Month: December 2013

John 01:01-05, 14-18, “God in the Flesh”

We will read from John 1:1-5, 14-18.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5 ESV).

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:14-18 ESV)

We have been considering the most amazing event in the history of the universe: the birth of Christ. Why do I call it the most amazing event in the history of the universe?

The birth of Christ is amazing because of who the Christ child is. Gabriel announces to Mary that:

  • He will be great (Luke 1:32).
  • He is the Son of the Most High God (Luke 1:32).
  • The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32).
  • He will reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33).
  • His kingdom will never end (Luke 1:33).
  • He is called “holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
  • The angels announced that he is the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Matthew tells us that:

  • This child is born King of the Jews (2:2),
  • The place of his birth had been predicted by the prophet Micah 700 years before (2:6),
  • That the prophet Isaiah had predicted that Christ would be born of a virgin, again fulfilling a 700 year old prophecy (1:20),
  • That he is conceived from the Holy Spirit (1:20),
  • That he would be called Jesus because his name means that “he will save his people from their sins” (1:21),
  • That he would be called Immanuel which means that he is God with us (1:23).

This is the most amazing event in the history of the universe because this was not simply

  • the birth of a baby, or even
  • the birth of a baby to a virgin.
  • This was not the beginning of Christ’s existence.

No. This was God who had always existed. God in the flesh. God becoming a man. God taking upon himself humanity. This is what theologians call the incarnation: God came in the flesh.

No other religion has anything quite like this.

  • In Greek mythology there are gods that come down, but the first time the gods get into a bit of trouble, they rely on their divine powers to save them. They show that they are not really human. Christ went all the way to the cross.
  • Hinduism has avatars or incarnations of a sort, but there is no historical foundation for these appearances. Take for example, Krishna. There are no dates or historical evidence for his existence. Furthermore, he was not a moral example to be followed as Christ was. Christ was without sin. Krishna was a trickster and a playboy. Stories are told of him stealing the clothes of girls who were bathing in the river. And when Krishna tries to trick a girl into marrying him, she sees that he is not real because he does not sweat. He did not really become human.

This is quite different from Jesus who “became flesh.” That is he became a real human being. He was born as a baby. He grew up to be a man:

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40 ESV).

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52 ESV).

Jesus got hungry and thirsty and weary. He slept and sweat and bled and died. His existence was a real human existence.

  • Buddhism also has avatars, but it does not believe in the existence of God, so there is no real incarnation in Buddhism.
  • Yet the belief in avatars and incarnations in Buddhism and Hinduism shows a desire for a mediator, someone to stand between us and God, or us and Absolute Reality.
  • Mormonism too believes that men can become gods, but that is the opposite of Christianity. In Christianity, men do not become gods, but the one and only true God – and there is no other God – the one and only true God became a man and lived among us.
  • Look at Islam: The official teaching of Islam leaves no room for incarnation, but Muhammad is venerated as having been sinless, “the great intercessor,” “the supreme example of [spiritual] life and an object of devotion” and nearly of praise. According to Professor Geoffrey Parrinder, for most Muslims, Muhammad “is a personal Lord and friend, the mediator between God and man…”[i]

These various religions show that man feels the need for a mediator, someone to bridge the gap between man and God, someone to make things right between us and God. But in none of them does God really become a man.

Job longed for a mediator between himself and God: “If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” (Job 9:33 NLT). Someone to stand between man and God. But who could that be? Who could ascend into heaven to represent us?

The importance of the Incarnation is summarized by Professor Parrinder: “If God is unknowable there can be no Incarnation; but if he can be incarnate then he is known as never before.”[ii] The Christian concept of the Incarnation responds to this need for mediation in the God-man, the God who has become man without ceasing to be God.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, said it like this:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

So who was Jesus? It is very important that we get this right. Jesus tells us in John 4:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 ESV).

God is looking for true worshipers. Worship is not singing a song about worship. A subtle shift has taken place in many churches. We sing about ourselves instead of about God. We say, “I worship you, I praise you, I adore you,” but we have said nothing about HIM.

Praising God is speaking of what He has done, his creative acts, how he performed great miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick, went to the cross, shed his blood to rescue us from sin, died a cruel death, took the righteous judgment of God in our place, was raised bodily from the dead, showed himself alive for 40 days, ascended to the right hand of God where he intercedes for us. Praising God speaks of his work, his deeds, his acts.

