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The Virgin Birth

December 22, 2019 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series: Christmas

Topic: The Virgin Birth Verse: Matthew 1:18–1:25

 The Virgin Birth

Matthew 1:18-25

 
Theme:  The foundation for Christianity is provided in the fact of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

I. The Conception of the Messiah – 1:18 

A. The Virtue of the Couple

  • The essence of the Gospel is that God fulfilled His promise of a Savior by becoming a man and thereby was able to reconcile men to Himself by taking their place in judgment, paying for their sin and imputing to them His own righteousness.
  • This incarnation was accomplished through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ – without which no qualification could be met that would permit a substitution for the sins of men thereby leaving men unreconciled, unjustified, unsanctified, unsaved, and without hope.
  • The truth of redemption rises and falls on the veracity of the virgin birth – without it there is no sufficient atonement.
  • Therefore, Satan has attacked the truth of the virgin birth with everything he has:
  1. He has used unbelief – through defiant liberal “theologians” who assert that such an event is fantasy, myth, and silly
  2. He has used counterfeit accounts

    - The Romans believed that Zeus impregnated Semele without contact to produce Dionysus, lord of the earth.

    - The Babylonians believed that Tammuz was conceived in the priestess Semiramis by a sunbeam.

    - Buddhists believe that Buddha’s mother saw a great white elephant enter her belly at his conception

    - Hinduism has claimed that the divine Vishnu, after several reincarnations as a fish, tortoise, boar, and lion descended into the womb of Devaki and was born as her son Krishna

    - Mythology also has Alexander the Great being virgin born by the power of Zeus through a snake that impregnated his mother, Olympia

  3. In proliferating these accounts, Satan attempts to associate the truth of the virgin birth of Christ with fantasy to discredit the reality of the incarnation of God for the redemption of man.
  4. To many, it becomes just another religious myth without merit – Romans 3:3-4 
  • However, the perversities, immoralities, and sexual obsessions that characterize these satanic myths do not compare with the beauty, innocence, and purity of the account provided of the virgin birth of Christ Jesus.
  • Matthew’s account of the conception of Christ is wonderfully simple and holy – a dignified account of the initiating miracle of the redemption of sinners – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows …”
  • The account provides a clear-cut commentary on the virtue of both Joseph & Mary – “… when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together …”
  • We know very little about Joseph and Mary beyond what is given to us in this and the parallel account in Luke, the principal detail of which is that they were both God-fearing, virtuous young people.
  • The customs in Israel demanded a two part wedding process in which the virtue of the couple would be demonstrated.
  1. The first stage was called the kiddushin (or betrothal) and consisted in a contract sealed by payment of the mohar (dowry) by the groom or his family to the bride’s father to guarantee marriage.
  2. The second stage was the huppah – the marriage ceremony – that occurred until as much as a year after the kiddushin
  • This process provided the ability of the groom to see the virtue of the bride proven.
  • We are told that it was during the time when they “had been betrothed … before they came together” that these events given by Matthew occurred.
  • The clear, unequivocal, simple statement of God’s Word is that the conception of Christ Jesus was “before they came together.”

B. The Vehicle of the Holy Spirit

  • How then did the conception occur if it was not the consequence of some immoral act by Joseph or Mary?
  • The Holy Spirit immediately provides clarification – “… she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
  • This statement demonstrates the veracity of the account – the absence of sordid or sensual details that are associated with the myths of paganism further shows that this is an honorable and true account.
  • The extent of the detail is provided by Luke in Luke 1:35 – the immediate energy of the Godhead would be conveyed by the Holy Spirit in a way that would not injure or defile the woman – “overshadow you.”
  • Essentially this demonstrates that the conception would be by means of fiat and not by any physical interaction. 
  • One minute Mary was not pregnant and a virgin and the next minute Mary was pregnant and still a virgin because the power of through the agency of the Holy Spirit decreed and Jesus was conceived.

 

Application:

  1. Why do you think that the virgin birth of Jesus is under such heavy attack?
  2. What difference does the virgin birth have in your life? 
  3. How does Jesus’ virgin birth impact His ability to serve as your substitute before the wrath of God?

