Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Virgin Birth: An Essential Doctrine

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, December 12, 2010

Luke 1:26-38, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

I told you last Lord's Day that preaching from this Book, the Word of God, during the Christmas season, can be both challenging and rewarding. As I indicated last time, the challenging part is saying something – uncovering, explaining, illustrating, and applying something - new and fresh, for listeners and learners who have heard you preach from these passage for 20 years now. What else is there to say? What else is there to discover and study and examine? Oh, believe me, there is plenty! The challenge – for me AND for you – is that we just have to work at it a little harder. We have to continue to ask God in the way the Psalmist asked God, “open our eyes that we may see wonderful things from your law” (Psalm 119:18).

Then there's the rewarding thing. What happens when we do work harder at it? What happens when God DOES answer that earnest, sincere prayer that heartfelt yearning to see and to know Him and His Word better? That's where the rewards come in, isn't it? That's when we sit back and marvel at what God shows us and teaches us and brings home to us!

Preaching to a congregation with whom you have served the Lord for 20 years, and doing so at Christmas time... You'd think I would know better; but I guess not. For you see, today, I'm going to preach what might be called a Doctrinal sermon. Now, before you lay back and go to sleep on me, before you slip your MP3 ear piece in your ear and tune me out because you think that what you're about to he is BO-RING! – will you do me a favor? Will you do yourself a favor? Don't go to sleep! And, don't tune me out as God teaches you from His Word.

I landed on the idea of a Doctrinal sermon, as exploration of the Biblical doctrine of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, simply by hearing again, reading again, for the 20th time (at least) the Words of Mary to the angel Gabriel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

You remember the context, the background for the question, don't you? As far as this otherwise unknown, humble, obscure young Jewish woman, Mary is concerned, to have God send an angelic messenger - to her – why that would never happen! Maybe to a priest, or a prophet or a king, or a captain of Israel's army, but not to me! And, then, for that angel to tell her what he tells her: “You are God's highly favored one... You are blessed among women... You will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son, whose name will be Jesus, who will be the Son of the Most High God, the King to sit on David's throne forever.” For Gabriel to tell her all this, why, that would be INCREDIBLE! Who wouldn't have asked a question like she posed to Gabriel?

But, here's where this gets interesting. This question of Mary: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Not only does this question open up the door for Gabriel to explain the How? Of this amazing event, a baby born to a virgin woman! But, perhaps even more significant ly, it moves us in the direction of asking and examining the Whys? The What Fors?

In case you didn't realize it, in many churches and denominations, those where the Word of God has been whittled down to only what is provable in this scientific age – in those congregations and denominations where the attitude of this Book is more one of pride, than humility, skepticism and doubt rather than trust; in those kinds of congregations and denominations, what do you think has happened to this Book's teaching about the Virgin Birth? In the business world they would say it like this: “There's something for 'File 13'!” In still other so-called churches and religions, this Doctrine is misunderstood to mean that somehow the sinless Son of God, for Him to be born into this world through a human instrument like Mary and, at the same time, to remain sinless having been born through here, requires – requires – that SHE be sinless! That she remain perpetually a virgin, and even, that she be born by way of an immaculate – sin free – conception! Then, there are the cults, who – because of their faulty views regarding the Person and Nature of Jesus Christ, that He is something less, something other than God in human flesh – when they come to passages like this, you know what they do, don't you? They come up with intricate schemes to circumvent what this Book says!

The Virgin Birth – How can this be? And, why? In case you hadn't noticed, I believe in this Doctrine. I believe that it's not a doctrine that we can either take or leave, without any consequences as to our faith. And, I believe that Mary, the Virgin Mary, espoused-betrothed to Joseph before they came together as husband and wife, I believe that this humble human, and yes, sinful instrument was God's means of carrying out His work, His amazing plan to bring His Son into the world as fully man, fully God and fully, completely sinless!

Now, having said all of that, and reminding you of the fact that virgins don't get pregnant! That what we're talking about here, in terms of How? is a miracle! And that, if we deny the possibility of miracles, we deny this miracle, and must otherwise delete or explain away this passage. Having said all of that, and reminded you of these things, allow me to explain to you why I believe this doctrine is so crucial and so marvelous!

