The Virgin-Born Saviour
An excerpt from Dr. John R. Rice's excellent 1948 book, “Is Jesus God?”
"When someone does something wrong, make it a point to never forget all the things they did right." —Pastor Bob Gray Sr.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” —Isaiah 7:14
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” —Matthew 1:18
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” —Luke 1:34,35
The Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus was born with a human mother but born without a human father. Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived and was still a virgin when He as born. She was “with child of the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit came upon her and she conceived the holy child Jesus. This is a blessed and vital teaching of the Bible.
Jesus was born of a woman so that He might be “the Son of man.” Christmas ought to be a time of rejoicing, a time of praise, a time of devotion. But let us remember that all the true meaning of Christmas will be forever gone for anyone who throws away his faith in the virgin birth of our Saviour. If Christ were not virgin-born, then He is not God. If Christ were not virgin-born, then He could not be our Saviour. All Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the virgin birth.
If Jesus had a human father, then the Bible is not true. The book of Isaiah is false, the Gospel of Matthew is false, the Gospel of Luke is false, and the Gospel of John is false, for all these clearly teach that the Saviour, the Messiah, was born of a virgin, and was begotten of God, not begotten of a human father. There is no way to believe in the inspiration of the Bible if one denies the Bible claim that Jesus was born of a virgin without a human father. If Jesus were born of a human father, and the Bible teaching that He were born of a virgin is untrue, then no sensible man living would believe in His pre-existence with the Father as taught in the first chapter of John. No sensible person could believe that He is the Creator of the world, as claimed in Hebrews 1:2 and Colossians 1:16, if He be not deity in human form, begotten of God, miraculously born, a supernatural being.
If Jesus be not a supernatural being, God in human flesh, and therefore born of a virgin without a human father, then no sensible person could believe that He will be the final judge of all the earth. If Jesus had a human father and mother just as other men, if He were not supernaturally, miraculously born, God appearing in human flesh, then His death on the cross could not atone for the sins of mankind. All Christianity, I say, stands or falls with the Bible doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ. The doctrine of the virgin birth and the doctrine of the deity of Christ are one and the same. The doctrine of the virgin birth and the doctrine of the blood atonement are so interrelated that they cannot be separated. They are Siamese-twin doctrines and neither doctrine can stand without the other. The virgin birth of Christ and His Saviourhood and one and the same doctrine.
Then anybody who denies the virgin birth of Christ is an infidel. He has already rejected Christianity. He has already denied the inspiration of the Bible. He has already denied the blood atonement of Christ. The man who denies the virgin birth may be counted a minister of the gospel, but actually he is a brother of Bob Ingersoll and Tom Paine, a brother of every infidel and Christ-denier and Bible-hater in the world.
If anyone says that the deity of Christ is not essential, then he does not even know what essential Christianity is. To deny the virgin birth is to deny Christ Himself!
The Virgin Birth Is Plainly Stated In Scripture
That the mother of Jesus was a virgin, not having known any man carnally, and a virgin still when the Saviour was born, is as specifically and positively stated as any doctrine in the Bible. Please consider the following Scripture statements about the virgin birth.
Isaiah prophesied the Saviour's virgin birth some 740 years before it happened! In Isaiah 7:14 the Scripture says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The sign is given, as the preceding verse shows, to the whole house of David. A young woman was to conceive and bear a Son while she was yet a virgin, and should call His name, Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” This Child, virgin-born, was to be God incarnate God dwelling for a little while with men!
Matthew, the first Gospel, plainly teaches the virgin birth of Christ. Read the following beautiful account of how God explained to Joseph how his sweetheart, Mary, was to become the mother of our Lord.
“Mary, Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” —Matthew 1:18-25.
The traditional date of the writing of Matthew's gospel is A.D. 37, perhaps four years after the crucifixion. Dr. H. C. Thiessen, in Introduction to the New Testament, says, “Matthew, or John stand first in all our documents, Mark and Luke never.” And this Gospel gives the longest and most detailed account of the virgin birth, and it quotes Isaiah 7:14 and announces that this Scripture was fulfilled! The simple explanation is that the child in the womb of Mary was conceived by the Holy Ghost. God was literally the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and so Jesus was “God with us,” Immanuel. The same Scripture plainly announces that “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
A Christ who is virgin-born is the Saviour. A Christ not born of a virgin, a Christ with only a human father and a natural conception and birth, could never be a Saviour.
The Gospel of Luke, written by “the beloved physician,” Luke, also plainly states the fact of the virgin birth. Read the following in Luke 1:26-38.
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
Here again we are plainly told that Mary was a virgin (vs. 27), that she was engaged to Joseph. The problem of how she should bear a child without a human father troubled Mary, and the angel explained, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” The virgin birth was essential were Christ to be actually the Son of God, that is, physically begotten of God and God in human form.
Obviously the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is as clearly stated as any doctrine in the Bible.
