The Virgin Birth of Christ
It was the late Professor John Murray who pointed out that there was nothing supernatural in the emergence of Jesus from the womb of Mary – what we usually refer to as the ‘birth.’ The whole process of foetal and embryonic development was normal. We are told that when Mary’s ‘full time’ had come, she gave birth. In that birth, there was actually no miracle in the technical sense of the word. Christ’s conception was as extraordinarily normal as ours.
Where then does the supernatural lie in the birth of Christ? In three places:
It was a Supernatural Begetting
Dr. Lloyd-Jones quotes this little statement: ‘As the Lord’s divine nature had no mother, so his human nature had no human father.’ Jesus was not conceived in the womb by the conjunction of male and female, by spermal communication from the man to the woman. He was begotten (rather than conceived) by the Holy Spirit, and the miraculous consisted in this supernatural begetting. In the absence of human begetting, it was that which made the birth a virgin birth. In this connection it is not proper, strictly speaking, to say that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (even though this is the phrase employed in the Apostles’ Creed). ‘What is said of Elizabeth’s conception in reference to her baby John (Luke 1:24, 26) is repeated of Mary and her child. The Holy Spirit begat, Mary conceived (see also Luke 2:21).”1
It was a Supernatural Person
A virgin birth by itself does not mean an invariable incarnation. If God willed, he could supernaturally beget a thousand babies. What was significant about this conception was that it was the Second Person of the Godhead who was joined to Mary’s ovum. He left his Father’s home above “” so free, so infinite his grace. His destination was the virgin betrothed to Joseph. What was special about the baby Mary bore was this:
It was the eternal Son of God in respect of his human nature. He was begotten of the Spirit and conceived by the virgin in human nature. The most stupendous fact of all is that this was the begetting, conception, embryonic development, and birth of a supernatural person. Because of this there was no point at which the supernatural was not present. The incarnation was supernatural through and through, because at no point was the supernatural identity of the person suspended.2
Who is he in yonder stall
at whose feet the shepherds fall?
‘Tis the Lord, O wondrous story,
‘Tis the Lord, the King of glory.
There was no diminishing of the One who was in the beginning, who was with God and who was God. There is no transmutation and no divestiture. When the Apostle John says that they beheld him, they beheld the glory of the only-begotten of the Father “” in other words, he says Jesus of Nazareth was ‘God only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father’ (John 1:18). So the incarnation meant addition, not subtraction. God the Son, remaining the immutable Second Person of the Godhead, joined to himself the human nature of one particular man, the true biological son of Mary, who married a carpenter, who lived in Nazareth, in whose home the God-man, Christ Jesus, grew up. ‘The incarnation means that the Son of God took human nature in its integrity into his person with the result that he is both divine and human, without any impairment of the fulness of either the divine or the human.’3
It was Supernatural Preservation
There was such a preservation at the end of his life when his body lay in the grave, for God would not allow his Holy Child Jesus to putrefy. You recall the alarm of Mary and Martha at the opening of the tomb of their brother Lazarus after three days, that his body would be stinking. But there was an intervention of God. The tomb was new and clean; no stench of death; a fine mausoleum for the Prince of Life. So too when he lay in the womb of Mary: our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man, tinier than a full stop.
Then, when all other men must say, ‘In sin did my mother conceive me . . . I was born in sin and shaped in iniquity,’ he could never say those words, even as at the end of no day did he need to confess his sins to God. At his conception, there was somehow a preservation from any taint of sin, from that contamination that would have otherwise proceeded from Mary. His humanity was without sin. His was not a humanity without temptation, nor was it living in a sanitized, spiritual environment; but from his conception there was no prenatal sin “” whatever that may be “” and thenceforth, after his first breath, no propensity to sin, no affinity with sin, and no stain of sin ever upon him, though he was bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh. He was the Word of God who become the Lamb of God without spot and without blemish. ‘The little Lord Jesus no crying he made’ “” that is, no crying out of petulance or anger or greed or attention-seeking or boredom or pride, as every other baby makes. He was not like any other baby. What glory is seen in his coming into the world.
- John Murray, Collected Writings (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977), 2:134.
- Ibid., pp. 134-35.
- Ibid., p. 136.
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