Why the Virgin Birth Matters
The historical and biblical understanding the church has held since its beginning concerning the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ has been disputed, scoffed at, and upheld. The first large debate that went on in the church after the apostles died was the issue of whether Christ was divine, human, or both. As it goes with debates, those on the outside looking in saw the object of the disputation to be avoided. “If that is what the belief does,” they say, “I want nothing to do with it.” So they scoff at Christ and, inevitably, the virgin birth.
If you simply knew about Christ's mother being a virgin girl, you would most likely be skeptical. You would question the validity of the account, of the sanity of anyone who believed the report, and of anything else anyone would say about Him. Because of the mysterious nature of a virgin giving birth, incredulity is usually the first resort; and since skeptics usually scoff at those who aren’t skeptical, skeptics will scoff at the idea of a virgin conceiving and giving birth. Another reason for the virgin birth and those who believe it to be scoffed at could be the fact that many just do not believe Christ, and the virgin birth gives them a foothold. But the virgin birth must be believed by Christians, and that means we will be scoffed at.
Nevertheless, we have good reason to believe in the virgin birth not only because of the authority of Scripture but because our Christianity depends on it. If we do not believe the virgin birth, we have no grounds to call ourselves Christians. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe about Christ because it is mystical, too hard to grasp, or controversial. If we are going to believe in Christ, we must believe everything the Bible says about Him – including His birth.
There are two notions about Christ that disregard the virgin birth. They may not disregard it outright, but what they teach implies that they do. The two ideas I’m talking about are the relational Jesus and the moral Jesus.
The relational notion of Jesus says that all Jesus came to do is to initiate a relationship with us. So what we must do with Christ is enter into a relationship with Him and therein find our salvation. They say that the reason Christ died and was resurrected was so that we could be saved from sin – only when we enter into a relationship with Him. The problem with this idea is that the virgin birth of Christ is forgotten. Is Christ’s birth of a virgin just a neat miraculous part of Christ that has no bearing on our life?
The moral idea of Jesus says that all you have to do is just start following Jesus. The Christian life to them is a change in morality and action to mimic Christ. Feeding the poor, caring for the sick, and helping the misfortunate characterize much of this belief. There is both a disregard for Christ’s death and resurrection and His birth. Again we must ask the question, is Christ’s birth of a virgin just a neat miraculous part of Christ that has no bearing on our life?
The glorious truth we find is that Christ was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, obeyed the entirety of the law during His life, died and was resurrected, all so that we might receive His righteousness by faith.
What both of these ideas have missed is the reason Jesus was born of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit. It was for righteousness. If Jesus was not born of a virgin and Joseph was His father, Adam would be His federal head, and Christ would inherit a sinful nature. Christ could not die for us if He were born in sin. He would have to be seen as a prophet who said some radical and untrue things. He could not be God in human flesh, and God would remain distant from us. But such is not the case. Jesus was born of a virgin having God as His federal head which means that He is righteous from birth. Jesus did not attain righteousness by the law, but was righteous and upheld the law in our place. As one theologian said, “We owed a debt we couldn’t pay; God couldn’t pay a debt he didn’t owe, only Christ could owe our debt and pay it.” This is why the virgin birth matters.
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul starts laying out the gospel by telling us he isn’t ashamed of it. The first reason he gives us is that it is the means by which God brings salvation to the world. His second reason not to be ashamed of it is the two truths it contains, righteousness and wrath (Rom. 1:16-18). The good news of Jesus, according to Paul, is that righteousness is given to us when we deserved wrath. There is no mention of how important it is to follow the moral teachings of Jesus. There is no mention of us “just having a relationship with Jesus.” Instead, the glorious truth we find is that Christ was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, obeyed the entirety of the law during His life, died and was resurrected, all so that we might receive His righteousness by faith. On this truth, all of Christianity hangs. If you do not get this, you do not get Christianity.
The reason the virgin birth matters is that of righteousness. God requires a righteousness only He can give, and He has given it to us through Christ. The baby lying in the manger at the center of our Christmas celebration is there to bring us righteousness. That is why we celebrate! God, by sending Christ to us, born of a virgin, accomplished what we so desperately needed – righteousness. What a glorious thought!