Born of a Virgin
The birth of every child is a miracle. We understand much of the biology and the process by which children are conceived and grow in the mother’s womb, but this does not make it any less a miracle.
The first man, Adam, was not born but he was formed directly by the hand of God. All of us have descended from Adam by the natural processes of biology. There has been only one exception in all of history…the man Christ Jesus, the second Adam.
Jesus Christ is the one exception in all of history. God interrupted biology and natural processes and caused a baby to be born of a virgin. Romans 5:12, 17 tell us why this was necessary.
12When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
17For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.[i]
This is why 1 Corinthians 15:22 gives this conclusion:
Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
This is why it is important that Jesus was born of a virgin.
Adam’s race was stained with sin.
As a matter of fact, we are all sinners. The judgment of God is that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
No one is righteous—not even one. (Romans 3:9)
We must understand this is not a small problem. We must not think that sin is insignificant and can easily be passed over.
When we see pictures of the Nazi death camps, and the piles of corpses that accompanied those, we are justly angered and sickened at the horrendous crimes these represent.
When we read of crimes against children, we are rightly horrified that anyone should hurt an innocent child.
However, we do not consider the envy, jealousy, anger and malice in our own hearts to be in the same category. This is where we are wrong. All the crimes and atrocities of history grew out of these very things, which are in all of our hearts. Every person since Adam, except one, has this sin nature, and this is why we have all sinned, with Jesus being the only exception. What is more, even things we do not consider as being particularly sinful reflect this sin nature. This is why Jesus said:
But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
It is because of sin that death is a part of the human experience, and it is through the miracle of the virgin birth that God addresses the problem of sin and death in us, the descendants of Adam.
What does it mean to be sinless, perfect and pure?
We cannot know except for Jesus. He is the only one who lived and never sinned. Through the miracle of the virgin birth, Jesus was born free of the curse of sin. Because of the virgin birth, Jesus was born free of the stain of sin. Since His mother was of Adam’s race, Jesus could represent Adam’s race, but since His Father was not of Adam’s race, He could be free from the curse of sin. By this means, He became a second Adam.
According to Luke 1:27, Mary was in Galilee, in a town named Nazareth. She was a descendant of David, engaged to a man named Joseph, who was also a descendant of David. Mary was a virgin. We can assume she was not the only virgin in Israel, and most likely was not even the only virgin in Nazareth. As far as we know, she was a normal person. This is important because Jesus came to save all people. Mary was an exceptional person. However, she was human, remained human and her salvation was bought for her by her Son just as your salvation and mine was bought for us by her Son.
Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that we should pray to Mary, or that she is divine. In Luke 8, the Scriptures tell of a time when Jesus’s mother and brothers came to see Him, but they could not get to Him because of the crowds. When Jesus was told this, He said, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” (Luke 8:21) The key to being heard by Jesus is hearing God’s word and obeying it, not appealing to Him through His mother.
Jesus said of prayer, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23, ESV) Jesus taught us to pray directly to the Father in His name.
Saying that we are not instructed to pray to or through Mary does not mean that she was not favored. The angel’s greeting included the fact that she was favored. She received grace from God. Gabriel said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” The word Gabriel used is translated in other places as grace.
Mary herself says:
Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. (Luke 1:46-49)
This is part of the meaning of the virgin birth. God has done great things for us. This praise and thanksgiving of Mary’s is appropriate for all of us. John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (ESV)[ii]
God chose Abraham, and passed His blessing and grace down through Abraham. God chose Mary and made her a vessel of His grace. God continues to choose individuals and make them vessels of His grace. God gives His favor to pour out His grace on all people.
How God pours out His favor is often a mystery. In Mary’s case, it is uniquely so. It is a mystery how God and man can be united together in one person for all of eternity. And yet, this is exactly what happened in Jesus. It is a complete impossibility that a virgin should conceive. And yet, this is exactly what happened.
Mary herself addresses this mystery. Gabriel told Mary, “You will conceive and give birth to a son…” (Luke 1:31) Mary responded, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34)
The angel explained what would happen and how it would happen. His explanation is the only explanation we have. Gabriel said:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
This is as technical as the explanation gets. The biology behind the growth of Jesus in the womb was the same as that of every baby. However, the conception itself was completely miraculous.
Two things stand out in this explanation.
One, “the baby to be born will be holy…” He was born without the sin nature we all inherit from Adam.
Two, “He will be called the Son of God.” Jesus is the Son of God, both by birth and in His person.
Because of these two things, the Scriptures say:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
This is why the virgin birth is such an important part of our faith.
What is more, because He is holy and the Son of God, the Scriptures tell us:
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. (1 John 2:1-2)
How can the death of one man pay for the sins of the entire world?
First, because He was sinless, He had no sins of His own for which to pay.
Second, because He was God, the price paid was infinite.
Third, because He was of Adam’s race through Mary, He could represent us and pay our penalty.
This is all the work of God. It is a miracle and it is wonderful. We contemplate these things today to remind us of the wonder of it all. God has truly done wonderful things for us.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.