The virgin birth of Christ is one of the key doctrines Satan keeps trying to undermine. Why? Because he knows that if Jesus is not both fully God and fully man, He can't save us from our sins. The Virgin birth is proof of His Divinity . . . and Satan doesn't want us to figure that out.
Additional messages in this series are available here: The Myths, Messengers and Mysteries of Christmas
“More Than the Legend of Zeus”
Part Three 12/19/2004
Author Philip Yancey once contrasted the humility of Christ’s coming to earth with a trip abroad by England’s Queen. When the royal family traveled someplace to make an appearance, they were shown with flashing jewelry, and fanfare and the attentive, every present paparazzi.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the United States, newspapers revealed all the behind the scenes details and preparations. Four thousand pounds of luggage. Not your usual allotment of 40 pounds or so, but 4,000.
Her luggage contained 2 outfits for every conceivable occasion, including one outfit just in case someone died and she needed to attend the funeral. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets and a dozen personal attendants. Also, carefully preserved within her luggage were 40 pints of plasma in case of a medical emergency. Listen to this; even a brief visit of the Queen to a foreign country can cost her government upwards of 20 million dollars.
Having visited a number of royal residences this past summer, the British have the custom of flying the flag whenever the Queen is actually in residence.
If you see a flag flying, somewhere high from the castle, it signified, ‘the Queen is in.’
The Queen has arrived!
Here comes the Son of God! The Prince of Peace. The Father of eternity.
Divine royalty . . . traveling to earth without any attendants . . . nowhere to even lay but in a feed trough borrowed from the animals who seemed willing enough to share it that night with their Creator!
This Christmas, like every other Christmas, the world is reminded, the King has arrived . . . and for those of us who believe in Him, beyond December 25th, we have his flag flying from the castle of our hearts.
It is a flag of redemption. His majesty did not come to earth with spare blood packed away in case of an emergency . . . he came to give his blood away because there is an emergency.
The wages of sin is death!
But what an incredible mystery. God the redeemer coming to earth, born of a virgin.
God, choosing to dress in the street clothes of our flesh.
The eternal 2nd Person of the Trinity, being confined in time.
The omnipresent Son, being bound in a Spirit fertilized egg in a virgin’s womb.
We can sing about it and read about and study it, but we can never truly fathom how God did it . . . how He took on flesh in a virgin’s womb.
To put it more simply . . . none of us have a clue how God could become a baby.
And yet, all of our gospel depends upon it. The fact that Jesus Christ was fully God and born fully human is not optional truth. It is foundational truth.
Little wonder then, that early in the life of the church, the enemy of the church began to originate and develop false teaching which claimed Jesus was something less than fully God or less than fully human.
It seems that even before the end of the Apostle John’s life – the last living Apostle, heresies were launching their attacks against either the full humanity or the full deity of Jesus Christ. One view known as docetism arose which said Christ wasn’t really flesh. He wasn’t really human.
John countered in his second epistle, by writing For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7)
The truth is, if Jesus Christ is not man and fully God, we cannot be saved and we have no true Christianity.
In fact, as one author put it, “Apart from Jesus being both fully human and fully divine, there is no gospel. The essence and the power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being both wholly God and wholly man, He was able to reconcile sinners to God.”
John MacArthur, Matthew (Moody Press, 1985), p. 13
Not to mention that if the New Testament is wrong about Jesus being the divine Son of God, born of a virgin, then what can be trusted in the New Testament as right? If the Gospel writers misrepresented the truth about Christ, what else did they lie about?
His virgin birth, His atoning death, His resurrection, His ascension and His return all stand together, or they all fall together.
No wonder that attacks against the divine and human nature of Christ began early in the church.
It wasn’t long after John the Apostle died, that other views arose to take away from Christ, either his deity or his humanity.
Apollinarianism arose which taught that Christ was not fully human. Nestorianism later arose which argued that there were two separate people inside the body of Jesus.
Another view, known as Monophysitism, taught that Christ had only one nature – a fusion of divine and human natures. Thus, Christ was not wholly God nor wholly human. He was at least 50% God and 50% man.
Adapted from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 554
The attack on Christ’s nature have not gone away over the years. In fact they have only intensified.
One British author wrote that Jesus would have been horrified to think of a church, let along people, worshipping Him as if He were divine.
Another wrote that Jesus was a magician who had people under his sway.
Another wrote that Jesus was a great rabbi who had no intention or desire to found a movement or a church.
Adapted from Stephen Davey, When Heaven Came Down, Volume One, p. 6
Listen, if this is true, then Christ cannot truly represent us as a man nor can he fully redeem us as God.
Another way Satan attacks the authenticity of Christ’s full deity and full humanity, is not to just outright deny it through his false teachers, but to dilute the uniqueness of the virgin birth by counterfeiting the message.
Just study the religions of the world and you will be exposed to stories of virgin births.
