After the three sections of 14 descendants of Jesus in each section, Matthew moves to his purpose for writing and recording for us the birth of Jesus. Verse 18 of the first chapter of Matthew gives us the historical document verifying the early teaching that Jesus was indeed born of a virgin. It says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was different.  One writer said, “The spermatic matter that ordinarily produces human life was not needed for the birth of Jesus. Instead, the divine spirit entered Mary’s womb and was born as flesh.” The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus is one of the most fundamental doctrines of the faith.  By means of the Virgin Birth, Jesus had the human nature of His mother and the sinless, divine nature of His Father. This made Him the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

This has been a well-established teaching of orthodox Christianity. Elwell has documented that well, “From the very beginning, the doctrine of the virgin birth became the foundation of a high Christology. Many have pointed out that the earliest church fathers stressed this more perhaps than any other event as proof of the incarnation and deity of Christ. Justin Martyr and Ignatius defended the virgin birth against opponents at the beginning of the 2nd century, and even at that early date, it appeared to be a fixed doctrine. In the acrimonious debates of the next three centuries, the virgin birth became a prominent issue. Gnostics contended that Christ descended directly from heaven and so was never truly human. On the other hand, those groups which denied his deity, such as the Arians, denied the virgin birth, stating that at his baptism, Jesus was “adopted” as Son of God. The Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that Jesus was truly God, and then the Council of Chalcedon in 451 stated that Jesus was at the same time human and divine, a ‘hypostatic union’ of the true natures. These were summarized in the Apostles’ Creed of the 5th century, which declares, ‘I believe in … Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.’ In most of the creeds, the virgin birth is also connected to Jesus’ sinlessness, inasmuch as his incarnate, divine nature is the source of his sinlessness.”[1]

The virgin birth of Jesus, however, is one of the least accepted doctrines of the early Christian faith. What surprises me is that over half of the Christian pulpits in America reject it as well. According to one survey of the ministers in training, 56 percent rejected the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Of this same group, 71 percent rejected that there was life after death, 54 percent rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 98 percent rejected that there would be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth. The three giant pillars of the Christian faith are Jesus’ virgin birth, atoning death, and bodily resurrection. Take away any one of these and the structure of the Christian faith falls. Taken out of the context of all three, any one of them is without meaning. Considered together, they comprise the greatest story ever told.  We have wonderful reasons to celebrate the Christmas season. Without these truths, we’re still lost in our sins and have nothing to celebrate! I just want to celebrate!

[1] Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. 1988. “Virgin Birth of Jesus.” In Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 2:2126. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.