The Incarnation: The Virgin Conception

The Angel Gabriel Told Mary

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:30-34)

We see Mary’s astonishment at what the angel has to say to her. Her question is almost humorous in light of all the messianic things said about her soon coming Son. She isn’t awed by who she would give birth to; she is wondering how it will happen. Can you see her head spinning? I am going to give birth? How? I’m engaged but not married and I have never known a man sexually. I’m giving birth to the Son of the Most High. OK. But how?

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:35-38)

The angel’s answer to how Mary the virgin could be pregnant as a virgin is the power of God. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” We continue in the story to Mary’s fiancé Joseph. Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant. Mary may have told him. Imagine the fear and trepidation for this young woman. Mary is all of 15 years old in a culture where sex and pregnancy outside of marriage was strictly forbidden and severely punished. What would Joseph say? He will know the child is not his as he had never been with Mary sexually. What else can he conclude other than I have been unfaithful to him? What will my parents say? What will my village say? What will Joseph do?

The Angel Gabriel Told Joseph

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Not only was it a virgin conception, it was a virgin birth in that Joseph and Mary were married but did not know each other sexually until after Jesus was born. If you are wondering, how is that possible? Apparently a glorious angel appearing to you and telling you that your fiancé is pregnant with the Savior of the world and warning you greatly aids in marital chastity.

When we look at the accounts of Gabriel, Mary, and Joseph, and the virgin birth, why is the virgin birth a critical foundation stone upon which Christianity stands?

While it is a mystery, the virgin birth was God’s chosen means to unite his Son with a human body without uniting his Son with sin.

Could God have done it another way? Sure. He is God and I’m sure he could have come up with another way or just spontaneously done it. But if he had simply spontaneously arrived here as the God-man, what would we always wonder? Was Jesus really one of us? Was he really human like we are human? Can he relate to me? Is he sympathetic with human weakness? What is more distinctively human than being born of a human?

I know this in a way I never knew before. Six months and two days ago, my first child, a daughter was born. I was there. I saw it. It was one of the most powerful and spiritual moments of my whole life. I’ll never forget it. If you come up to me and say, “Your daughter is wonderful,” I’ll agree. If you say, “She’s so wonderful I’m not sure she’s human,” I’ll disagree there. What will I say? “Here’s what I can tell you. I was there and I can tell you that she is fully human because I saw her come from a human.” The human birth of Jesus insures that all of us realize Jesus is completely one of us. Fully human. The fact that the conception was virginal insures that we see him as greatly more than human.

And to note, this virgin birth was God’s mechanism to have him born of a woman but not born in sin and without Adam’s guilt. If he was born in sin or born guilty, he could not have died in the place of sinners as he would be dying for his own guilt. He united the second person of the Trinity with human flesh without uniting him with human sin.

Brilliant, don’t you think? You may think there was another way God could have done it but the way he did it….Wow!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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