Worshiping God speaks of who He is, his character, his holiness, his grace, his love, his righteousness, his throne, his wisdom, his power, his knowledge, his presence…

We must worship God in spirit and truth. We must know the truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ.

ILLUSTRATION

Let’s say that you are a world famous painter. You have paintings in museums around the world. People pay thousands of dollars to purchase just one of your paintings. I don’t know you, but a friend introduces you to me, calling your name, and telling me that you are the painter. But since I’ve never heard of you and don’t recognize your name, I assume that you paint houses. So I tell you that my house needs painting and ask if you would be available to paint it. I have not paid you a compliment. Actually, I have insulted you.

Now consider Jesus. He is the eternal Son of God. He is the image of the invisible God. John will tell us as Paul does and the writer to the Hebrews, that the Son of God created everything that has been created. He created everything that is visible and everything that is invisible. He created all the angels. He created thrones and principalities and powers and authorities. He upholds all things by the word of his power. When he came into the world, all God’s angels bowed down and worshiped him. He is God the Son, but you treat him like a created being, a being that is not eternal but had a beginning like you and me. Does he receive that as praise, as worship? No. You have failed to worship him according to the truth of who He is.

The babe in Bethlehem was none other than God in the flesh. That is amazing. J. I. Packer says that many people find difficulties in the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the wrong places:

  • They find it difficult to believe that the death of Jesus of Nazareth could put away the world’s sins.
  • Or they have doubts about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Is it possible that a dead man could rise again?
  • Others put into doubt the virgin birth. How can we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?
  • Others find difficulty in the miracles, that he walked on the water, or fed 5000 men plus women and children with five loaves the two fish, or that he raised the dead.

How are we supposed to believe these things?

The real difficulty does not lie in these things. The real mystery is not in the miracles. The real difficulty is not:

  • In the Good Friday message of the atonement, or
  • In the Easter message of the resurrection.

The really staggering Christian claim, as Packer says, is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man… that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.

Here are two mysteries in one: three persons within the unity of one God, and the union of God and man in the person of Jesus.

“The Word was made flesh.” Augustine said that before his conversion “he had read and studied the great pagan philosophers and had read many things, but he had never read that the word became flesh.”[iii]

Packer: “…God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is the truth of the incarnation.

“This is the real stumbling-block in Christianity.”

It is not the virgin birth, or

  • The miracles, or
  • The atonement, or
  • The resurrection.

It is the fact that the Word became flesh. Once we accept the fact that God the eternal Son took upon himself humanity, the other difficulties dissolve.

When we understand that Jesus was the eternal Word of God through the universe was created, it is no wonder that he would speak the word and the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk.

John says, “In him was life.” So it is not strange that he should rise from the dead, but rather that he should ever die. But when we understand that the immortal Son of God submitted to death, then it is not strange that his death would have saving power for the human race. Once we understand that Jesus as God in the flesh, everything else makes sense.

The baby born in Bethlehem was God.

More precisely, he was the Son of God, or as Christian theology puts it, God the Son. He was not a Son, but the Son. John tells us four times in the first three chapters:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 ESV).

In speaking of the Son, John begins by calling him the Word.

1.   “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1). Here is the Word’s eternity. He had no beginning. When everything else began, he already was.

“In the beginning the Word already existed” (John 1:1 NLT).

“In the beginning…”

Any Jewish reader reading or hearing these lines would think immediately of the first words in the Bible: “In the beginning, God…” In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

But that is not what John says. He purposely uses the opening words of the Bible to make us think of God, then he says, “In the beginning was the Word.”

The Word! Well, we can hardly think of the beginning without thinking of the Word, for time after time in the history of the creation, God speaks. He speaks words. He speaks the Word:

“And God said…” And it was so.

  • And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 11:3 ESV).

So John points us to the beginning. He points us to the Word. And he identifies the Word with God: “In the beginning was the Word.”

2.   “And the Word was with God” (1:1). This points to the Word’s personality.

There is an eternal relationship between God and the Word, for “the Word was with God.” This relationship did not begin with creation, for the Word already existed.

Here we have one who at the beginning was already with God. And yet he is not another God, for John quickly tells us, “and the Word was God.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 ESV).

Yet, John is careful to maintain a certain distinction between the two, for immediately he tells is

“He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2 ESV).

3.   “And the Word was God” (1:1). Here we see the Word’s deity. He is distinct from the Father, but he is not a creature. Like the Father, he is divine in himself. “The great mystery here is personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead.”

Two Gods?