II. The Certification of Morality – 1:19-23

A. The Testimony of Joseph’s Anguish – vv. 19-20a  

  • The first of the certifications that God provides us in this account of the veracity of the virgin birth whereby the perfect, sinless Son of God was incarnate is the anguish that Joseph endured prior to the message given him by the angel.
  • We are told that “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”
  • In essence, Joseph struggled with two aspects of the situation:
  1. Mary’s unfaithfulness to him – she had been away at her relative Elizabeth’s in Jerusalem for three months and comes back to Nazareth expecting a baby – Luke 1:26-40, 56
  2. The uncharacteristic lie (excuse) that he felt was coming from his pregnant fiancé that she had not been unfaithful and immoral, but that God had done this to her.
  • “Being a righteous man …” – indicated that his decisions were governed by his fear the Lord.
  1. He could condemn Mary and expose her to public shame – thereby vindicating himself and complying to the letter of the law – cp. Deuteronomy 22:13-21
  2. He could have written her a bill of divorcement and broken off the engagement without charging her with her sin - “… to send her away secretly” – sparing her as much humiliation as possible but maintaining his own integrity – cp. Deuteronomy 24:1.
  3. He could have disregarded the law altogether and married her anyway – accepting the public shame & humiliation of having fathered this child.
  • As he as pondering this decision and coming to the conclusion of what he must do, God intervenes through the angel sent to clarify for him what is occurring – “But when he had considered this, behold …”.
  • Doing this meant that he would go through the stigma of public disgrace, the ruination of his reputation, and the wrath of the community on him as a man who defiled the woman – cp. Luke 4:22; John 8:41.

B. The Testimony of Jehovah’s Angel – vv. 20b-21

  • This is the second certification that the Virgin Birth is true – the testimony of “an angel of the Lord [who] appeared to him in a dream”
  • This messenger was sent by God to settle the matter for Joseph and to provide the Son of God with a man who would serve as His earthly adoptive father – “… saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
  • He further informed Joseph that “She will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus; for He will save His people from their sins.”
  • The angel provides several important truths in this appearance to Joseph:
  1. “Joseph, son of David” – a reference to the veracity of the genealogy provided before – Joseph was aware that he had the right to be King if Israel was a nation.
  2. “…the Child who has been conceived in [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit” – a reference to the virgin birth – that Mary has not been immoral but God has done a miracle.
  3. “He will save His people from their sins” – a reference to the reason that God has done this miracle – tying the virgin birth inextricably to the atonement that would be made for the “sins” of “His people”.

C. The Testimony of Jewish Anticipation – vv. 22-23

  • Matthew provides defense against dismissing the events as from Joseph’s intentional manipulation of the facts, or from some emotional experience by appealing to the anticipation that the Scriptures themselves provide.
  • He states: “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:”
  1. “All this” – refers to the unusual event of the virgin birth of the Messiah.
  2. “Spoken by the Lord through the prophet” – provides a succinct statement of Bibliology – that this is God’s Word delivered by means of the human instruments of His choice to record His message to us.
  • Of course, he is speaking of the prophecy provided through Isaiah about 700 years previous – “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”
  1. This prophecy was given to the wicked king Ahaz in Judah who was a horrendous idolater – even offering one of his own sons as a burnt offering to Molech – cp. 2 Chronicles 28:3
  2. In a foolish sense of opportunity, Satan thought that he could derail God’s purposes by inciting the pagan king of Syria, Rezin and the wicked king of Israel, Pekah, to eliminate the line of David by removing Ahaz and replacing him with an Aramean named Tabeel - man of their choosing & control.
  3. In the midst of this satanic ploy to break the line of the Messiah, God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to provide a prophetic promise that nothing will interfere with His purpose of providing a redeemer through the royal line of David.
  4. When Isaiah exhorted Ahaz to ask for a sign, he feigned humility and refused which prompted the marvelous prophecy by Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14
  5. In this prophecy, Isaiah provides an immediate reference to the birth of a child that would serve as a type of the ultimate fulfillment in the birth of Christ: 

    - Maher-shalal-hash-baz was born to Isaiah’s wife and before he was old enough to eat “curds and honey,” both Rezin & Pekah were dead.

    - There are two words that are available to refer to a virgin - עַלְמָה (almah) & בְּתוּלָה (bethulah)

    - Almah refers to a woman of marriageable age & whenever used in the OT, refers to a virgin – cp. Genesis 24:43.

    - Bethulah refers to a virgin, a betrothed virgin, or a chaste widow who is sexually inactive – cp. Genesis 24:16.