The Virgin Birth Is Also Taught Elsewhere in the Bible Besides the Explicit Statements
Above we have seen that Isaiah, Matthew and Luke all expressly state that Christ was born of a virgin. But a number of other Scriptures, without using the term “virgin,” clearly teach that Joseph was not the father of Jesus and that therefore He was conceived of the Holy Ghost, without a human father.
The prophet Jeremiah plainly foretold that Joseph could not be the father of Jesus. Here is a most interesting study that will repay careful attention. Jeremiah 22:30 says of Coniah (also called Jeconiah, Jechonias and Jehoiachin), “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”
And only five verses below this statement that Coniah, or Jeconiah, should be counted childless, that none of his seed should prosper reigning upon the throne of David, the Lord tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5). And in the following verse we are told that His name should be called “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Although Coniah's seed should not reign and prosper on David's throne, the coming Messiah would come and reign on David's throne. So the coming Saviour could not be descended from Jeconias.
But what does this have to do with the virgin birth of Christ? Simply this, that this man Coniah was the ancestor of Joseph, the husband of Mary! Coniah, or Jechonias, was a direct descendant of King Solomon and King David, and reigned in Judah until he was carried away captive to Babylon. Now look at the genealogy of Joseph in Matthew 1:12, “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel. . . . ” Then Matthew 1:16, continuing the same genealogy, says, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Joseph was descended from Coniah (Jechonias), and if Joseph were the father of Jesus, then the Scripture plainly says that no one of this line should prosper, sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah.
But in Luke 1:32,33 the angel Gabriel told Mary about the Saviour, that great Son she should bear, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Jesus, during His earthly ministry, of course, did not reign in Judah nor over Jerusalem. But Jesus is coming again, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will rule over the house of Jacob as the Scripture clearly said.
Revelation 5:10 says, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 20:6 says that those in the first resurrection “shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Christ is to reign on David's throne.
Was it clearly intended by the Holy Spirit who dictated the Scriptures that Jeremiah 22:30 should be used as proof that Jesus was not the son of Joseph? Yes, it was obviously so. For after Jeremiah 22:30 says that no man of the seed of Coniah “shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah,” the fifth and sixth verses thereafter, Jeremiah 23:5, 6 say, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
No seed of Coniah should reign and prosper in Judah; but Christ, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” shall reign and prosper on David's throne ruling over Judah and the whole earth! So Coniah, the ancestor of Joseph, could not be the ancestor of Jesus. Jesus was not born of Joseph!
The genealogy of Jesus, through Mary, does not give Coniah (Jechonias) at all, proving that Jesus was descended from David through another line, not Joseph's line. We have mentioned the genealogy of “Joseph the husband of Mary,” which is given in Matthew 1:1-16. But the genealogy of Mary is given in Luke 3:23-38. At first glance one might think that this was the genealogy of Joseph and wonder why the two were different. Matthew 1:16 says, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary.” But in Luke 3:23 we are told, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.”
Actually, the words “the son,” used the second time in the verse, are in italics, meaning they were not in the Greek at all. Actually there is no doubt that Joseph was son-in-law of Heli. The Gospel of Matthew speaks of Jesus as the King of the Jews, and so gives the genealogy of Joseph, His foster father, as an official record showing that, humanly speaking, he would be entitled to the throne of Israel. The Gospel of Matthew was more clearly directed to the Jews. But the Gospel according to Luke pictures Jesus as the Son of man, and gives His genealogy, not just to Abraham the father of the Jews, as does the genealogy in Matthew, but traces it all the way back to Adam! So the genealogy in Luke naturally gives the actual human parentage of Jesus, that is, His mother Mary and her ancestry
The Scofield reference Bible has a note on Luke 3:23 as follows: “In Matthew, where unquestionably we have the genealogy of Joseph, we are told (vs. 16) that Joseph was the son of Jacob. In what sense, then, could he be called in Luke 'the son of Heli'? He could not be by natural generation the son both of Jacob and of Heli. But in Luke it is not said that Heli begat Joseph, so that the natural explanation is that Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, who was, like himself, a descendent of David. That he should in that case be called 'son of Heli' ('son' is not in the Greek, but rightly supplied by the translators) would be in accord with Jewish usage (cf. 1 Samuel 24:16). The conclusion is therefore inevitable that in Luke we have Mary's genealogy; and Joseph was the 'son of Heli' because espoused to Heli's daughter. The genealogy in Luke is Mary's, who father, Heli, was descended from David.”
Now note this interesting thing. The genealogy of Mary, and therefore the literal human genealogy of Christ, is not traced through Coniah (Jechonias) at all. it is not even traced through King Solomon, but is traced through Nathan, another son of David! (Luke 3:31). Jesus was actually, literally descended, through Mary, from King David. But He was not descended from Jechonias. God gave that additional proof in the Old Testament, before the Saviour was born, that Joseph could not be His father.
