Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why I Believe the Virgin Birth to be True

The Virgin birth of Christ has always been fundamental to our Christian faith. It has been foundational that the deity of Jesus Christ rested squarely on the historical fact that a virgin named Mary did conceive and give birth without any contribution on the part of any man.

In 385 A.D. the Apostles Creed took its final shape. Although Baptists do not cite the Apostles Creed because of our own church tradition, most Christians around the world recite the Apostles Creed every Sunday of the Christian year with few exceptions. Millions have stated for 1600 years that Jesus Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. It did not occur to any orthodox Christian to even question that until the mid 19th century when, on the campus of a liberal university, the question was raised, "How can anyone believe that in a modern scientific age?"

It is obvious that the virgin birth can neither be proved nor disproved by normal historical methodology. I mean by that, there is no way to go back and to observe what actually happened. At the bottom line it comes back to the same place that every question of Christian belief ultimately stands or falls: "What do you think of the Bible?" For the Word of God says the conception of Jesus was a supernatural act of God through the Holy Spirit in Mary’s life.

Three reasons why I believe the virgin birth to be a factual historical event.

I. It is the Affirmation of Scripture.
Luke stresses this three times in his gospel. In Luke 1:27 he writes "To a virgin pledged to be married." and "The virgin's name was Mary." In verse 34 Mary says, "I am a virgin."  It's the word in Greek which has one explicit meaning; she was one who had never known a man physically.

Luke, in the opening words of the gospel told us how he wrote it; “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3).  How did Luke investigate this? I believe that while Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea, Luke, who was traveling with Paul, took advantage of his presence there to find the aging mother of Jesus to talk with Mary about the birth of her Son.  Luke was obviously meticulous in his research for he said, “having followed all things closely for some time past,..” (Luke 1:3).

The virgin birth writes a label over Bethlehem which says, Not made by man.  Joseph couldn't have produced it. Mary left to herself could not have produced it.  Humankind could not have produced it.  There are only three options concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. One is that Joseph is the natural father of Jesus Christ by an act of physical union with Mary. The second is Jesus was the product of a physical union by Mary and another man. That was the Jewish viewpoint. They even gave him a name Panthera, a Roman soldier. The final option is that the birth of Jesus Christ was the coming together of the Holy Spirit upon Mary’s life and that embryo that was formed was a direct miraculous intervention of God.

Consider the options. First, if Jesus Christ was the natural son of Joseph and Mary, then what we hold in Luke 1 and 2 and in Matthew 1 is: a bold faced lie.  Therefore, when we gather to worship we worship a lie.

Second, If Jesus was born of Mary and another man, then again, a shadow is cast over the Christian faith. Deuteronomy 22 tells us that one who is betrothed to another, if she were unfaithful, was subject to death by stoning. If this were not an act of God, you can be sure that Joseph, a faithful Jew, would not have married her because she officially belonged to another man. Once again a shadow is cast over the Christian faith.

The only other option is what the Word of God says. By a direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, Mary was with child. That is the witness of Luke's Gospel, which was written by a highly educated practicing physician. It is also complimented by Matthew's witness.

“Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 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. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18-20).

Luke was written in one time somewhere in the Roman empire. Matthew was written at another time somewhere else in the Roman empire. Luke was written from Mary's perspective while Matthew was written from Joseph's perspective. Both gospels confirm that Jesus was born of a virgin.

The deity of Jesus Christ rests squarely on the intervention of God in a super-natural way in the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The virgin birth is not only the affirmation of Scripture.  It is also...

II. The Expectation of Prophecy.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:22-23). The prophet Isaiah, 700 years before the coming of Christ, foretold of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. There are other prophesies as well that came to pass. Malachi foretold that Jesus would be preceded by a forerunner which is fulfilled by John the Baptist. In Genesis is the prophecy that Jesus would be a descendant of Abraham. He was. In Numbers 24 it was foretold that Jesus would be from the line of Jacob. He was. In Genesis chapter 49 it was foretold that Jesus would be from the tribe of Judah. He was. Micah foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. He was.. The Psalmist said that Jesus would be declared the Son of God. He was.

His Galilean Ministry, that He would speak in Parables, that he would be rejected by His own people, that He would be accused by a false witness, that He would be spat on and struck and hated without reason, crucified, pierced through his hands and feet, no bones would be broken, His side would be pierced, that he would be buried with the rich, the fact of his resurrection, and the fact of His ascension; all of these were prophesied in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. And every one of them occurred in the Life of Jesus Christ just as they were foretold by Old Testament men of God. The virgin birth is the prophecy of Scripture.  The virgin birth is also...

III. The Confirmation of Tradition
We read that Mary was betrothed or pledged. That was more than our engagement and less than our marriage. Betrothal took place sometime between the 12th and the 13th year of a Hebrew girls life in first century Palestine. Mary would have been a very young teenage girl according to custom. Betrothal was begun with a contract that was signed by both families. That contract included a dowry given by the young lady and a bond that was posted by her husband to be. It was called the ketuba. The ketuba bond said that if he in any way defaulted, that is, if he died or if he were unfaithful, she would receive the money in order to sustain her in that society.

During that betrothal year the girl lived with friends. Very significant is that unfaithfulness during this period was punishable by death, usually by stoning. The confirmation of tradition is that Mary would have risked a horrible death itself to have been found in the condition which she found herself.

The Baptist Faith and Message states: "Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary."  This I believe.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Songs

I love to listen to Christmas music.  I start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day and that's pretty much all I listen to through Christmas Day.  I thought I would list some of my favorite Christmas songs and albums just for fun.  Let me know what some of your favorites are.

Here are my top favorite Christmas albums:

At our house, it just wouldn't seem like Christmas if we didn't hear Neil Diamond singing Christmas songs.  My family and I have been listening to this album for many years and it still ranks as one of my favorite Christmas albums.  His Christmas Album Volume II is also excellent.

Eric Horner's Christmas album "He Is Born" is excellent.  Eric is a friend of mine and has sung at First Baptist a couple of times.  He has a special heart for our men and women in service.  I really enjoy listening to him sing on this album.

Casting Crowns' "Peace on Earth" is absolutely wonderful.  It ranks at the very top of my favorite Christmas albums.  The music and the message of this album will bless any one who listens to it.

The Carpenters' "Christmas Portrait" is a Christmas tradition.  Karen Carpenter, in my humble opinion, is one of the best female vocalists of all time.

Chicago 25 is one of Chicago's best albums.  Chicago has a sound that is unquely theirs.  They bring that sound to this Christmas album.  I love the harmonies and the sounds of the brass instruments in this album.

I love anything by Kenny G.  I sit many hours reading with his music playing in the background.  Kenny G "Miracles" and Kenny G "Wishes" are two of my top favorite Christmas albums.

Here's a list of some of my favorite music. Let me know what your favorites are ...

Top Christmas Carols
1) O Holy Night
2) Silent Night
3) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
4) Joy to the Word
5) I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
6) The Birthday of the King
7) O Come All Ye Faithful
8) The First Noel
9) Go, Tell It on the Mountain
10) Angels, from the Realms of Glory

Top Christmas Classics (or soon to become classics)
1) I’ll Be Home for Christmas
2) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
3) White Christmas
4) Frosty the Snow Man
5) Tennessee Christmas
6) The Christmas Shoes
7) It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
8) Sleigh Ride
9) Silver Bells
10) Do You Hear What I Hear?