  6. Thus, the word used in Isaiah 7:14 eliminates any question whatsoever and uses almah – which can mean maiden but given the reference by Matthew that says that the virgin birth fulfills the prophecy is best to see the translation of “virgin” as the ultimate intention of the verse.
  7. The ultimate consequence of this birth would be the presence of “God with us” – “… and they shall call His name Immanuel … which translated means ‘God with us’.”
  • Thus, the virgin birth was a necessity for God to become man and dwell among us as a fulfillment of the promise, was announced by the angel of the Lord, and was the answer to Joseph’s dilemma. 

Application:

  1. Do you ever wrestle with the credibility of what God has revealed to you in the Scriptures? What is the most difficult thing to believe that God has said in His Word?
  2. How does the virgin birth fulfilling a 700-year-old prophecy bolster your faith? Why? 
  3. Consider the reality of Immanuel – “God with us” – in what way is this spiritually significant to you?

 

III. The Chastity of the Mother – 1:24-25

A. The Respectability of Mary – vv. 24-25a

  • The immediate response of Joseph was obedience to both his own heart as well as the instruction from the Lord – “And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.”
  • This means that Joseph cut the kiddushin short and completed the huppah so that Mary became his wife.
  • Furthermore, Joseph respected Mary and the Scriptures stated that although she was now his wife, he “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son …”
  • After she gave birth to Jesus, following the period of purification required by the Law, Joseph consummated their marriage and eventually fathered multiple children.
  1. This is indicated by the phrase “… until she gave birth”
  2. This is indicated by the phrase “… she gave birth to her firstborn son” – Luke 2:7
  3. This is indicated by the reference to Jesus’ brothers & sisters – cp. Mark 6:3:

    - James

    - Joseph

    - Simon

    - Judas

    - At least two sisters (since it is plural).

  • The fallacy claiming that Mary was a perpetual virgin or that she is a co-mediator with Jesus came into the church centuries after the establishment of the church as accommodations to pagan myths that had their origins in the Babylonian mystery religions.
  1. Nimrod (the great-grandson of Noah through Ham) married Semiramis – a woman who became the first high priestess of idolatry in Babylon
  2. Babylon became the source of many heresies – cp. Revelation 17:5
  3. In pagan legends, Semiramis was miraculously conceived by a sunbeam and then gave birth to her son Tammuz who was also conceived by a sunbeam.
  4. Tammuz was killed and Semiramis fasted for forty days – resulting in Tammuz resurrection from the dead – (the origin of the practice of Lent).
  5. When Babylon was destroyed, the pagan beliefs were carried to Pergamum – cp. Revelation 2:12-13; and from there to Rome.
  6. The Roman church began to compromise the purity of the faith and attempted to bring unity between Judaism, Christianity, and various pagan religions by adopting some of the beliefs of all.
  7. From Christianity they kept the central teaching about the work of Christ; from Judaism they took the teachings regarding perpetuated sacrifices and the priesthood; and, from paganism they took the concepts of the high priestess – identifying her as Mary.
  8. This satanic ploy was already planted in the practices of the Jews through their worship of Ishtar – the “queen of heaven” – cp. Jeremiah 44:17-19; 7:18
  9. While in Babylon, Ezekiel makes reference to the abominations of some of the Jews who were “weeping for Tammuz” – Ezekiel 8:13-14 
  • Mary was a virtuous and godly young maiden who also recognized her own need for a Savior from her sinful condition – cp. Luke 1:47  
  • However, the Scriptures deny such claims – 1 Timothy 2:5-6; and declares that Mary is not blessed beyond all others – cp. Luke 11:27-28

B. The Regard for Messiah – v. 25b

  • The final point to be made in this context is the regard that existed for the child that was born to Mary.
  • We are told that Joseph obeyed and “he called His name Jesus.”
  • This demonstrates again that both Joseph & Mary were submissive to the purpose of God in providing a Redeemer – a Savior who would save men from sin.
  • It is interesting that in this section is the first use of the word sin in the New Testament – cp. v. 21 – a term that means to “miss the mark” and refers to the guilt that exists among all men for their failure to obey the commands of God.
  • Instead of condemning all men however, God sent His Son to save us from our sin – and Joseph recognized this gift by naming the Christ “Jesus.” – cp. Acts 4:12

Application:

  1. In what ways can the moral integrity of Joseph and Mary inform your own priority of personal moral purity?
  2. Consider how the veneration of Mary by some demonstrates being excessive in responding to God’s Word? What are some ways that you might be “going too far” with truth? 
  3. How you challenged spiritually by today’s sermon?

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