The Virgin Birth Incarnation of Jesus Christ

Willmington's Guide to the Bible

A. False views concerning the incarnation.

1. The Ebionites. They denied the reality of Jesus’ divine nature. The Ebionite error is refuted by John the Apostle in the first verse of his Gospel account.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1).

2. The Gnostics. They denied the reality of Jesus’ human nature. The Gnostic error is refuted by John the apostle in the first verse of his first epistle.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life" (1 Jn. 1:1).

3. The Arians. They affirmed Jesus’ preexistence, but denied his deity.

This is the position of the present-day Jehovah’s Witnesses.

4. The Nestorians. They believed two persons actually indwelt the body of Christ, the human person and the divine.

5. The Eutychians. They went to the opposite extreme and said both natures (the human and the divine) mingled to make up a third and totally different nature from the original two natures.

B. The true view of the incarnation.

"In the one person, Jesus Christ, there are two natures, a human nature and a divine nature, each in its completeness and integrity, and these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby." (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 673)

"He always says, I, me, mine. He is always addressed as thou, thee, thine. He is always spoken of as He, His, Him. It was the same person to whom it was said, ‘Thou Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands.’" (Charles Hodge, as quoted by Charles Baker, A Dispensational Theology, p. 300)

Thus, in the Old Testament we have man made in the image of God and in the New Testament we see God made in the image of man.

C. The miracles involved in the incarnation.

1. That God the Son could take upon himself the full nature of man and yet retain the full nature of God.

The Bible declares that he was as much God as if he had never been man, and as much man as if he had never been God. This is known as the hypostatic union. There is no earthly analogy that can be used even to remotely illustrate this. The following examples have been unsuccessfully offered:

a. the relationship between man’s body and soul

b. that between the Father and the Son

c. that between husband and wife

d. that between the believer and the Holy Spirit

e. that between a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

f. that between oxygen and hydrogen which produces water

2. That a human body could be conceived within a mother’s womb without an earthly father.

The miracle of the virgin birth was not the actual birth, but the conception of Christ’s earthly body.

Furthermore, this conception was not only supernatural, but unique also, for God had already performed supernatural births for Sarah, Hannah, Elisabeth, and others.

D. The perpetuity of the incarnation. When the Son of God joined himself to a body at Bethlehem it was an eternal arrangement. He will continue to manifest himself in this body (in its resurrected state, of course) throughout the ages.

E. The prophecies concerning the incarnation. Old Testament.

1. By Isaiah the prophet.

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon’ his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6, 7).

2. By Micah the prophet.

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou ‘be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).

New Testament. Heavenly announcements were given to at least eight individuals or groups concerning the incarnation in the New Testament.

3. To Zacharias.

"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" (Lk. 1:17, 76).

4. To Mary.

"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Lk. 1:31, 35).

5. To Elisabeth.

"And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Lk. 1:42).

6. To Joseph.

"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1:20, 21).

7. To the shepherds.

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Lk. 2:10-12).

8. To the wise men.

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Mt. 2:1, 2).

9. To Simeon.

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Lk. 2:25-32).

10. To Anna.

"And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Lk. 2:38).

F. The reasons for the incarnation. Why the virgin birth incarnation? God never does anything without a good reason, and in this case, there were some fourteen excellent reasons for the incarnation.

1. To reveal the invisible God.

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (Jn. 1:18; 14:9).

2. To fulfill prophecy.

"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15).

3. To guarantee the Davidic covenant. The Davidic covenant assured David that someday an heir from his own seed would rule over Israel on his throne forever.

"Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: and I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, and as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee a house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David" (2 Sam. 7:8-17).

"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end’ (Lk. 1:31-33).

4. To make a sacrifice for our sins.

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9).

"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:4, 5, 10, 12).

"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin" (1 Jn. 3:5).

"For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45).

5. To reconcile man to God.

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trepasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19).

"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17).

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Tim. 2:5, 6).

6. To provide an example for believers.

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).

"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 Jn. 2:6).

7. To provide the believer with a high priest.

"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17).

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Heb. 3:1).

8. To destroy the devil and his works.

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. 2:14).

"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8).

9. To escape the historical curse.

a. Upon Adam’s seed.

"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

b. Upon King Jehoiakim and his son, Jehoiachin. Both these wicked rulers, Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:30) and Jehoiachin (Jer. 22:30) were judged by God and warned that their physical seed would never prosper upon the throne of David.

10. To heal the brokenhearted.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, cause he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Lk. 4:18).

11. To set at liberty the bruised (Lk. 4:18).

12. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18).

13. To give life—abundant life.

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (Jn. 3:36).

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn. 10:10).

14. To glorify the Father (Jn. 13:31; 14:13; 17:4).

"Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him" (Jn. 13:31).

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (Jn. 14:13).

"I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (Jn. 17:4).


Taken from: Willmington's Guide to the Bible  1981, 1984 by H. L. Willmington.