Shorter Catechism Q. 22
Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.
Matt 1:18-25; Phil 2:5-8; Heb 2:17-18; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5
Here is mystery indeed. The eternal Son of God became man! This mystery of incarnation (God coming in flesh) sets Christ, and therefore the Christian faith, apart from all other religions of the world. There are many religions where man aspires to become a god. There is only one God who would become a man! All religions of the world are essentially man searching for god. Christ, and therefore Christianity, is uniquely different in that God came searching for the lost with love and compassion.
In our last lesson we learned why the Redeemer of God’s elect had to be both true God and true man. Unless Jesus is both true God and true man, God and man cannot be reconciled. Only in Jesus there is an authentic meeting between God and man. In Jesus God draws near to the fallen mankind with love and compassion. In Jesus man draws near to God with perfect righteousness and without fear. That is why “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)
So the Son of God was born through the virgin Mary. Mary carried him for nine months in her womb. Yet that which was formed in her was by the Holy Spirit, not of any man. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, so that she conceived miraculously, and Jesus was born of the virgin.
But, come on, who believes in this myth anymore? Maybe people living in the prescientific age could, but we surely can’t believe this now. Can we?
Yes, we can. And we must. The problem with virgin birth is not that a virgin gave birth. The problem is really that there is a God. Because if God exists, if he created the world out of nothing, there is nothing conceptually hard about God causing a virgin to conceive. That is, to say “there can be no virgin birth because there is no God” is a curiously circular and bad argument. Virgin birth is inconceivable only if you have already decided that God does not exist. And, how, by the way, did you come to that conclusion?
Besides, virgin birth was no easier for Joseph to believe than it is now. He had to be convinced by a message from God that his betrothed fiancée was not unfaithful. Joseph believed in Mary’s virgin conception not because he was a uneducated peasant living in a prescientific age. He believed it because the Lord revealed it to him. And he has revealed it to us in the Scriptures.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ was a miracle. And as all biblical miracles do, this miracle also gives testimony about God’s work of redemption. The immortal Son of God, having no death to die, became man that he might die our death. He became, through incarnation, the sinless and spotless lamb, an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.
That is, without virgin birth, we have no sinless and merciful priest who intercedes for his people. No virgin birth, no spotless lamb sacrificed to cancel our guilt. No virgin birth, no meeting of God and man in grace and forgiveness. No virgin birth, no hope. But we have hope. Jesus was born.