11 December 2007

John MacArthur on the virgin birth (part 1)

The following is from a sermon given by pastor John MacArthur, on the virgin birth of Christ. The transcript is quite long, so I've chopped it into 4 smaller parts.
I would encourage you to open your Bible to Luke chapter 1, the rich gospel of Luke. Third book in the New Testament, Luke the beloved physician wrote his account inspired by the Holy Spirit of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are in to this incredible history of the Lord Jesus Christ. We're not very far in, we're still in chapter 1, but chapter 1 is long, it has 80 verses and chapter 2 has 52 verses. So we're going to be here for a while. This is also very foundational truth to understand Christianity and Christian theology. In fact, in some ways this morning will be a bit more of a theologian than an expositor as we consider the issue of the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.

In chapter 1 I draw your attention to verse 30. "And the angel said to her...this is the angel Gabriel speaking to Mary...'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will have no end.'

"And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be since I am a virgin?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative, Elizabeth, has also conceived a son in her old age and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing will be impossible with God.' And Mary said, 'Behold he bondslave of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Your word.' And the angel departed from her."

Here is really where the story of Jesus Christ starts historically. The angel Gabriel comes to a teen-aged girl, probably 13 or 14, living in a humble home, no doubt, in a non-descript town called Nazareth and tells her that God has chosen her for special grace and special favor which is that she will become the mother of the Son of God and that she will conceive and bear that Son while still a virgin.

Obviously from a human perspective, that is not possible. In verse 34 Mary says, "How can this be since I'm a virgin?" In verse 37 the angel reminds her, "Nothing will be impossible with God." What is going to happen is described in verse 35, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," in place of a man, a husband, "and the power of the Most High will hover around you and because of that you will have a holy child who will be the Son of God."

Now the conception of Jesus Christ in this manner is unique in all the history of humanity. This is the only time this has or ever will occur. This is absolutely critical to the Christian message. This is critical to the gospel. This is critical to Christianity, to biblical theology because it protects the nature of Christ as God and Man. He had to be born of God to be Son of God. He had to be born of a woman to be Son of Man. And so in this incredible miracle, Mary who is human and God who is divine are brought together and one is born of God and of woman who is God and Man, the God/Man Jesus Christ. And the nature of Jesus Christ as God and Man is at the heart of the Christian faith. If anyone denies the deity of Jesus Christ, they have destroyed Christianity. What you have left is a satanic, deceptive, counterfeit, lying religion invented by men and demons to destroy the truth.

I have been asked through my years of teaching the Bible whether it's essential to believe that Jesus was conceived in a virgin. And the answer is yes because it is essential to saving faith to put your trust in the true Christ, you must believe that Jesus is who He is and who He is is God and Man, and that is preserved and launched, if you will, in this very truth of virgin conception.

Now history has had some amazing births. Biblical history has had some amazing births. The birth of Isaac and actually miraculous. The father of Isaac was Abraham, he was 100-years- old. The mother of Isaac was Sarah, she was 90-years-old and barren, unable to have children and at that age God gave Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac, a real miracle child. And Isaac then really became the father of the whole redemptive community through whom Messiah finally came...a notable child, a covenant child.

To the barren wife of Manoah, Judges 13 says, "Whose womb had been closed," to the barren of Manoah was given a son, her womb miraculously opened by God to give her a son. And this son was not like any other son who ever lived before or since. This son could take a lion in his bare hands and turn the lion inside out. This son could slay thousands with the jawbone of an ass. This son was so powerful that he could bring down a stoned temple on himself and thousands of others who were buried in the rubble of it. This son was Samson.

And then there was the barren Hannah who pined away because she never had a child. And the Lord opened her womb that He had shut and gave her a son named Samuel...not just any son, but Samuel the prophet, Samuel the priest, Samuel the anointer of kings.

