The day of Jesus Christ's birth was the saddest day in history because God's chosen people, upon whom He had poured His blessings, refused Him: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11). The people who studied the prophets rejected the One the prophets predicted, "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Is. 7:14). Since the Jews, by whom and to whom the Old Testament Scriptures were given (Rom. 3:1,2), were so spiritually blind that they did not recognize the One of whom the Scriptures spoke, the attitude of mankind in general is not difficult to understand. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10). No wonder the so-called Christmas season is a time of debauchery and sinning. David prophesied of the greater David: "I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them. They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards" (Ps. 69:11,12). Quotations from the New Testament establish the relation of this Psalm to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt.
People may have sight without insight. This is descriptive of many of the Jews to whom Isaiah must declare "...see ye indeed, but perceive not" (Is. 6:9). They exercised the power of observation but had no heart for what they saw. They had eyes, but not for spiritual vision. Everything was surface phenomenon because there was no internal ministry of the Spirit to fill them with holy awe. Surface sight is natural, but the ability "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge..." is supernatural (Eph. 3:18,19). Hence, the two ways of looking at something are by sight and insight. One may look at the Bible and see nothing more than a book. He might consider it a waste of time and money for men to labor in translating the Hebrew and Greek to record some ancient history. That is sight without insight. Conversely, the person who looks at the Bible and sees it as the revelation of God's mind to His people, the Book of redemption, wisdom, and hope, has both sight and insight. The eye salve of spiritual illumination is necessary for insight (Rev. 3:18). "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things..." (Ps. 119:18).
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ has been more bitterly assailed throughout the ages than any other Bible truth. God anticipated the attacks by the critics and made this great truth foolproof. The virgin birth was the sign God promised the nation of Israel. Some argue that since the Hebrew word translated "virgin" of Isaiah 7:14 means a young woman, it has nothing to do with chastity. This argument is a falsification of fact. The Hebrew word almah means a young woman of marriageable age who was under the care of her parents and was hidden from the public (Gen. 24:43; Song of Sol. 1:3; Is. 7:14). It is the feminine of elem, which means something kept out of sight—a lad. The Septuagint uses parthenos, which means virgin (a female without sex experience) to translate almah. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit directed Matthew (Matt. 1:23) to use the word parthenos to describe the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. The Greek noun parthenos is used 14 times in the New Testament and speaks not only of chaste females but also of chaste males (II Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4). What would be a sign in some young woman giving birth to a child? The birth of which Isaiah spoke was one that would startle the world and give evidence of the fulfillment of God's promise that Jesus Christ would be the "seed of the woman." Thus, the One who would come in human flesh would derive His human nature from a woman minus man (Gen. 3:15).
The male plays the active, initiatory role in natural, human generation. Therefore, in order for the human nature of Jesus Christ to be the "seed of the woman," the initiatory role was with the Spirit of God. In this manner, Mary was with child before she and Joseph came together (Matt. 1:18). Mary asked, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34), "And the angel responding said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall fall upon you; for this reason also the Holy thing being begotten shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35—translation).
Human life has been brought into existence four ways: (1) by God in creation, as in the case of Adam; (2) by man minus woman, as in the case of Eve; (3) by man plus woman, as in the case of procreation; (4) by woman minus man, as in the case of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The latter was the only possible choice for the first advent of Jesus Christ. Woman was elected by God to fulfill the essential, passive role as the one through whom God would act to accomplish His gracious salvation for sinners.
The verb "begat" (egennesen) is used 38 times in Matthew
1:2-16, but there is a change in the inflected form in its use in verse 16: "And Jacob begat [egennesen] Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born [egennethe] Jesus, who is called Christ." The word egennesen is the aorist active indicative and egennethe is the aorist passive indicative of the root verb gennao. Going from the active to the passive voice proves the virginity of Mary at the time Jesus Christ was born. Further confirmation of Mary's virginity is found in the words of the angel's message to Joseph: "...Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt..." (Matt. 2:13).
Joseph was represented as the guardian but not the father of Jesus Christ. Some "supposed" that Joseph was the father of Jesus Christ: "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph... " (Luke 3:23). "As was supposed" is the translation of hos enomidzeto. The verb enomidzeto is the imperfect passive indicative of nomidzo, which means to suppose or assume. The verb nomidzo is used 15 times in the New Testament and has the meaning of supposition rather than actuality (Matt. 5:17; 10:34; 20:10; Luke 2:44; 3:23; Acts 7:25; 8:20; 14:19; 16:13,27; 17:29; 21:29; I Cor. 7:26,36; I Tim. 6:5). The Lord Jesus has neither a father on earth nor a mother in heaven.