The Romans believed that Zeus impregnated Semele without contact with her and that she conceived Dionysus, lord of the earth. The ancient Sumerians inscribed on a wall, discovered centuries later by archeologists, inscribed long before the birth of Christ, how their emperor was created in the womb of his mother by their gods. 600 years before the birth of Christ, it was claimed that the goddess of procreation brought about the conception of King Sennacherib in his mother’s womb.
Now, you can take these stories and interpret them one of two ways.
One, you could arrive at the conclusion that all these virgin conception stories means Christianity simply borrowed the idea from other religions and came up with its own version.
Or, you can understand it as the enemies strategy to predate Christianity with similar versions of the gospel, so that when the event of the gospel occurred, people could say, “that’s nice . . . but it’s old stuff.”
Well, did Satan know ahead of time what God had in mind regarding a virgin born Messiah?
Yes . . . you go back to Genesis 3:15 when God said to Satan, “the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.”
Every other time in the Bible you read about seed – or, literally sperm or offspring – it’s in reference to the sperm and offspring of man. But here in Genesis 3:15 you find this phrase – in fact the only time in the Bible, you read about the seed of the woman.
Why? Because she conceives without a man and her offspring which is uniquely independent of the seed of man, will crush or defeat the serpent.
This is a reference to the Messiah defeated Satan.
Add to that another text that Satan would have access to, centuries before the birth of Christ.
Isaiah prophesied, “But a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and she will call his name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
And Satan knows about all this; he happens to be fairly bright – he’s not entirely bright, because he still refuses to surrender – and he says, “Aha, God’s plan is for the Messiah to be virgin born.”
So I’ll dispense and originate and manipulate and encourage and facilitate the development of pagan thought to incorporate the idea of virgin birth.
So you have a mother who one day sees a great white elephant enter her belly and she conceives and births a baby boy named Buddha.
Vishnu, after reincarnations as a fish, tortoise, boar and lion, eventually descended into the womb of a woman and is born to her as her son named Krishna and Hinduism is created.
Adapted from MacArthur, p. 12
During the days of Christ, the legend persisted that Alexander the Great was virgin born by the power of Zeus through a snake that impregnated his mother, Olympias. He too, was the son of god, born of a virgin.
Imagine, these major world religions and philosophies claim a son, born as the offspring of their god.
So Christ is born of a virgin and the world of Christ can easily say, “we’ve heard that before.” Christianity just has its own version of a virgin-born-son myth.”
Your Philosophy professor in college might tell you that’s what happened. That’s what he believes. He believes it and he will go to hell. That is, unless hell is a myth too. Which he is depending on.
Why would Satan spend so much energy and passion and time and effort to deny, attack, dilute and counterfeit the message of God’s Son, the virgin born Messiah?
In so many details . . . even down to the point where the Scribes had grown accustomed to the title, “King of the Jews.” Herod had that title already, remember? And Caesar Augustus had already taken the title, “The Savior of the World.”
So the angels appeared to the shepherds and announced, “Listen, we have a great news, born to you this day in the city of David is the Savior.”
We’ve heard that before.
Satan has counterfeited so many of the great truths of Christianity . . . the virgin birth, resurrection, begin born again, baptism.
Listen, in pagan religions, predating Jesus Christ, initiates into pagan beliefs were said to be born again. They went through ceremony’s involving the covering of blood and after coming through the initiating rights were considered born again to a new life and they were given a cup of milk to drink as if they were newborn babes.
Did Jesus Christ and His church borrow these ideas? No, Satan had already been at work through his teachers and world religions to counterfeit the claims of Christ.
And the virgin birth of Christ was one of the key doctrines he sought to undermine.
Why? Because he knows . . . better than most, that without the virgin birth, the Messiah who is fully God and fully man, then the world is without a Savior.
Ravi Zacharias wrote about talk show host Larry King, in his response to this question, “:If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” Mr. King’s answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would like to ask him if was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”
Citation: Ravi Zacharias, “Questions I would Like to Ask God,” Just Thinking Winter (1998).
Ladies and Gentlemen, if the story of Christ’s virgin birth is just another legend . . . just another story . . . then so is the rest of what the Bible tells us about Him. You can just write it all off . . . but if it is true, it does indeed define truth of history for us all.
No wonder then that one of the most important verses in the New Testament about Christ are some of the first verse in his earthly biography. Matthew chapter 1 verse 18 says it simply enough, “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.”
What an mystery!
In Luke’s account, the angel Gabriel is explaining to young Mary how it will happen – he says, “Behold you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus . . . and Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
That explains it!
Does it? No. Do you understand how God can fertilize an egg in a virgin? No.
No more than I can understand how God’s Son could die for sins I haven’t yet committed. How He could view me as seated in the heavenlies. Now more than I can understand how he will bring my dust together and one day split open my tomb and reunite my spirit which has already been with him, with my resurrected body, which is now glorified, to remain with Him eventually in a newly constructed heaven and earth forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever.
Only God can understand His ways . . . and I am not God!
