by Rev. Lee Johnson
It is Christmas time again. And with that time of year comes the usual attacks on the virgin birth and the denials of the Christmas story. It sounds like a question for Rugged Confessionalism. If we are going to be talking about Rugged Confessionalism, then maybe we ought to get real rugged and look at some of the older creeds and confessions as we go into the Christmas season.
Let us start with the Apostles’ Creed. Notice that it states, “I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord who was born of the virgin Mary…” The virgin birth, so often doubted today, is in this early creed as an important piece of our faith.
What about the Nicene Creed? Written in A.D. 325, this creed was written to keep out those who wished to deny the full deity of Christ. In this creed we read, “Who for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary…” Again the virgin birth is affirmed and was deemed so important and necessary to be place into this creed.
Let us look at one more, the Chalcedonian Creed. This creed was drawn up in A.D. 451 to put a stop to the heresy that denied the hypostatic union, the two natures in one person, of Jesus Christ. Here we read, “begotten of all ages before the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary…” Again the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is included.
What can we take away from this?
Well, it is clear that the church has always held to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible has given us accurate history, and the miracle of the virgin birth happened. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s birth. Yet, there is more than that going on here. These creeds and confessions were written so that people would be able to understand the faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. The Christmas story of Jesus’s virgin birth is not just a historical detail or a footnote to be debated, but an essential element into understanding our salvation.
Our salvation depends on the same human nature that sinned making satisfaction for that sin, but also that sacrifice being of infinite worth, which is only possible with one who is true God. Thus, we need a God-man. We need one who is both. The virgin birth teaches us that Jesus is the true and righteous man who is also true God, whose innocence and holiness can cover in the sight of God our sin. Jesus has the nature of man being born of Mary, but He is no ordinary man. This is not a person who was conceived in the normal way and then made the son of God later. And the virgin birth helps show us that truth.
The virgin birth fulfills what we see is needful in Micah 5:2. Jesus is the one whose goings forth is from eternity, but also goings forth is from Bethlehem. This is how the savior who crushes the head of the Serpent is the Seed of the Woman. Isaiah’s prophecy of God with us involves the virgin conceiving and having a son. It is fundamental to who Christ is, and thus to His work in our salvation.
So this year when you hear people casting doubt on the virgin birth remember the church has always confessed the virgin birth, not only its historical accuracy, but its salvific necessity.
Rev. Lee Johnson is a member of the Board of Trustees of Heidelberg Theological Seminary and currently serves as Pastor of St. John’s Reformed Church in Lincoln, NE.