THE VIRGIN BIRTH
the late ALBION S.GAUNT (U.K)
DOUBTS concerning the historicity of the virgin birth have always been expressed but modern trends in this direction began again in the early part of this century when German theologians came up with a 'thrilling' new interpretation based on 'modern scholarship'. lt was then claimed that in the light of modern technology and learning there was no more need to take the Bible literally as valid explanations came to light which dispensed with the difficulties involved by believing in miracles.
The new teaching spread through many theological colleges in Britain and was soon being expressed in our pulpits. The account of creation was relegated to folklore, while the miracles of both the Old and New Testaments, including the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, His death and resurrection, His ascension and the promise of a literal bodily return to the earth to re-establish His Kingdom, were all explained away by different forms of phenomena. From Elizabethan and Victorian times, Bible-believing Britain with its Commonwealth along with the U.S.A., were aflame with a sense of vocation, spreading the Word of God, the Gospelof salvation and Christian culture to the ends of the earth. As a result of this belief in God and His Word, Britain emerged as the greatest world empire ever. However, having, by the grace of God, survived a series of terrible threats of invasion by the 'Invincible' Spanish Armada, Napoleon, the Great, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and more recently by Adolf Hitler, Britain tragically succumbed to an invasion of 'New Theology', causing her to lose her faith in God and His Word (a clever stroke of Satan) which resulted, in time, to leaving Him out of her calculations. The rot had truly set in and today we have the devastating effects of unbelief, now rendering her impotent as she wallows in a quagmire of lawlessness, crime and violence, not to mention her financial crises, her labour-management problems and the fear of nuclear attack etc.
THE SUPERLATIVE GLORY OF THE MAN CHRIST JESUS
Who is the Jesus of Nazareth? The only answer to this vital question is to be found in the Bible itself. The Word of God leaves us with no possibility of ever exaggerating the very nature of His person, His supreme sovereignty and glory. All these are exclusively His and His alone. Let us be silent before His Word.
"In the beginning was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... All things were made by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made, ... 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" - (John 1:1-3 & 14)
". ... when he raised him from the dead, anld set him at his own right hand... Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things... the fulness of him that filleth all in all" - (Ephesians 1:20-23).
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: ... who is the beginning, the frstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." - (Colossians 1:16-19).
What pre-eminence!! What glorious majesty! God hath set the man, Christ Jesus at the very centre of His great universal plan. Jesus proclaimed of Himself, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." In considering all others of comparative religions, the Man Christ Jesus is absolutely unique for, did He not claim, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father,but by me"? - (John 14:6). There is no other way to eternal life.
Beholding that glory, Daniel as well as other prophets, involuntarily fell down on their faces before Him as though dead, as did Peter, James and John on the mount of transfiguration, and as also did John on the Isle of Patmos. As a Man, knowing what it was to be weary, He fell asleep in a storm-tossed boat on Galilee but, as Deity He stood up and commanded that same storm to cease and "There was a great calm". Whereupon, His accompanying disciples exclaimed, "What manner of Man is this that even the wind and sea obey Him!" - (Mark 4:38-41). Thus it is written, "Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father" - (Philippians 2:9-11, quoted from Isaiah 45:23 where the word is 'shall'). All men and women of every age shall keep that important appointment. In the trial of Jesus, Pilate attempted to get rid of his prisoner by sending Him to Herod in order to avoid making a personal decision about Him, but Herod sent Him back again to Pilate. No man encountering Jesus Christ can possibly dismiss Him. Jesus Christ is inevitable! He is supreme Sovereign and in His final judgment upon sin and evil is described as the "Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire ... he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses ...And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword (His Word), that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" - (Revelation 19:11-16). Such is His superlative glory!
THE WORLD'S MOST PERPLEXING PROBLEM - SIN
It is very evident that we live in a disordered world, vexed with false values and false standards, a world bedevilled with self-interest with its attendant fear of aggression. We have to admit it is a world in which much good is also to be found but, at present, it is evil which is in the ascendancy. Disruptive forces are inflicting chaos everywhere. Peaceful world rule has broken down badly by human misbehaviour. Divine Law has been sorely abused, and the very Law, which was designed and intended for man's highest good has brought curse upon him because of that abuse. Is it not likely then that the great Designer and Creator should take measures to restore that same Law which man has so abandoned? The uniqueness of God's plan, therefore, is its remedial nature in the working out of redemption. There is no other known remedy for the sin problem. It is God's way for reconstruction, an act of divine intervention.
The dreadful fact that stands out is the total inability of a mere descendant of fallen Adam, no matter how good and noble he may be, to ever bring into effect a deliverance from sin for mankind, the simple reason being that he has himself inherited a fallen nature, the blood stream of which is impure. King David, conscious of hisown sinful nature, bemoaned himself, confessing, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" - (Psalm 51:5). For this reason, it was essential that God Himself should become incarnate quite outside of human sinful nature to perform that deliverance which was impossible with men. These stark facts made the virgin birth an indispensable necessity.
It is a physiological fact that a mother does not supply the blood of the unborn infant. It is the contribution of the male which leads to the development of its blood. Without that vital contribution no blood would be possible because the mother herself does not have the elements essential for the production of this new blood. We quote from A Textbook ForMidwives by Margaret F.Myles, page 44:
"To understand the foetal circulation, the fact must be appreciated that the foetus develops its own blood and at no time does the foetal and maternal blood mix unless some pathological process (disease) is present in the placenta (afterbirth). The foetus produces its own red and white corpuscles (cells)". (Myles' own emphasis). Four layers of membranes composed of different cells, separate the foetal from the maternal blood. Gray's Anatomy, a recognised medical authority states: "The foetal and maternal blood currents do not intermingle, being separated from each other by the delicate walls of villi".