It would do you good every once in a while to look at yourself in the mirror and deny the message of your flesh and from your world by looking at yourself and saying – Hey, I don’t know who you think you are, but you are not God.
Then, comb your hair and go eat breakfast.
The Apostle Paul said, “Beyond any doubt, the mystery of godliness is great . . . God appeared in a body.” (I Timothy 3:16a)
He was really human. He wasn’t just pretending . . . He did not pretend to cry . . . he did not pretend to learn how to walk and how to talk . . . God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (Galatians 4:4)
Why must Jesus Christ be fully human?
- So that he would in fact be a representative of the human race in His obedience.
The redeemer had to be a man. The Bible says “As one man’s sin led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to life . . . for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)
By the way, let me insert here this important truth.
Jesus was fully human because he had a human parent. From Mary he received his human nature so that He was truly a member of Adam’s race.
But while Jesus received from Mary his human nature, he did not receive from Joseph, the father, a sin nature. What orthodox theologians call inherited guilt which comes through Adam’s sin.
Now follow me carefully; the only way Jesus could be fully human, and yet not corrupted with the legal and moral guilt of Adam, was to be born apart from the seed of Adam . . . and there’s only one way that could happen . . . to not have a human father . . . to be born of a virgin.
- Secondly, Jesus had to be a man, so that he could be a substitute for the human race in His sacrifice
If Jesus had not been a man, he could not have been able to die in our place and pay the penalty that was due the human race.
The writer of Hebrews said it this way, “He had to be made like his brethren in all things, that He might be . . . an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
- He had to be a man, so that he could experience the penalty of the human race, with his death.
Paul wrote to the Philippian believers, “[Christ] was made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7,8)
Jesus Christ faced the wrath of God by becoming sin for us.
So, Jesus Christ had to be fully man in order to:
be a representative of the human race in His obedience;
be a substitute for the human race in His sacrifice;
experience the penalty facing the human race, in his death.
Adapted from Grudem, p. 540
Listen carefully, there is no salvation in the birth of Christ. Not even in the fact that He lived a sinless life. Even His teaching could not save us.
There was a price to be paid for our sins . . . someone had to die and then rise victoriously from the dead.
Jesus Christ was born so that He could die and then come back to glorified, resurrected life.
Ah, but in that case . . . He had to be more than fully human.
That’s right, Jesus also had to be fully God.
Only one who is fully God could fully bear the penalty for all the sins of the world.
John wrote, “Christ is the satisfaction for our sins; and not of ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
How do you bear the sins of the whole world? We’d have trouble bearing the load and guilt of our own, right?
Think about it this way. If you are a good person – and I’m sure you are because you’re in church – although you could have come in here to hide from the law. But suppose that you are a good person and you sin only 3 times a day – that’s great!
But that’s still 1,000 sins a year.
Now multiply 1,000 by your age. Give or take 2 or 3 years before you consciously began to sin. For some of us it was very young; some before we were barely home from the hospital.
When you had an unkind thought . . . selfish act . . . lustful idea . . . covetous thought . . . something you should have done but didn’t do – the Bible says that is also sin.
But you’re a good person and you only commit three sins a day.
I can do that before I even get to work!
I’m late, I’m gonna to need to speed – that ‘s one;
Wow, I like that guy’s pickup truck better than mine – that’s two;
Hey, don’t pull in front of me . . . you pagan!
Okay, that’s my three for the day. And I’m still on Penney Road!
Frankly, there’s no human way I could possibly atone for all my sins and the fact that I am sinful; much less the sins and sinfulness of everybody in my neighborhood.
Certainly not millions of people . . . certainly not the whole world!
Only God could pay that penalty.
Aha, that’s precisely the point!
Imagine my Bible being the record book of your life – front page is your birth certificate. The last page is your death certificate and everything in between are all your sinful thoughts, selfish deeds, wicked ideas, you name it . . . everything is in here that you never put on your resume.
The Bible says, “It pleased the Father to bruise Him (the Son) (Isa. 53:10) he placed on Him the iniquity of us all, (53:6) Hewas pierced through for our transgressions . . . He was crushed for our iniquities.” (53:5)
Who His own self bore our sin in his own body on the tree (I Peter 2:24)
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Who is Jesus Christ to you?
A baby in a manger . . . a seasonal interruption . . . a warm feeling of temporary sanctification . . . a nice man who got treated cruelly and He didn’t deserve it?
Is He just one more legend of religion . . . another virgin story borrowed from the legends of the world?
Is that who He is to you?
You might be right! You might be right!
But . . . what if you’re wrong, and the Bible is right?!
What if the Bible is telling the genuine virgin birth story?
That Christ is more than a myth . . . more than a baby . . . fully God and fully man.
The question remains . . . who is Jesus Christ to you?
I declare to you today, on the authority of the Biblical record, Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God.
Since He is all that, He is the One who is fully able to:
fully able to die
fully able to redeem,
fully able to forgive
and fully able one day to return!
I invite you to trust the record of scripture today and receive this virgin born Savior into your life.