The Significance of the Birth of Christ

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. Mt. 1:23

What is the significance of the virgin birth in terms of the person and work of Christ? It’s not that God could not have brought his Son into the world any other way. At least, the Scriptures give us no reason to suppose that God could not have brought Christ into the world with a truly human body already formed in heaven, or that he could not have brought Christ into the world through the normal means of a mom and a dad.

I think of it like this: it’s not that a king could not enter his kingdom without ceremony and honor. He could. But it would not be fitting. A king should be accorded that honor that belongs to such an elevated position. In the same way, I believe that God brought Christ into the world through the miraculous event of a virgin birth because such an entrance into the world was the most fitting for the King of all the earth. And it helps us to see that Jesus is that King in at least three ways.[1]

First, it shows us that salvation is something that can only be accomplished by God and not by man. For the one who came to save us from our sins had a birth that can only be described as miraculous. Jesus was born by supernatural means; his birth required the intervention of the Holy Spirit in order to take place. Mankind, with all its technology, cannot duplicate the virgin birth. It is something only God can do. Thus, from the very beginning, we are reminded that God, and God alone, can save us from our sins.

Second, the virgin birth shows us how it was possible for Jesus to be fully human and fully divine. If God had formed Christ’s body in heaven, and sent him immediately to earth, it would be hard for us to see how he could be fully human, since that is so unlike the way any other human person is born. Or, if Jesus had been born of two parents, it would be hard for us to see how he was God, since he was so like us in every way. But since Jesus was born of a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit – by the combination of human and divine influences – it helps us to see how Christ could be both God and man “in two distinct natures and one person forever.”

Third, it also helps us to see how Jesus could be born without sin. Certainly, Jesus could not save us from our sins if he was entangled with the guilt of his own. However, by being born of a virgin through the power of the Spirit, we can see how Jesus could have been born without the guilt and corruption that belongs to every other human being. In fact, Scripture itself seems to point us in this direction. For example, the angel Gabriel tells Mary: “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” (Luke 1:35).

It should be pointed out that Scripture does not warrant the belief that Jesus did not inherit sin because Mary was sinless (“immaculate conception” refers to Mary in Roman Catholic theology, not to the virgin birth). He did not inherit it because, as Luke 1:35 indicates, the Holy Spirit prevented any possibility of the transmission of corruption and guilt.

To sum up, the virgin birth is fully compatible with and supports the view that Jesus is God with us, the Sinless One sent by the Father to save us from our iniquities. And, in light of this, should this not give hope to everyone who sees that they are without God and without hope in this world? Is it not great news to guilty and dirty sinners like you and I that Jesus shall save his people from their sins? Should we not therefore turn to Jesus and pray to him to take our burden and release us from the guilt of our sin?

"It is sin that will bring sinners down to the pit of destruction and everlasting despair. It is Jesus alone who saves from sin and sins. . . . How can we expect to be saved from sin and its consequences if we are indifferent to Jesus’ claims? He can have no saving effect upon us unless we are bound to him in the bonds of faith, and love, and hope. How sweet the name of Jesus to the contrite sinner. It is ‘a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim. 1:15)."[2]

[1] See Wayne Grudem’s Sys. Theol. (1994), p. 529-532.

[2] John Murray, Works Vol 3, p.184.

By: Jeremiah Bass