Now there are some who are confused about this verse. They have their own special translation of the Bible. They would not use any translation that has been used by the church down through the centuries. They want their own translation and translate this first verse in their own special way to suit a teaching that is not what the church has taught for 2000 years.

According to their translation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” Now that might be easier to believe, but it does not stand.

  1. The structure of the Greek text in this verse is to put the emphasis upon the fact that the Word was none other than God.
  2. If you translate this verse to say that the Word was a god, then you have two gods. Even if it is Almighty God and a mighty god, that makes two gods. That is polytheism, the belief in more than one god. That is not Christianity.
  3. Verse 3 tells us that the Word was not created, but is eternal. John is very categorical about this. His choice of words is very clear so that we know that the Word himself is not created:

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV).

A Single-Person God?

Some people want a simpler God, a single-person God. A man named Michael Reeves has written about this:

The world is already filled with innumerable, often very different candidates for “God.” Some are good, some are not. Some are personal, some are not. Some are omnipotent, some are not. You see it in the Bible, where the Lord God of Israel, Baal, Dagon, Molech and Artemis are completely different. Or take, for example, how the Qur’an explicitly and sharply distinguishes Allah from the God described by Jesus:

Say not “Trinity.” Desist; it will be better for you: for God is one God. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. Say: “He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.”

In other words, Allah is a single-person God. In no sense is he a Father (“he begets not”), and in no sense does he have a Son (“nor is he begotten”). He is one person, and not three. Allah, then, is an utterly different sort of being to the God who is Father, Son and Spirit. And it is not just incompatibly different numbers we are dealing with here: that difference, as we will see, is going to mean that Allah exists and functions in a completely different way from the Father, Son and Spirit.  [iv]

So how are we to think of God? Is He simply Creator? Then He needs a creation to be who He is. It seems that He needs us, but that makes him rather pitiful and weak. What was He before He created the universe?

Is He simply a ruler? Then He will be like a police officer to me. I may follow His rules, but not love Him. And if I break His rules and He lets me off the hook, I may be grateful, but I will not be able to really love the Just Ruler.

Jesus reveals to us that God is first and foremost a Father.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV).

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 ESV).

Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son.  [v]

If God simply a single-person God, then how could God be love? Love is other directed. Again Reeves makes this comment:

If there were once a time when the Son didn’t exist, then there was once a time when the Father was not yet a Father. And if that is the case, then once upon a time God was not loving since all by himself he would have had nobody to love.  [vi]

The Bible affirms that the Lord our God is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4), but that is not a simple oneness. The word for “one” in this passage is the same used in the creation account which says that the two, male and female, shall become one.

God is one, but in that unity, there are three eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John 1:2 repeats, “The same was in the beginning with God.”

  1. “All things were made by him” (1:3). Here is the Word creating. It was through him and for him that everything was made that was made. God the Son was not made. He was not a creature.
  2. “In him was life” (1:4). Here the Word gives life. Created things do not have life in themselves. Jesus promises to give eternal life to those who follow him.
  3. The life was the light of men” (1:4). This is the Word revealing God’s truth and His plan.
  4. Finally, “And the Word became flesh” (1:14). This is the Word incarnate.

Those wise men we talked about last week? They did not come from afar to worship a baby. They worshiped God.

We all want someone to put things right between us and God. We can’t ascend into heaven. We can’t send an ambassador. Who would be able to approach God? None of us, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

So God came down himself.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

He never ceased being God. And he will always be the God-man.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV).

The Son of God became a man that he might die for your sins and mine. Turn to him to be saved. His name shall be called Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.

God the Son came down that you might be saved.

  • There is no other Savior.
  • There is no other way.
  • There is no other name.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).


[i] Parrinder, pp. 254-256.

[ii] Parrinder, p. 196.

[iii] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol. 1, in The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 64.

[iv]   Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 17-18). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[v] Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 21). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[vi] Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 27). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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Luke 01:26-38, “The Virgin Birth of Christ”

LUKE 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38 ESV).

PRAYER

We have in this first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, the marvelous story of Christ’s coming into the world. This is the most amazing story.

THIS BIRTH WAS PREDICTED.

We all know that when a woman becomes pregnant, the birth of a child can be expected nine months later. Today, with ultrasound, doctors can often predict whether the child will be a girl or a boy. We use the expression in English: “She’s expecting.” Or, “they are expecting a baby.”

But the birth of Christ was predicted some 4000 years before. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned and were put out of the Garden, God in His mercy promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush Satan’s power:

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NLT).

God announces in the Garden of Eden that one would come and reverse sin’s curse, that one would be born of a woman.

