In many ways we are attached to Local Churches, Denominations, Federations of Churches, Church Groupings or Alliances. Generally this is a good thing because a Church or a Pastor falls under authority. Those who go it alone often introduce heresies into the Church in the most subtle manner and there is no control because there is no authority to exercise discipline when a Church or Pastor goes off the rails … moves away from Main Line Christian, Biblical and Gospel teaching. Let me use an illustration that comes from an article of more than a year ago in the Washington Post:
The pastor of one of America’s largest megachurches stirred up Christmas controversy after preaching that the story of Jesus’ virgin birth is not crucial to the Christian faith. “If somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world,” Andy Stanley said in a December 4 sermon at North Point Community Church, which draws 36,000 attendees across six locations in suburban Atlanta. “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.” In the days leading up to Christmas, fellow Christians defended the significance of the virgin birth. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler addressed Stanley’s remarks about the Virgin Mary on his podcast, saying: “If Jesus was not born of the virgin then the Bible cannot be trusted when it comes to telling us the story of Jesus, and that mistrust cannot be limited to how he came to us in terms of the incarnation. The fact is that Biblical Christianity and ultimately the Gospel of Christ cannot survive the denial of the virgin birth. Because without the virgin birth, you end up with a very different Jesus than the fully human, fully divine Savior revealed in Scripture.”
We now come to the part in the Apostles Creed that says …
1) Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary. Although I enjoyed some of Andy Stanley’s material on leadership, I have to reject what he says and agree with Al Mohler because although Christianity hangs or falls on the Resurrection, without the Virgin Birth there cannot be forgiveness of sin … and this I want to explain today. The Virgin Birth is all about “Incarnation”. Without the incarnation … without the “way God came into this world and became flesh”, the entire salvific plan of God falls apart.
(1) God’s promise or foretelling (prophecy) about the Virgin Birth / Incarnation. Almost 800 years before Messiah came, God spoke through Isaiah saying
Is 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The significance of “Immanuel” is the meaning of the name. It means “God with us”. So, all those years before Messiah came we hear that this Messiah will be God Himself. To the first original hearers who were spiritual, this was dramatic! God Himself would be coming to save us. God was always Israel’s Messiah and now He is saying He will come visibly amongst them as Messiah. Naturally this is vague, but the message created faith and perseverance. Why would it be necessary for God Himself to come to our planet and be born into flesh via the agency of a virgin?
(2) The use of a virgin as a vehicle. As you are aware, Mary was anything between 12 to 14 years of age. She was a virgin. She had not engaged in any sexual activity. She was “pure” … not sinless but her virginity reflected her purity. We know this because of Joseph, her fiancé. He was a godly man and we know this because
Mt 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
After the angel spoke with him assuring him that this pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit … we read:
Mt 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Biblical text informs us that Mary was a virgin and remained a virgin until the baby was born. We need to understand God’s “terrible holiness”. The very angelic host, although sinless cannot behold God’s absolute holy radiance.
Isa 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
God would not use a woman who had been tarnished sexually. Purity was required and Mary was that.
(3) The sinful condition of the race must be clearly grasped. Many think that when I (and many pastors) expose weaknesses in the congregation (and all people) when it comes to sin, we are wrong and hurtful. The Bible never speaks of naughty, mistake, error or mishap as in accident. It calls sin, sin. The teaching that says “the child is naughty, made a mistake or did something bad accidentally has conditioned parents, teachers and children to believe there is a difference between sin against God and accidents, mistakes and naughtiness towards other children, parents or teachers. Those who insist upon these things are lowering the “moral bar”, getting people, especially children to believe their deeds are not too serious … and do not affect a relationship with God. This teaching has introduce a false teaching about sin and has created an environment for people to live out “democracy” to the fullest … “It is my democratic right to do what I please, when I please, wherever I please and with whomever I please”. This is serous because such influence has infiltrated the Christian Church and Christian Families to the point where sin is divided up into groups … unimportant sin (naughtiness, mistakes, accidents); questionable sin (Is it sin or not. If it is it’s not too bad) and serious sin (These God hates). Remember, we are dealing with the incarnation … the virgin birth and we need to understand why God needed to come to our planet as Messiah. We have stated that in using the virgin, it was because of her purity (not sinless) and we have started to build the case that man’s sin is the reason God needed to be Messiah. We will continue this theme tomorrow … but for today may I ask you … what is you view of sin? Have you lowered the sin bar to naughtiness?
O God, help us to have a right understanding of Your holiness and our sinfulness. Amen.