God surely anticipated redemption and atonement when He first designed 'woman'. Most surely He had the virgin birth in view! Christ's blood was not common with that of the human race. It was completely unique - taintless. Where amongst men can blood be found pure enough to pay the tremendous debt of the sins of the whole world, to redeem from the power of sin, to satisfy the court of eternal righteousness? Because of the fall, man's blood is polluted. Did not Judas confess, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood" - (Matthew 27:4). Peter wrote of it as "Incorruptible, the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" - (1 Peter 1:18-19). The writer to the Hebrews stated that Christ came to offer "His own blood. . . having obtained etemal redemption for us." while he claims that "without shedding of blood is no remission " - (Hebrews 9:12 & 22). The availability of such taintless blood could only be possible through the virgin birth.
To deny the historicity of the virgin birth is to reduce Christ to the level of a mere human being. To deny the virgin birth would inevitably mean that Jesus had an earthly father unknown to Joseph, that Mary was a fallen unfaithful woman guilty of the sin of fornication and, above all, that Jesus Himself was illegitimate and a veritable imposter! These are the blasphemous alternatives to the truth of the virgin birth.
THE TAINT IN JOSEPH'S GENEALOGY
Two genealogies are presented in the New Testament with reference to our Lord's birth, the one being that of Mary, a descendant of King David, through his son Nathan (Luke 3:23-38), while the other is that of Joseph, also a descendant of David, but through his son Solomon (Matthew 1:1-17). However, though Joseph's line was the Royal Line, having passed through King Solomon, it developed a curse which invalidated Joseph, rendering any claim of his both null and void. In Joseph's line there was a descendant of his (King Solomon) called Coniah, sometimes referred to as Jeconiah, who, because of the nature of a serious sin against God, suffered the divine judgment of being written off by God as 'childless' - (Jeremiah 22:24-30). No physical descendant of his could occupy a place in the list of the kings of Israel. Consequently, had our Lord been the NATURAL son of Joseph as a descendant of Coniah, He could never reign in power and righteousness upon the Throne of David because of the curse. Mary's line, however, was the LEGAL LINE through Nathan, the elder son of David. There was no taint on this line. As the ADOPTED son of Joseph, the curse of Coniah's seed did not rest upon Jesus. Thus, Joseph's tainted blood was not found in Him. He was sinless from His virgin birth, and His blood was without taint either from Adam or from Coniah, being unique in every respect.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH PREDICfED BY THE PROPHETS
The first prophetic hint of the virgin birth is given in Genesis (3: 14, 15) where, on the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, God pronounced judgment upon the 'serpent' (Satan) who engineered the fall. God here refers to the 'seed' of the WOMAN (not of the man) which is immediately followed by the personal pronoun 'He', "He shall bruise thy head" - the fatal blow to be delivered on Satan at Calvary.
We refer now to the prophecy which is to be found in Isaiah 7:14:
"The Lord Himself shall give you a Sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
The Hebrew word used here for 'virgin' is 'almah'. It is argued that the proper Hebrew word for 'virgin' is 'bethulah'. According to Strong's Concordance, 'almah' means a lass as veiled or private, a damsel or virgin. 'Almah' occurs seven times in the Old Testament: Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8; Psalm 68:25; Proverbs 30:10; Song of Solomon 1:3 & 6:8; Isaiah 7:14, all of which refer to virgins.
The prophecy of Isaiah 7.14 is not addressed to King Ahaz because when God invited him to "ask for a sign of the Lord" he refused to do so, whereupon God calls for a hearing from the whole House of David, telling of an incarnation of Immanuel - God with us, made possible through a supernatural virgin birth. Later, when Simeon beheld the Babe in His mother's arms in the temple, he said, "Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be spoken against" - (Luke. 2:34).
NATURAL RELIGION VERSUS SUPERNATURAL FAITH
Is it not true to say that there are two ways by which we may observe our Christian religion? One is what may be termed 'natural' religion by which we seek to satisfy our religious instinct. God to such is rather far away and not really relevant to present day events. It is a religion which depends upon the traditions of our fathers, upon 'church-going', ceremony and ritual and which demands a rational explanation for anything that does not seem to conform to natural law. It needs an explanation based on reason and scholarship. It is a religion external in experience. The other springs from an inward experience born of the Holy Spirit in which the presence and power of Christ Jesus becomes a blessed reality. This experience can only be born of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer who has come to Christ and is conditional upon Faith, confessing his sinfulness and accepting Christ as his personal Saviour on the grounds that Jesus paid the debt of his sin upon the cross of Calvary. Such an one knows God personally and has no difficulty in believing that all things are possible when God's Word is given.
Nicodemus was an example of both these phases of religion. Was he not 'a master in Israel', one of the hierarchy in sacred matters, whose scholarship was unquestioned? Yet Nicodemus was found to be without any inward spiritual experience. However, he was not satisfied with his own unhappy state with all its religious trappings. He was a seeker after truth. Jesus gave him to understand that mere outward show was of 'the flesh' - natural. It was absolutely imperative that if he was to enter into the real meaning of eternal life as God intended, he must be spiritually born anew, a miraculous inward birth of a new creation, without which he could not 'see' or 'enter' the Kingdom of God. To such an one, even as it was with Mary, by taking God at His Word, was to enter into a grand new experience of another realm and dimension in which nothing is impossible with God.
"Blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things (a virgin birth) which were told her from the Lord" - (Luke 1:45)
And it was so!
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