born of the Virgin Mary

(This is part five of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’ve covered the Father, Son, and the Spirit in the previous entries. This entry focuses in on something very specific about Jesus; he was:

“Born of the Virgin Mary,”

The interesting thing about this statement is that Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin over 700 years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14). Many people claim that the term used in this verse could also translate to “maiden” or simply “woman.” But what about the narrative in Luke where Mary specifically says she is a virgin in Luke 1:26-37? An angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have a child; Mary is perplexed and says, “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Some people might try to claim that the word virgin here can also mean “maiden.”

My first question is this: Why would Mary be surprised and say, “How can this be since I am a woman”? Does that make any logical sense? I’m pretty sure that, since Mary was engaged to Joseph, she knew where babies came from or at least understood that babies came from women.

Additionally, if you do some homework and look at the literal Greek, Mary says something like “How can this be since I have not known a man” which was an idiom for “How can this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man.” Mary had not “known” a man and that’s why she was surprised that she was going to have a baby.

Another verse that addresses Mary’s virginity is Matthew 1:18, which says that Mary was found to be with child “before they came together;” which is another way of saying they had not had sex. We also read that Joseph and Mary did not have sex until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).

So why did Jesus have to be born of a woman and of God? Couldn’t Jesus have just floated down from Heaven? I’m going to rip off Wayne Grudem for just a minute here. In his book Systematic Theology (Chapter 26: “The Person of Christ”) he was a wonderful job explaining the significance of the “doctrinal importance of the virgin birth.” He says there are three reasons this is important:

1. “It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.” As Grudem states here, salvation is not the result of human good works and efforts. Salvation is the direct result of the will and power of God and can only come to us as a gift. This was made possible in the person of Jesus.

2. “The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.”  While it is possible that God could have sent Jesus to earth in a different way, this is the best way. Jesus could have floated down to earth, fully human and fully God; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how he could have been united with humanity since he had none of the same origins as us. On the other hand, Jesus could have been born of two human parents and then been filled with godliness early on in his life or even in the womb; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus could have been fully divine in he had all of the same origins as us.

3. “The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin.” What’s interesting about this is that, according to tradition, original sin is passed from Adam and through the father to the children. Since Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit any original sin. (Additionally, although I will readily admit I don’t remember where I read this, in Jesus time you were not considered Jewish unless your mother was a Jew.) From Mary, Jesus inherited full humanity but was free from the legal guilt and moral corruption of Adam.

Was it necessary for Jesus to be fully human? You betcha! Once again Grudem does a great job answering this question, although I won’t go into detail for each point, but Jesus was fully human for representative obedience (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), the be a substitute for sacrifice (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:16-17), to be the one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), to fulfill God’s original purpose for man to rule of creation (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22; Revelation 3:21), to be our example and pattern in life (1 John 2:6, 3:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:21; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:10; Acts 7:60; 1 Peter 3:17-18, 4:1), to be the pattern for our redeemed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49; Colossians 1:18), and to sympathize as a high priest (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16). Just to name a few…

So, to conclude, we find that God united humanity and divinity in the unique person of Jesus Christ. He did this through a woman named Mary, who was considered a highly favored servant of God. Jesus inherited full divinity from His Father and fully humanity from His mother. He did this so that Jesus could be a substitute for our sins, and example for our lives, a preview of our resurrection, and a mediator (literally a “bridge”) between us and our Heavenly Father.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

…and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,…

(This is part three of a multi-entry blog series discussion of the Apostles’ Creed.)

The last entry talked about God the Father, creator of Heaven and earth. Now we’re going to look at the next line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord.”

Once again, I’ll break the line down into segments…


“and” – Didn’t think there was anything important about this word, did ya? Well in this single word, we find that there is more to Christianity than just God the Father. In the previous line, we could still find harmony with Judaism, Islam, and possibly many other world religions; with Jesus, however, we zero in on the unique and absolute claims of Christianity: Jesus.

“in Jesus” – While some might consider Jesus the founder of Christianity, He is actually much more: He is the foundation. Ephesians 2:19-22 describes Jesus as the cornerstone for our faith. Without Jesus, the Christian Church would not stand up. The Christian faith is all about Jesus and this line tells us some important facts about Him.

“Christ”This actually isn’t Jesus’ last name; it’s a title! Christ comes from the Greek word Khristós which means “the anointed one” or the Hebrew word Māšîaḥ which means “Messiah.” Quite simply, these two terms indicate that Jesus’ life was prophesied hundreds of years before His birth. He was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1: 18-23) in a small town called Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2: 1,6) of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14). He would die for sinner (Isaiah 53:6) and would be buried in a borrowed tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60) and rise again after three days (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:30, 31). Christ was God’s promise to the world to redeem His chosen people and it was fulfilled in…

“his only Son” – First, it tells us that Jesus is the only Son of God the Father. There were not other sons; there is only Jesus. Jesus stands alone in Creation as being unique in His nature. Jesus is not one of the angels, He’s not just a good man or just a good teacher, He is God. Jesus is our only hope. Son-ship implies being of the same nature as the father. I am my father’s son; I have the same DNA. I think this is an illustration of the closeness that Jesus enjoys with His Father.

“our Lord.” – Jesus is more than savior; Jesus is more than redeemer; Jesus is Lord. Jesus demands all of us because He gave us all of Himself. Jesus died for us; He invites us to life for him in this life and with Him in the next for all eternity. This is the invitation we receive because of Christ’s work upon the cross. Jesus says that He must be our Lord; we must deny ourselves and take up our cross (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). We must die to ourselves with sin as our master and be raised to new life with a new Master: the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.

Upper Tier – Jesus is the one and only Son of God; the promised Messiah; and He deserves a place of worship and priority in our lives.

We’ll devote the next few lines to specifics about Jesus, since the next chunk of the Creed talks specifically about Him.