This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 4:4,

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman(Gal 4:4 NLT).

But we have all been born of a woman. How would we know when the promised one had come?

Down through the ages, time and time again, precisions were made so that no one could mistake when the promised one arrived.

  •       God promised Abraham that it would be through his offspring that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. If God was going to become a man, he had to do it through a human family, and he had to choose a man, a family, a people, a nation. God chose a people, not to exclude others, but to be a channel, to bless all the nations of the earth.
  •       Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, prophesied that the promised one, the one we call the Messiah or the Christ, would be of the tribe of Judah, one of his 12 sons.
  •       God promised King David 1000 years before the Christ’s birth that the Messiah would be a many times great grandson of David.
  •       Micah 5:2 predicted 700 year before Christ’s birth that he would be born in the little village of Bethlehem.
  •       Isaiah 7:14 predicted 700 years before Christ birth that he would be born of a virgin:

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).

Many more prophecies tell us of that first coming of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, his return, and the kingdom that he will set up on earth when he returns.

No one else fulfilled the prophecies concerning his coming.

ILLUSTRATION

When a country sends an ambassador to a foreign country, that ambassador does not arrive unannounced. The host country has received all the documentation and is very well aware of the qualifications and the identity of the ambassador. And when that ambassador arrives, he has proper ID. He has proof of who he is. Otherwise, anyone could arrive at the airport and claim to represent another nation. I could claim to be an ambassador from the USA, but I would be “giaman””,” a fraud, because I have received no authority to represent the USA.

A country would not negotiate with a man who claimed to be an ambassador unless that man had the proper ID and documentation, the proper credentials to prove that he was who he said he was, that he represented the country that he claimed to represent, and that he had the authority that he claimed to have.

Why would you trust your eternal salvation to anyone but Jesus Christ?

Jesus warns us about false prophets, and false christs, thieves and robbers, those who claim to come in his name. Many have come. Many announce other messages, other teachings, other gods, but they were not sent. Jesus alone has the credentials. Before him, all the prophets pointed to him. After his earthly ministry, all true servants of God point back to Christ. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5,

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).

All true servants of God point to Christ.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. When they asked John the Baptist questions as to who he was, whether he was the one to come, John denied it: “I am not the one to come. I am not the Christ.” John was a prophet of Christ. He pointed to Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

What other religious leader had prophets pointing to him? What other religious leader ever had a forerunner announcing his coming? Who announced the coming of Muhammad, or Joseph Smith? No one. The true prophets all pointed to Christ. He is the promised one. Why would you follow anyone else? These are questions that you need to think about if you are following anyone but Jesus Christ.

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH

The story of the birth of Christ points to the “one of a kind” character of Jesus Christ. In all of human history, never had a baby been born to a virgin. Never would it happen again.

No other mother could make the claim to being a virgin. No other boy or girl has ever been born without the intervention of a human father.

No other man, woman, boy or girl has even been born of a virgin. No leader, no president, no prime minister, nor religious leader. Buddha was not born of a virgin. Bahaullah was not born of a virgin. Sun Myung Moon was not born of a virgin. No one else has ever been born of a virgin.

Of course, this is not the only unique characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak not only of his virgin birth

  1. Virgin birth
  2. Sinless life
  3. Miracles
  4. Substitutionary death on the cross
  5. His bodily resurrection from the dead
  6. His ascension to the right hand of God the Father

No one can compare with the incomparable Christ. And yet, this miracle, the virgin birth, as one writer said,

is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.

And so, as we approach Christmas this year, we celebrate not only the birth of a baby, but the coming of God to earth.

virgin birth: The biblical teaching that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother

Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.

Why a virgin birth?

The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas.

1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the “seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus’ life when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).

2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person. It probably would have been possible for God to create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are, nor would he be a part of the human race that physically descended from Adam. On the other hand, it probably would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with his full divine nature miraculously united to his human nature at some point early in his life. But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since his origin was like ours in every way.

When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.1

3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. As we noted in chapter 24, all human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam (this is sometimes called “inherited sin” or “original sin”). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.

This idea seems to be indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called “holy2

Why Mary?

In some circles, Mary has been exalted to the position of a mediator between God and man. It is stated that she was born without sin, that she never died, but ascended into heaven where she ever waits to intercede on our behalf.

The Scriptures paint another picture of Mary. Very little is said of this one who was “highly favored.” Later in the Gospels, each time that Mary is mentioned, Jesus puts distance between himself and his mother. One day the crowd told Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to see him.

“Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48 “Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 “Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.” 50 “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:47-50 NLT).

On another occasion, as Jesus was talking

“…a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother– the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” 28 “Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:27-28 NLT).

Jesus is saying that the greater blessing is hearing the Word of God and doing it. You can be as blessed as Mary who heard the Word of God and did it.

Notice how Jesus puts distance between himself and Mary in John 2.

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “What have I to do with you?” or “What is there between you and me?” Mary would have to learn that she could not come to Jesus as his mother, but as his disciple.

After Jesus gave her to the care of John, there is only one more mention of her in the New Testament. In Acts 1, Mary is found in the upper room with 120 disciples who are praying and seeking God. She is never mentioned again. She is not found in the epistles of Paul, nor in the epistle of James, the brother of Jesus and son of Mary, nor in the epistles of John who took care of her. This obedient Jewish girl became a disciple of Christ, not a mediator between God and man for we read in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Mary was born like all other children; she needed the Savior to whom she miraculously gave birth. She became his disciple, she lived for him, she died and was buried, and she will be raised with all those who are dead in Christ on that resurrection day.

While some have constructed many myths about her which have no biblical support, others have frequently reacted adversely in refusing to see in Mary the model of one who, in the words of Jesus, did the will of God, who heard the word of God and obeyed it. This episode in the life of Mary is a wonderful example for us of voluntary submission to the will of God.

The Place

Some six or more months before… The angel Gabriel: Jerusalem and Nazareth, some 70 miles away. Not the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the lowly village of Nazareth.

The reputation of Nazareth. Not a large city, perhaps 15,000 which was a fair size in those days. Major highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem, between Egypt and Damascus. Merchants, Roman soldiers, Greek travelers. City of ill-repute. Nathanael who lived close by asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

In the midst of this city was a young Jewish girl, a virgin. Mary was a descendent of King David through Nathan (physical descent). Joseph was a descent of David through Solomon (legal descent). But 1000 years had passed since the glory of the Davidic reign, and this teenage girl who was engaged to be married not to a king, but to a carpenter.

The Presence of the Angel

There is no doubt that Mary was a godly teenager. She was a girl who sought God, who wanted to please him, to do his will. The record is clear: she had kept herself pure. God had seen her. He knew her heart. So he sent his angel Gabriel to give her the message. There are special blessings for those who love God and keep his commandments. Angelic visits are few and far between, but divine visitation is not confined to temple courts or palaces of earthly kings. Any humble heart may be honored by a messenger from heaven. And while most of us will never see an angel, if we seek his face, and seek to do his will, God will visit us and bless us.

Gabriel greets Mary as one who is “highly favored.” She is not one who gives divine grace, she receives it. God had decided that she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary is also greeted as one who enjoyed God’s special presence: “The Lord is with you.”

The Promise to Mary

Gabriel had come to announce a special promise to Mary. 700 years before, Isaiah had prophesied in “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14).

      Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

         31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The Puzzle

These wonderful words puzzled Mary. She wanted direction. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” She did not doubt the word of Gabriel as Zacharias had done. She did not ask, “Can this be?”

God wants to do some great work in our lives. He wants to delivers us from harmful habits. He wants to make us soul winners. He wants to make this church a great witness to this city. We read in his Word what he wants do in our lives. Do we respond like Zacharias or like Mary? Ephesians 3:20 says that he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Mary had asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.”

         35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

She would give birth to the Messiah. But he would be not only the Messiah; he would be the Son of God.

In Genesis 1:2 the Holy Spirit overshadowed the waters of the earth and brought for creation. The Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary and begin the new creation.

Let us be clear about this. God did not have physical relations with Mary as some think. Such a doctrine is blasphemous. God worked a miracle in the teenage girl so that without sexual intervention she gave birth to Jesus. Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus.

You see, God does not have a body. Jesus tells us in John 4 that God is spirit. That is His nature. He does not say that God has a spirit, but that God is spirit.

The Bible does speak of the arm of the Lord, that it is powerful to save. It speaks of the eyes of the Lord going to and fro throughout the earth. The Scriptures use terms like these to help us understand that God is all powerful and that He is all knowing. The Bible also speaks of the feathers, the wings, and the pinions of God,

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

but I have never heard anyone suggest that God is a type of bird. These figures are simply to shows us that God is our protection.

That is why the Bible says that God is invisible.

