the way in which the Holy Spirit brought about the incarnation of God the Son into His humanity is the miracle of the virgin birth. Think of the Incarnation as the total event of Christ's arrival into this world, with the virgin birth describing more specifically the way He arrived. 

Mary was predicted by scripture to be the vessel used by God to bring into this world the Messiah - Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:35)  The virgin conception preserved the humanity of Jesus from being corrupted by the inherited sin nature of Adam, something of which is passed down the human father's side. (1 Peter 1:17-18)  The Southern Baptist Faith and Message 2000 makes the virgin birth of first priority in its article on Jesus Christ: "Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary."3 

Practical significance of the incarnation and virgin birth (conception)
To see the practical and theological significance of the Christian Faith, one only has to turn back the pages of history to the early twentieth century.  A century ago the Bible believing church affirmed the Virgin birth of Jesus as one of five fundamentals of biblical Christianity, meaning that if one were to be considered a true Christian, they had to affirm the Virgin birth.  Without the virgin birth, the other four fundamentals (biblical inerrancy, Christ's substitutionary death, Christ's resurrection and Christ's literal bodily return) would not had been possible.  No virgin birth would mean the Bible was in error when it predicted such an event.  That in turn would mean Christ would had been disqualified to be the Savior, thus leading to no forgiveness of sins to all who believe.  Furthermore, this would had led to no resurrection, of which Paul asserts would leave us as a Christian people most miserable and without hope, still lost in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:19).  With all those doctrines, there would then be no hope in Christ's Visible bodily return, which functions to cleanse the Christian now and give hope for the age to come. (1 John 3:1-3)  The reality of these other doctrines demonstrate the reality of the virgin birth, without which we would have nothing upon which to base the Christian faith. 

More tomorrow.....

1. B.B. Warfield. Biblical and Theological Studies. Page 160 
2. John Walvoord. The Holy Spirit. Page 84. 
3. Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Article 2 "God", Part B: "God The Son"

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