I often wrestle with doubt in my faith journey. I’m a realist at heart, and there’s no exception to that, even in the holiday season. I can easily get swept off my feet by a good Christmas hymn and rejoice unhindered at the sight of a well-lit Christmas tree. However, the jingling of bells and the twinkling of lights are often not strong enough to drown out the skepticism to which I am susceptible.
One primary area of borderline unbelief with which I have wrestled in many Decembers is the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve always hushed the inward question that begged, “Can I believe in Jesus Christ, but not the virgin birth?” Does this impossible conception, illogical as it is, fit into the Gospel narrative? Basically… Why does it matter?
This year, rather than turning my Christmas music up louder, I faced the noise of my thoughts concerning this miracle. I asked God to first help sure-up my unbelief and then to reveal to me how I should feel and think about the virgin birth. Resources, apart from the Holy Scriptures, like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, John Piper’s ministry site desiringgod.org, and the Gospel Coalition’s articles were more than helpful in discovering the truth. I learned three things in my research and quest for deeper belief in the virgin birth.
First, I found the virgin birth teaches us that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Mary did not conceive because the Lord told her to sleep with a man. She conceived exactly when and how God planned, not through human effort or desire, but through His own power and mercy. The Lord God brought about the means for salvation, Jesus Christ, through His miraculous working. Apart from Him, we could not trust the perfection of our Savior.
Likewise, our salvation itself does not come from our own effort, but through the work of the triune God. “God sent His Son, born of a woman,” the apostle Paul writes, “born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Later, Paul also writes, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Mary’s miraculous conception reminds us that God is capable of providing salvation through His own power, without human effort.
Second, I found the virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. We believe that Jesus Christ was totally God and totally man, and the virgin birth helps us see this truth. How would our view of Jesus change if He had either 1) appeared as a grown man out of nowhere or; 2) been born of a man and a woman? If the first were true, we would have grounds to charge Him with insanity and fabrication. If the second were true, we would neither see Him as holy, nor capable of paying the debt for sin that we, ourselves, were incapable of satisfying.
God orchestrated the perfect plan to show Christ as fully God and fully man. This would ultimately pay the cost of our sin and reunite us with God, for nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37).
Lastly, the virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. We believe that Jesus Christ was sinless, ultimately being capable of paying for our own sin on the cross. Should Christ have come to us through natural conception, He would be burdened with inherited sin, leaving Him incapable of paying for our sins and leaving us still in need of a Savior.
Since Adam’s sin against God in the garden, humanity has passed down this sin nature that begins at conception (Psalm 51:5). Men are not the exclusive “carriers” of this inherited sin, so one might question how Mary failed to pass her inherited sin to Jesus. Some have resolved this question by stating that perhaps Mary herself was sinless. However, we know through Scripture that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:10, Psalm 14:1-3, Rom. 3:23, 1 John 1:8, Ecc. 7:20, Rom. 5:12, and more).
We must answer the question, not by human logic, but by the words of God Himself. In Christ’s case, Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit overpowered and withheld Adam’s inherited sin in Mary from Jesus from conception. The angel told Mary, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Mary’s own inherited sin was not transferred to Jesus Christ because she was overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In confronting my doubt of the virgin birth, I’m finding the value in stating facts I believe to remind me of the truth of God’s Word. I believe that salvation comes from the Lord. I believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man. I believe that Jesus was free of sin, enabling Him to pay for my sins and set me free. I believe He was born of the virgin Mary through God’s miraculous working. I must believe this, despite the doubt that may whisper unhelpful questions to my heart.
This Christmas, I pray you choose to confront your doubt as well. Nearly everyone has experienced a feeling or season of doubt. Do not merely drown out the unbelief with commercialism or passivity, but face it with humility and resolve. Ask the Lord God to help your unbelief (Mark 9). The virgin birth was good, mysterious, controversial, lovely, real, and wonderful. It brought about Christ in an intentional, unique, and miraculous way.
Approach this holy happening with unhindered joy and child-like faith. Praise the God of Miracles and revel in the peace He brings to our hearts!
Nothing is impossible with God!