Does the Virgin Birth Really Matter?

"26 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 bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."

– Luke 1:26-31

This passage in Luke is one of only two places in the New Testament that mentions what we call the “virgin birth” of Jesus Christ (the other being Matthew 1:18, 22-25). The relative silence on the subject within the rest of Scripture has caused some to doubt the claim’s validity and others to simply minimize its importance. The argument usually goes something like this: “Surely the Apostle Paul would have discussed the virgin birth in one of his letters if it had any significance. Wouldn’t Jesus have mentioned his birth if it was an important part of the gospel?”

Scholars from various fields continue to be divided on this subject, but there are several reasons why we as followers of Jesus should not only affirm the virgin birth but also recognize it as an indispensible aspect of basic Christianity:

1. The virgin birth demonstrates Jesus’ purpose

The virgin birth is undoubtedly a supernatural event, but it is not the only special birth story found in the Bible. Each miraculous birth in Scripture (i.e., Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist) signifies a major development in God’s overall plan of redemption. Through the uniqueness of the virgin birth and its fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), God begins the gospel with a clear sign that he will change his people forever through the life and ministry of this little baby, who is Christ.

2. The virgin birth demonstrates the hypostatic union

Simply put, the hypostatic union refers to the simultaneous combination of the two natures of Jesus as one person. Indivisible and at the same time, Jesus has been both fully God and fully man since his incarnation. Without the hypostatic union, Jesus could neither be a qualified substitute for the judgment of humanity or a powerful enough substitute for his death and resurrection to truly be able to redeem humanity. Yet, as fully God and fully man, Jesus was the perfect substitutionary atonement for our sin. The virgin birth beautifully demonstrates this important truth through Mary conceiving through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).

3. The virgin birth demonstrates God’s sovereignty in salvation

The “gospel” literally means the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Through his death and resurrection, we are able to have eternal life when we turn from our own self-reliance to trusting in his work for us. At the same time, however, none of us are able to “save” ourselves. It is God alone who gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27), and it was God alone who initiated his plan of redemption through the sending of his Son (John 3:16). The virgin birth further demonstrates God’s sovereignty in salvation by bringing Jesus into the world in a way that is humanly impossible. In the same way, our salvation is also humanly impossible. But, like the virgin birth, God is fully able.

4. The virgin birth demonstrates God’s power over sin

Culturally, the Jewish people in Jesus’ day were very patriarchal. This made the genealogy of Jesus that Matthew and Luke shared in their gospels all the more shocking. Jewish tradition honored the firstborn son with the birthright and blessing of carrying on the legacy of his family and ancestors. Contextually speaking, this would have been no different for the birth of Jesus. Yet, because of the virgin birth, Jesus’ father was not human. He was God. Rather than symbolically carrying on the heritage of his earthly father Joseph (one marred by sin, brokenness, and depravity), Jesus took on the blessing of his heavenly Father, thereby eliminating any original sin and guilt.

Now, this does not mean that Mary was sinless or that women do not pass the curse of sin to their children just like men. Romans 3:23 is clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rather, God worked through the cultural narrative of the day to tangibly demonstrate the supernatural sinlessness of Christ.

Ultimately, Jesus’ lack of original sin and his qualification to be a “sinless sacrifice” for our sin is due to the supernatural work of God. Yet, God chose to work through that time period’s cultural understanding to bring his truth to light, and we should seek to do the same today as we live as followers of Jesus this Advent season.