The Virgin Birth

jesus-birth-james-schultz
Jesus’ Birth by James Schultz, 2017

The virgin birth of Jesus is one the main tenets of the Christian faith. This miraculous event is recorded in Scripture. Had Jesus not been born of the virgin Mary, He wouldn’t have been the proper sacrifice for our sins. He would have been born into sin and therefore would have sinned. According to the Old Testament, the sacrifice for sin had to be spotless and without blemish. Regarding Jesus, this doesn’t mean spotless physically. This means that He was without sin. His blood did not carry the sin trait that was borne to the rest of us from Adam.

What about His mother? Wasn’t she human born into sin? The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was born without sin in order for her to  conceive a sinless Christ. However, there is no biblical proof of the Immaculate Conception (which begs the question; wouldn’t the same logic require Mary’s mother to have been born without sin to conceive a sinless Mary, and her mother before her, and so on and so forth?). Mary needed saving from her sins like we all do. It was believed in the past that the baby in the womb shared his mother’s blood. What we know today, however, is that the baby when in the womb makes his own blood. His blood is unique to himself. That’s why Jesus’ blood, and Jesus’ blood only, has the power to wash away sins.  “The fetal blood and maternal blood do not mix. In fact, if this were to be the case, there would be such immunological protest from the mother that she would soon make enough antibodies to the baby’s blood to destroy the pregnancy.” (https://www.babble.com/pregnancy/anatomy-fetus-placenta/)

Jesus was unique in that His father was God. Although the Bible calls the nation of Israel the child of God in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy. 14:1) and those that place their faith in Jesus are His children (Romans 8:16-17) under the New Covenant, only Jesus is called the “only begotten”. Jesus is God’s only son in the same way God called Isaac Abraham’s only son (Genesis 22:2) even though Abraham had another son (Ishmael) prior to Isaac. The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenēs (μονογενής) which literally means “one of a kind” or “the only of its kind.” In the ancient near East, a person’s lineage was based on who their father was, not their mother. Jesus was, therefore, of His father and not of His mother. This also has scientific bearing today. As this article from Discover magazine puts it “You may have inherited your mother’s eyes, but, genetically speaking, you use more DNA passed down from your father.” If Jesus was born of Joseph and Mary, He could not have been the only begotten son.

One of the main arguments against the virgin birth is that the word for virgin in the Book of Isaiah means “young girl” or “maiden”. Thus the prophecy only means that the Messiah would be born to a young girl.

This argument, however, fails to take a few facts into consideration. In Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, the prophet foretells of the future Messiah being born of a virgin. The Hebrew word for virgin here is עַלְמָה or “almah”. Almah literally means “a virgin, maiden, a young woman of marrying age.” People dismiss that almah can mean virgin and say that it just means a young woman. And that Mary was just a young “betrothed” woman, not a virgin when she conceived Jesus. However, nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures does “almah” denote a young woman who is not a virgin.

An important part of understanding scripture is to understand what other scriptures say concerning the same topic. Let’s just say that we can’t tell whether Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of a virgin or just a young woman. Well we look to see how the authors of the New Testament would have read it. Matthew 1:22 is proof that the Jews of the time knew Isaiah 7:14 was speaking of a literal virgin and Matthew shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she said “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” If she were just a young and married woman, it would not have come as such a surprise to her. Gabriel also would not have had to say that the child would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. No other place in scripture describes a birth in this fashion. The prophet Samuel was a “miracle child” but scriptures plainly tells us that his parents “knew” each other before he was born (1 Samuel 1:19). Samson was a “miracle child” but He was not conceived of the Holy Spirit or born of a virgin. Isaac was a miracle born to Abraham and Sarah, not because Sarah was a virgin, but because she was too old too conceive.

The whole purpose for the virgin birth, the whole purpose for the incarnation, was the cross. Actually, it was love that led to the cross. The cross is of much importance because of Who was hung on the cross. It was God who became a man. Born of a virgin. Laid aside heavenly pleasure for the likes of earthly pain. Only God could do this. Only He could be the sacrifice for our sins.

As C.S Lewis says, “Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all – to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and he cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”

Further reading: Hebrews 7:26, Romans 5:12,17,19

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Premeditated

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THE DEATH OF ABEL by Gustave Doŕe, 1866

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.- John Owen

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if BY THE SPIRIT you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.- Romans 8:13

Jesus said that sin begins in our minds. He said that if we hate our brother then we have committed murder. If we look with lust at a woman then we have committed adultery. While these things are sins in and of themselves, it would behoove us to understand that Jesus is also saying that these thoughts will ultimately manifest themselves physically if we do not check them.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we should take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When we don’t check our thought patterns and examine the worldviews that shape them, we are in danger of our thoughts leading to sin.

Every action first begins with our thoughts. Many times we say that we slipped into sin and often times it is true. But what of those times when one thought led to an unwise action (not particularly sin), that led to another unwise action, and so forth until… lo and behold we’re committing sin. Ashamed and with Satan accusing and laughing at us.

…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.- Genesis 4:7

Where I’m from there is a criminal charge called ‘malice murder’. In some jurisdictions it can be called premeditated murder. It means that the suspect actually had the intention of committing the crime and made plans to carry it out. It wasn’t a ‘crime of passion’ where a person’s overwhelming emotions clouded their thoughts and in a moment lashed out. Instead it was premeditated which literally means to think out or plan beforehand.

If we are honest and think about our actions throughout the day and some of the “sins that so easily beset us”, how much of our sins are totally premeditated?