What's at stake here?” Have you ever heard anybody ask that question? “What's at stake here with respect to believing and accurately understanding this doctrine?” A quick list for you – Number one: the very Word of God is at stake! Genesis 3:15 – the verse first prophecy regarding the coming of a Savior – Messiah – what does it tell us about Him? Genesis 3:15, the first gospel proclamation in all of Scripture tells us that One who would crush the head of the Serpent, the One who would be wounded at the heel by the Serpent – what does the text say? It tells us that the Coming One would be the Seed – the Offspring – not of a man, descended from Adam, but the Seed of woman! The One the New Testament describes as the “Second Adam” (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). The very Word of God is at stake with respect to this Doctrine. Isaiah 7:14 – the 'Immanuel, God with us' passage quoted by the apostle Matthew as being fulfilled when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary – I mean, was God lying when He prophesied that “a virgin would conceive and bring forth a Son, and call His name Immanuel”, or was He telling us, foretelling nearly 800 years ahead of time? Was He telling us the truth? The very Word of God is at stake.

Secondly, the very Person-hood, the very Nature of Jesus is at stake. I believe as Scripture indicates in Galatians 4:4 and following, that “in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law...” I believe that Jesus was born of Mary – yes; but listen, I do not believe that Jesus was begotten of Joseph! The genealogy passage with which the New Testament begins Matthew 1:1-16 - “So and so begot so and so; so and so and so begot so and so...” After 15 verses straight of that monotonous pattern – SURPRISE – in verse 16, the text does not say that Joseph, Mary's husband begot Jesus! Why? Because though fully human – having been born of a woman, born under the law – He is, as Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:35, fully God, the Holy One, who would be called God's Son; literally the text says, “He would be 'begotten', not conceived by her alone, but 'begotten' by God and His miracle-working power!”

The doctrine of the Virgin Birth, the very Word of God is at stake. I mean, does God tell the truth or not? And, the very nature of Jesus is at stake. Is He fully human AND fully God? Or, Is He only human? Which lead me to the third crucial consideration pertaining to the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. What if the Word of God is wrong – or, even a lie? What if Jesus is only human? You see where this is leading, don't you? The very essence of salvation and the Gospel is at stake! “And Mary shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name 'JESUS', for He will save His people from their sins.” That's what the angel Gabriel told Joseph in that dream recorded in Matthew chapter one. “Name Him 'Jesus', 'Savior' – for He will save His people from their sins.” Do you see it, my Loved Ones? If the Bible is wrong - or a lie – if Jesus is just another sinful, 'Son of Adam' and that's who He is and all He is – then what? Then, how can He save us from our sins any more than you or I can save us?

The Virgin Birth, this Doctrine, as I said, it is a critical component of all these things. But, listen, before we close, allow me to underscore for you what a marvelous Doctrine of Scripture this is also. The Virgin Birth: what does it tell us? What does it teach us? Luke 1:37 – It tells us that nothing – NOTHING – is impossible with God! I mean, if God has the power to beget a child in the womb of a woman apart from any man's involvement - guess what? He has the power, the ability to “meet all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19-20). He has the strength to endue you and me with might by His Spirit in our inner being, in that place where we wrestle against principalities and powers and the rules of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 3:16ff; 6:10ff). The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a marvelous Doctrine because of what it teaches us about the power of God: miracles can and do happen! And, because of what it proclaims to us about the faithfulness of God. Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Micah 5:2 – These passages are either true and accurate prophecies about the Birth of Jesus, or they are not! Listen! I believe they are true! And, if they are true, then what? God is faithful! He keeps His Word! You and I can trust Him now – today, to keep promises He's made to us!

Thirdly, I believe this Doctrine, the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth – is marvelous, because of what is shows us about God's amazing love, His tender compassion for folks like us. Immanuel - “God with us”, that magnificent and incredibly meaningful name through which God declares loud and clear this powerful message: “I know how you feel! I know what you're going through!”

The Virgin Birth – this much maligned, misunderstood and even maliciously removed doctrine of Scripture, not only is it God's answer to Mary's question, “How can this be...?” Much more, it is what supplies the platform, the unshakable basis for what this Book means when it says of Bethlehem's Baby: He is the Consolation of Israel, He is the Light to enlighten the Gentiles, He is the Forever King, He is Christ the Lord!

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