As Prophet Bards Foretold 2

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Virgin Born

Sermon Video


Scripture is quite clear that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. But what was the point? Why is this important?

The Text

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:22–23).

Summary of the Text

We learn from the scriptural narrative in several places that our Lord’s mother was a true virgin. In the gospel of Luke, we are told that the angel Gabriel was sent with a message to a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:27). She is called a virgin twice in that one verse (parthenos). When the angel tells her that she will conceive a child who will have a never-ending kingdom, she asks a most reasonable question. How can she conceive when she does not know a man (Luke 1:34)? In short, how can she become a mother as she is a virgin? Gabriel replies that the thing will happen as the result of a miracle wrought by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35).

In our text, when Joseph found out that Mary was “with child,” he drew the natural and obvious conclusion, which was that Mary must not be a virgin, and that she had been unfaithful to him. He knew that he was not the father, so someone else must have been. But because he was a righteous man, resolved to put her away quietly. But an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to marry her because her pregnancy was the result of a miracle. The name to be given to the child was Jesus because He was going to save His people from their sins. Remember this. And then the thing is summed up by our text. The prophet Isaiah had predicted all of this when he prophesied that a virgin would conceive a child, and bear a son, and that son would be called Emmanuel. Matthew adds the gloss that Emmanuel means “God with us.” 

Young Woman or Virgin?

The prophecy is found in Isaiah 7, and the context is this. In the days of Ahaz, the king of Syria and the king of the northern kingdom of Israel came up against Jerusalem. They could not prevail against the city (Is. 7:1), but the heart of the king was still badly shaken, along with the hearts of the people (Is. 7: 2). They trembled like trees in a stiff wind. But God in His kindness sent the prophet Isaiah to give a word of encouragement to the king (Is. 7:3-9). Within one lifetime, the powers that the king was so worried about would be out of the picture. Don’t worry about them. Ahaz—not a man of faith—was apparently still troubled, and so God graciously invites him to ask for a sign (Is. 7:10-11). But Ahaz still holds back (Is 7:12), although he made his hesitance sound pious. And so Isaiah insists upon giving him a sign anyway, and the words of our prophecy are taken from that sign (Is. 7:14-16).

There are two layers to this sign. In the Hebrew, the word for virgin here is almah, which can mean virgin, but it can also mean young woman, not necessarily a virgin. This is something that liberals jump on, saying that “see?—there is no reason we must affirm the virgin birth.” The meaning of almah is not exclusively virgin. Sure, but wait.

A young woman will conceive and bear a son, and before that son has grown to a mature age that can refuse evil and choose evil—within just a few years—the kings that Ahaz was so worried about would no longer a threat. That was the sign. The young woman concerned in the prophecy was herself a prophetess (Is. 8:3), and she was married to Isaiah. She was not a virgin. And so the prophet went to the prophetess, and she conceived a son. His name was Mahershalalhashbaz, and the prophecy of the previous chapter was in the first instance fulfilled in him (Is. 8:4). Damascus and Samaria would be a spent force before young Maher (let us call him) could say mama or papa.

Prophecy and Type

So this was an explicit prophecy, for the benefit of Ahaz, but it was also a type . . . for the benefit of all the sons of men. Let us not be like Ahaz, disbelieving the sign that has been given to us. In addition to being the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction, the prophetess was also a type. She was a type of Mary, and Mary was the antitype. And here is where it gets interesting.

Isaiah’s ministry was around 700 B.C. The Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, was translated several centuries before Christ. And in the LXX, the word almah in Isaiah 7:14 is rendered as parthenos, and parthenos means virgin, only virgin, and nothing but virgin. There was therefore a widespread expectation among the Jews that there was an aspect of this prophecy that was yet to be fulfilled, and that expectation was not the result of interactions with Christians—because they would not arrive for a century or two more. The Jews were waiting for a virgin-born messiah.

Why His Name Was Emmanuel

Everything in the gospel comes down to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Who was this Jesus, and what did this Jesus do? He was God in the flesh, and He died on the cross as a perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of all His people. We are talking about the person and work of Christ.

The virgin birth is important to the identity of Jesus. The virgin birth is one of the things that marks the person of Christ. Our text in Matthew links the virgin birth to the fact that the one so born was going to be called Emmanuel. The sacrificial body of Christ had to be spotless in order for it to be any good as a sacrifice, as we shall see in a moment. But it also had to be spotless in order for the most holy Word of God to be united to it. How can a holy God become a true man without also becoming a false and sinful man? Because sin is passed down covenantally through the fathers, that problem was solved through the virgin birth.

Why His Name Was Jesus

The angel of the Lord told Joseph in his dream that the baby was to be named Jesus. The reason for this is that He was going to save His people from their sins. Jesus means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” But in order to accomplish that salvation, He had to be a sacrifice, He had to be a spotless sacrifice, and He had to be a representative sacrifice.

A sacrifice: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). We were bought out of the slave market of sin, and the ransom payment that freed us was the blood of Christ.

A spotless sacrifice: “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). In the Old Testament, when a sacrifice to God was to be made, it was unlawful to pick out a weak or maimed specimen from the herd and offer that up. No, the sacrifice had to be without blemish.

A representative sacrifice: “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Romans 5:15). The one man, Jesus, is comparable to the one man, Adam. The one man Adam was, by the very nature of the case, all men. In the same way, the second Adam is the federal head of a new race of mankind. Christ, God with us, is the prototype for a new way of being human. That is what the Christian faith is, a new humanity in formation.

And so the birth of the baby Jesus was truly remarkable. In that day, on that day, your salvation and mine was born into the world. The person who was to accomplish the great work of salvation had arrived, and He had been given the thing He was going to use to offer up in sacrifice—a body without blemish.  

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5 months ago

Love you Doug