But, we may think that we don’t plan on sinning throughout the day, right? Well, say for instance that I have a drinking problem and the Holy Spirit has dealing with me to stop. But, instead, I go through a series of unwise steps that get me to the sin my flesh loves but my spirit hates.

Step 1. Go to the store.

Step 2. Pick out an alcoholic beverage.

Step 3. Pay at the cash register.

Step 4. Take the alcoholic drink home.

Step 5. Open the drink.

Step 6. Take a sip.

These steps and every sip afterward is a conscious action made. Therefore I drank because of my premeditated actions.

As far as step 1 goes, before I went to the store I first had to have the desire to drink. BEFORE step 1 is when it is vitally crucial to take that desire and crucify the flesh. Before step 1 is when it is vitally crucial to take the thought and make it captive to obedience to Christ.

Remember that one mark of a Christian is a life of repentance. A Christian can do all things through Christ who strengthens him or her. Christians are mandated to live to soberly and holy lives. We are to not be enslaved by anything and to walk according to the Spirit. We who are children of God are to walk in the light where darkness cannot hide and we are not to continue in sin. And, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.- Jesus

Philippians 4:13, Titus 2:12, 1 Corinthians 6:12, Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:17, John 1:5, 8:12; Romans 6:1, 1 John 1:9, Romans 8:1, John 16:33, Matthew 5:30, Colossians 3:1-17, Proverbs 24:16

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

On Judging

“Judge not.”

“Only God can judge me.”

“Who am I to judge?”

These sayings are often thrown around in our culture. They seem to be used more often than not to say that no one has the right to say that anyone else is wrong for what they do or believe. What’s ironic is that the person saying that you’re wrong for judging is at the same time judging you.

“Judge not” comes from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” But, people usually leave off or have never read the next few verses. Verses 1 through 5 specifically speaks of not judging hypocritically. It speaks of having a beam in your own eye while trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. Jesus tells us in this chapter to FIRST take the beam out of your own eye then you can help take the speck out of someone else’s eye. To do so, requires an amount of judging. First to judge yourself so you can receive correction, then your judgement will be clear enough to help others.

Now judging is often translated or contextualized as the word “condemn”. In the sense of salvation, we are right to “judge not”. Since only God knows the intentions, thoughts, and heart of a man. (1 Kings 8:39)

However we are told both directly and by example to judge the actions and teachings of others. By judging I mean saying what someone said or did is wrong.

Another definition of judging is to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. One popular example in scripture is when Paul opposed how Peter was acting towards Jewish verses Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Also the Bereans in Acts 17 verse 11 judged Paul’s teachings according to the rest of scripture.

Scripture also gives us criteria on how to judge whether a prophet is of God. Jesus said you will know a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 17:15). Deuteronomy 13 says we will know a false prophet of he comes with signs and wonders but tells you to follow other gods. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells is judging people who are teaching a contrary gospel.

So it is clear that in some instances we are right to judge. There is a such a thing as right and wrong, falsehood and truth. But, people shouldn’t throw stones when living in a glass house. In other words, don’t criticize others when you have a similar weakness. Remember we ALL deserve or have deserved condemnation from God. If He has saved you from a life of sin, then don’t look down on others who haven’t received God’s gift of salvation.  You were once in their shoes (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Some other scripture concerning judging:

Matthew 18:15-20 (on church discipline) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

John 7:24 Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.

Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

1 Corinthians 5:3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What is the Gospel?

CHRISTIAN LOSES HIS BURDEN by Wm. Strang, from the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, 1894

One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.

Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.

To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.

Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.

This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.

Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.

Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them.  Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).

This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.

“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen


The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.

Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.

From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.

These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.

By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).

We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).

The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).

None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.


How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7

The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)

During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.

Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.


Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).

So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.

Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17

FOOTNOTES:
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Doctrine of Adoption

Joseph Kissing His Brother Benjamin by Charles Foster, 1897

2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my son’s and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

In the book of Genesis, Jacob (who’s name was changed to Israel), became the father of 12 sons and a daughter. His 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. They are listed here in order of birth:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah
  5. Dan
  6. Naphtali
  7. Gad
  8. Asher
  9. Issachar
  10. Zebulun
  11. Josheph
  12. Benjamin

The familiar story of Joseph, Israel’s favorite and unique child (Gen 37:3), tells how he became exhaulted over his brothers and elevated to the highest position in the land under the king. Joseph is an early type and foreshadowing of Christ.

In chapter 41 Joseph has two sons Ephraim and Mennaseh by his Egyptian wife. After Joseph’s family joined him in Egypt, his father Israel, blessed Ephraim and Mannaseh. But he did something peculiar. He didn’t just bless them as his grandchildren. His blessing was bestowed on them as though they were his own sons.

Genesis 48:5-6 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

Notice how Israel spoke Ephraim and Manasseh compared to his first two sons. They will be just as important as the first born sons of Israel. Not only just as important, but Israel claims them as his own children.
In theology we have what is known as the doctrine of adoption. Jesus Christ being the firstborn of God (Colossians 1:15), those who are adopted by God through faith become sons of God or “co-heirs with Christ”.

Romans 8:14-17 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

Like Joseph’s children born of foreign land, we Gentiles were also born as foreigners of Israel. But, through Christ we have access to the Father, like Ephraim and Manasseh had through Joseph. As we read in Ephesians 5:1, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

John 1:12 says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Godeven to those who believe in His name.”

Also read: 1 Chronicles 28:6, Hosea 2:23 (Romans 9:24-26), Romans 9:8, Galatians 3:7, 26, 29; Galatians 4:4-5,  Ephesians 3:26

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org