Colossians 1:15 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

1 Timothy 1:17 ESV To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 11:27 ESV By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Why is God invisible? He is invisible because He does not have a body. Now you can hear my voice, but you cannot see me. Nonetheless, you know that I am not invisible. You know that if you were to walk into this radio studio, you would see me sitting at a chair and speaking into a microphone because I have a body. I am not invisible. God is invisible because he does not have a body.

And that is one of the reasons why God became man. Notice this conversation between the Father and the Son, a conversation that took place in the members of the one true God before the Father sent His Son into the world:

“That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God– as is written about me in the Scriptures.’“ 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10:5-10 NLT).

And so, the Word became flesh. He lived among us, John says. The disciples looked upon the

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14 NLT).

He was fully God and continued to be fully God, but he took on himself full humanity. Fully God and fully man: God made visible! He told Philip: “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”

Yet, fully man. He would fast for 40 days and experience hunger (Matthew 4). In John 4, he was weary at the well in Samaria. On the cross, he was thirsty. And then he did the most human thing of all: he died.

Yet, that’s why he had to be born. He was born to die, to die for you and for me. The Father prepared a body for the Son, that He might offer it as a sacrifice in our place, a sacrifice for our sins. He was born to die.

Nor is it correct to say that Mary is the mother of God. Mary is never called the mother of God in Scripture. She is called the mother of Jesus. Gabriel said that “The holy one to be born would be called the Son of God,” and not because of Mary, but because of the miracle worked by the Holy Spirit.

Mary would receive an encouragement to her faith: her cousin Elizabeth, who was past the age of childbearing, was six months pregnant. God is not limited by the ordinary. He can do, and does, extraordinary things. God is not imprisoned within that which men call the natural; but for his own purposes, he can act in a way men can only describe as supernatural.[1] “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Or better, “For no word from God shall be void of power.”

The Focus Of This Story

Mary is the servant of the Lord. She is the servant that God uses to bring His Son into the world. And yet, we need remind ourselves that Mary is not the focus. She is not the reason for the appearance of Gabriel. The focus of this story is on the child that would be born.

. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.

36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The Posture of Mary

Mary’s posture was that of a servant: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.” Barclay: “I am the Lord’s servant. Whatever he says, I accept.”

We think that it was wonderful for Mary to have been chosen by God, and it was. But what of the reproach? What of her reputation? Mary was 17 or 18 years old and engaged to Joseph. There is no reason to believe that he was an old man. What would he say? We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was going to divorce her because he knew that he had never been with her. Mary was not believed by the one she loved. What about the accusations? The shame? Even the possibility of being stoned? Perhaps one of the reasons she went to be with Elizabeth for three months was to avoid the shame.

Why did she go to see Elizabeth? Was she trying to get away from suspicious looks from her family members? Then why Elizabeth? Elizabeth was much older, past the age of child bearing, but she was pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary recognized that God was doing something in Elizabeth’s life. God had worked a miracle in Elizabeth’s life and she would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Elizabeth would understand the miraculous. Elizabeth would be more inclined to believe Mary’s story… 2013-12-09.

And yet, when she arrived at Elizabeth’s, the baby that Elizabeth was carrying, leaped in her womb and and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud cry, “…why is this grated to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Jesus in the womb is the LORD God. The focus is on Christ.

Let us note that the unborn child is not a tissue or a substance or something to be expelled or aborted. Young woman, however you became pregnant, the child you are carrying is the image of God. God is weaving that child in your womb. That child belongs to God. God is trusting you to protect that child and to raise it to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, there may be shame. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why she accompanied Joseph on the long and difficult voyage to Bethlehem when she was “great with child.”

(Why Mary?)

Mary and Joseph were chosen to be parents to Jesus. They were chosen because they were godly. They loved God. They knew His Word. God entrusted to them the responsibility of raising the Messiah.

It is not always easy to accept God’s will; but it is always best. Mary was submissive, and she gave the world the Savior. His name would be Jesus for he would save us from our sins.

Mary could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.”[2] Had this been her response, she would never have had the child.

Nor was Mary totally passive. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said. This is active passivity. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, her body, to God. We must not think that we can accomplish the promises of God by our own strength. Nor must we think that we have no part.

We cannot break the power of sin over us by our might, nor can it be broken without our participation. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” Pray with David,

      “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:13-14).

You need more fruit in your life. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

You need to be baptized into the Holy Spirit. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Actively seek the Lord.

You need to be a soul winner. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

Let us wait with expectant hearts. Through the Christ child which he gave for all of us, God will accomplish in us all that he has promised to do.


             [1]See Morgan, Luke, p. 24.