We come in to the New Testament and already as we move in to the first chapter of Luke we meet a barren old couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth. And we know they were old because he was serving as a priest in his old age. There was a 60-year cap on service for the Levites, but there was no cap on service for the priests. And so he well could have been in his seventies or his eighties, they never had had children. And God allowed Zacharias and Elizabeth to come together and conceive a son. And she who was barren became pregnant, not just any son was born out of that union, but John the Baptist of whom Jesus said he was the greatest man who had ever lived up until his time. He was the forerunner of the Messiah Himself.

Isaac miraculously born. Samson miraculously born. Samuel miraculously born. John miraculously born. And all of them with incredible and astounding lives as God miraculously and supernaturally allowed those children to be conceived and born.

There have been some remarkable births that weren't miraculous. In our own society we all look back to the 1934 event in Canada when the Dionne quintuplets were born and that without the aid of any fertility drug...a rare, almost unheard of birth of five children at once.

More recently it's becoming a bit more common as fertility drugs are being used today. And we read about...well it was back in, I think, 1973 when the Stannick(?) sextuplets were born in Colorado. And then it was the McCoys, and I think they had seven. And then recently somewhere, I think, eight. And that is astounding to all of us. Fertility drugs are involved in that. There is no miracle occurring there. It takes a man and a woman in the normal way to produce children, it's just the amount, the litter that is a bit rare, induced by drugs.

I think in my life time probably the most defining and remarkable birth was the birth of little Louise Brown, five pounds, twelve ounces, born to John and Leslie Brown of Lancashire, England on July 25, 1978. The first child ever born, conceived outside human bodies. For the first time God permitted a baby to be born that had been conceived outside the human body.

After years and years, 12 years of specific research, the capability came to remove a mother's egg, fertilize it with a sperm removed from a father, do it all in a test tube, then place that fertilized egg back into the womb of a mother, or for that matter a surrogate mother, to be cared until birth. That's amazing. It's becoming something we take for granted today.

And so, if you look at biblical history there have been some really amazing births, miraculous, supernatural births. And if you just look at modern history, there have been some amazing non-miraculous, non-supernatural, normal births assisted by science.

Science has even made some attempt at parthenogenesis. Parthenos is the Greek word "virgin," and parthenogenesis literally means "virgin generated...virgin conceived." Science has attempted to allow life to be reproduced without the normal partnership of male and female. And through lab experiments they have produced parthenogenic life among some lower forms.

For example, within the world of honey bees, the unfertilized eggs can be developed into drones or males. It was in 1886 that a man named Decomeroff(??) was able to create artificial parthenogenesis in unfertilized eggs of silkworms. Morgan and Mead from 1896 to 1900 started the eggs of sea urchins and marine worms to develop by placing them in various salt solutions, sea water. In 1939 and 1940 Pincus(?) produced several rabbits, all female, through chemical and temperature effects on rabbit ova.

Never has any kind of parthenogenesis been done on the human level. It is a biological impossibility. There is no scientific explanation, no fertility drugs, no external lab kind of environment, no environment can be created to produce on a human level parthenogenesis.

Now even if parthenogenesis of some form could be achieved on a human level, and it can't, but let's say for the sake of argument even if it could, the case of Mary parthenogenetically bearing a son would be impossible. Geneticists have demonstrated that mammals have two X chromosomes in the females and the males have an X and Y chromosomes. Most of you remember that from your education. Thus if you took an unfertilized egg cell, a female egg cell and could somehow create an environment in which it could reproduce itself, two X chromosomes could only reproduce X chromosomes and thus the product of that parthenogenesis could it occur would have to also be female. And that was the case in the Pincus rabbits. They were female only.

So even if somehow we could assume that there was some way in which natural parthenogenesis could occur, and we know it can't humanly, but even if it could, Mary would only have been able to produce a daughter, not a son. When Mary gave birth without a man, without a male sperm as a virgin to a Son, there was then no human explanation. And that's exactly the way God designed it. Since the human determines the sex of the child, it is obvious that the sex of Jesus' human nature was determined by God. God divinely produced a male child. He produced the male chromosomes and divinely fertilized the egg in Mary's womb.


Part 2 tomorrow.

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