Matthew spoke of Joseph as a husband (Matt. 1:19) and Mary as a wife (Matt. 1:20), but this can be accounted for under the Hebrew law of betrothal. The Hebrew law of betrothal constituted a binding legal contract between the persons concerned. Mary was espoused (mnesteutheises, aorist passive participle of mnesteuo, which means to ask in marriage or betroth) to Joseph (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:27; 2:5). Marriage in Israel was a covenant of two parts: (1) a betrothal period and (2) the established marriage state. The betrothal period was so binding that sexual unfaithfulness during that time was the only thing that could break the agreement (Deut. 22:13-21). A divorce could be granted for sexual unfaithful ness during the betrothal period (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Punishment by death of the guilty one rendered the living person either a widow or a widower.
Mary's joy was accompanied with both trial and submission. The trial came when Gabriel appeared to her and said, "...Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS" (Luke 1:30,31). Mary's submission to God is stated in Luke 1:38: "...Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."
The angel appeared to Mary privately, but Mary would have to explain becoming pregnant during her betrothal period. Although she had assurance from the Lord and acquiesced in His word, Mary knew she would be exposed to severe criticism. In the eyes of those who did not understand, her character would be ruined. The religious Jews would demand the death penalty. Her friends would mourn over her. Her husband (one to whom she was espoused—the first part of the two part Jewish marriage contract) could ask for a divorce on the ground of fornication. However, Mary did not try to conceal the fact of her pregnancy. She ran to the fountainhead of law and judgment to report her condition. She went to the wife of the officiating priest, Zacharias (Luke 1:39-56). Mary brought extraordinary blessings with her when she came to Elisabeth. One was on the way who would be called the Son of the Highest.
Mary was repre sentative of that humanity with which Jesus Christ would be identified. In Christ's earthly life, He never identified Himself with the degradation of fallen mankind, but He identified Himself with that which was of God. All titles and designations which the Lord Jesus assumed indicate His identification with the elect as the subjects of Divine grace. One would blaspheme to say Christ was identified with fallen mankind, except in the atonement.
Mary's pregnancy was as much a trial to Joseph, her espoused husband, as it was to her. Joseph was a righteous man; therefore, he knew the principles of chastity regarding love and marriage. He would not expose Mary to public ridicule; but as a righteous man, he must defend the principle of marriage fidelity. He was in a difficult position. Knowing the law, Joseph could make one of three choices. He could appeal to Deuteronomy 24:1 and say, "I have found some uncleanness in her." He could present her case in the light of either Deuteronomy 22:13-24 or Deuteronomy 22:25-29. In Deuteronomy 22:13-24, there are two different instances of fornication, but the penalty for both is death. The first applies to the whore and the second to the virgin who became unfaithful during the betrothal period. In Deuteronomy 22:25-29, the fornicators were put to death. The first applies to the sin which was committed outside the betrothal period and the second to the girl who was the victim of rape.
Joseph chose to follow the course of having found some uncleanness in her and granting her a divorce (Deut. 24:1). The words "put her away" in Matthew 1: 19 are the translation of the Greek word apolusai, aorist active infinitive of apoluo, which means to loose, release, or divorce. However, while Joseph was thinking about divorcing Mary, the angel appeared to him and explained her pregnancy. What a glorious victory this was after such severe trial.
The virgin Mary "found with child of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" (Matt. 1:18) is beyond natural understanding but not beyond apprehension by faith. According to nature, virginity is gone before conception; but Mary's pregnancy by the Holy Spirit was a sign above nature that was predicted by Isaiah. The God of nature is not bound to the rules of what we call nature; therefore, there is no reason that this truth should seem incredible. As light passes through glass without destroying the glass, the Holy Spirit passed through the virgin Mary without destroying her virginity. This was a supernatural act of the sovereign God, and the power of the Doer is the reason the thing is done. "...God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). "God said" is the Word in action. "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth For he spake, and it was done..." (Ps. 33:6,9). "For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).
In the sense that Jesus Christ "knew no sin" (II Cor. 5:21), Joseph did not know experientially the sexual function of a husband until after the birth of Jesus Christ. "And he was not knowing her [imperfect active indicative of ginosko] until she gave birth to a son: and he called his name JESUS" (Matt. 1:25—translation). The Greek verb means to know, perceive, or understand. It is used as a euphemism (indirect or mild expression) of sexual relations.
The One born of the virgin Mary was named Jesus, the Savior of His people. To be Savior, He must be Emmanuel— God with us. Emmanuel indicates His vocation, which was to bring God to His people that they might be with Him forever. These names attributed to Jesus Christ indicate what He must be and do to save His people. Emmanuel is the name which portrays the hypostatic union of the Divine and human natures in one Person. The miracle of the virgin birth assures the elect of the new birth. Jesus Christ is the only accepted "once born" person. He is the unique Person who needed no second birth. Had He been peccable, as many religionists affirm, He would have needed the new birth. Jesus Christ's conception and death were very much unlike those to whom and for whom He came into the world. The doctrine of the virgin birth places the initiative in the hands of the Godhead.
It completely excludes human initiation thus protecting the human nature—the holy thing—from contamination with original sin.
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