The Scripture repeatedly speaks of Jesus as the only One who was begotten of God, “the only begotten Son of God.” This clearly refers to the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, with God as His Father. The Scripture tells us that, “Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:16), but many Scriptures tell us that God begot Jesus Christ. Psalm 2:7 prophesies the coming of the Saviour and says, “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” All Bible students agree that that refers to Jesus Christ. Now Jesus was in the very beginning with God. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
If Jesus was in the beginning with the Father, then surely it could not be said that He ever had a beginning, in His pre-existent state with the Father. So when we speak of Jesus as “the only begotten Son” of God, we refer to His human beginning. On the mother's side was say that a child is conceived. On the father's side we say that the child is begotten. So when the Holy Spirit over-shadowed Mary, God begot Jesus Christ, and therefore He is called the only begotten Son of God. No one else was ever physically begotten of God, as Jesus was, so He is “the only begotten Son.”
The first chapter of John has much to say about Jesus as the pre-existent Word of God, as the Creator of all things. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” When the Word was made flesh, that is, when Christ was made flesh, then He was begotten of the Father; and what the beloved John is here saying by divine inspiration is that they, the disciples, beheld the glory of Christ, and could tell by His glory that He was deity, that He was physically begotten of God! John means that anyone who saw the glorified Saviour on the Mount of Transfiguration, and again after His resurrection, as well as all the days of His ministry, would have to agree that Jesus had no human father, but was begotten of God and conceived and borne by a virgin mother.
It is true that once or twice the Bible speaks of Christians as begotten of God, but that is the figurative use of the term, and five times in the New Testament Jesus is called the only begotten Son of God. Those five times are John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18; and 1 John 4:9. So the Gospel of John and the first epistle of John unite with the books of Isaiah and Matthew and Luke in declaring the virgin birth of our Saviour!
Another reference to the virgin birth of Christ is given in Jeremiah 31:22. There is a prophecy of the coming Saviour the prophet says, “How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.”
Certainly it would not be a new thing for a woman to conceive and bear a man child. That is not what God means. No, he says, “The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth,” an entirely new thing would happen. That is, a woman, without any human intervention, without knowing any man carnally, would “compass a man,” that is, conceive and carry and deliver a man child! That virgin birth of Christ would be a unique event, a wholly new thing. Certainly this must be a reference to the virgin birth of the coming Saviour.
The Virgin Birth Is Implied All Through The Bible
I have shown that the virgin birth is expressly stated in Isaiah, Matthew and Luke, and that it is taught elsewhere very clearly. But that is not all. The birth of Jesus without a human father and His deity as a result is implied all through the Bible. I have mentioned three of the Gospels: Matthew and Luke expressly say that Jesus was born of a virgin, and John expressly says that Jesus was begotten of God and was the only person ever begotten of God, was God's only begotten Son. However, the Gospel of Mark leaves no room for doubt on this question. While it does not expressly state that Jesus was born of a virgin, it emphatically teaches that Jesus was the pre-existent Son of God which necessarily means that He was not the son of Joseph.
Mark 1:1 says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The first word that Mark has to say about the Saviour is that He is the Son of God! And the first chapter only proceeds to the eleventh verse before it reports God saying from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And all through the Gospel of Mark Jesus is spoken of as the miracle-working God in human form. That necessarily means that He was born of a virgin. Although Mark does not tell the story of the angel's coming to Mary and of the Saviour's miraculous conception and birth, that truth is implied throughout the Gospel.
So it is all through the Bible. In Isaiah 9:6 it is prophesied, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Though this verse does not specially tell of the virgin birth of Christ, it calls Him, “The mighty God, The everlasting Father.” And that forever sets Him apart from every man child ever born of natural generation, and necessarily compels a belief in the deity of Christ.
Isaiah 53 tells of His atonement; how Christ bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, how He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and how the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and how with His stripes we are healed. If one man can stand before God for the whole race of men, and if one man's suffering can pay the debt of all the sinners in the universe, then that one man is no ordinary man. He could only be a God-man, God in human form, begotten of God in a virgin's womb. That is why all those who deny the virgin birth of Christ likewise deny His deity and deny His atoning death, His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.
Throughout the Bible we are taught that Christ is the Creator who made all things and upholds all things now. We are taught that He is to judge the world, and that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22; Acts 17:31. We are told that the same Jesus who was crucified arose from the dead. We are told that He ascended to Heaven and then two angels promised that the same Jesus should return again (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus Himself said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
The virgin birth is implied in every chapter in the Bible, and to deny the virgin birth of Christ is to deny that the Bible means what it says, to deny that it is the Word of God. To deny the virgin birth is to deny historic Christianity and turn one's back on the God of the Bible.
Source: Evangelist John R. Rice, “Is Jesus God?,” chapter 3: The Virgin-Born Saviour; pgs. 61-75; Sword Of The Lord Publishers, Copyright 1948.
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