Matthew 1:18-23

Sermon preached on December 6, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was growing up my grandmother would often tell me a story that happened long before I was born. It was a horrible story. My grandmother had a sister who lived almost next door to her and her sister had a little boy, I think Danny was his name. One day Danny and his friend were playing in Danny's house and they found a gun and started playing with it, pretending they were in the Wild West. Thinking that the gun wasn't loaded, Danny's friend pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. But there was a bullet in the chamber. The gun went off and Danny was killed.

I heard that story numerous times as my grandmother would make a point of telling it over and over again. I really didn't like hearing about it or even thinking about it. It was too gruesome.

But my grandmother wasn't telling me that story to annoy me. She was using it to make a point—telling me that I was never to play with guns. As I grew older and my grandfather and father started to take me hunting and taught me how to use guns, they repeated the lesson and I was told to never assume that a gun was empty. They also taught me to never point a gun, even an empty gun, at anything you didn't intend to shoot. Those were rules that were instilled in me and the story about Danny drove them home. The story wasn't just a horrible story—but it contained many valuable lessons.

The story of the virgin birth of Christ is a wonderful story. And like the story of Danny, it's not a story with no meaning. It tells us wonderful things about the salvation that God has provided and has great lessons for both Christians and non-Christians. It's a story that should strengthen the faith of those you that are Christians, and it's a story that shows non-Christians that they need someone to save them.

So this morning we're going to look at this wonderful story in order to have those lessons impact our lives.

The virgin birth is a story that has it's roots in the Old Testament. This was in accordance with what was predicted by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before. We read, (Isaiah 7:14)

"the Lord himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel."

The virgin birth of Christ is of great significance. Even its prediction shows us that the child that was going to be born was both human and divine. As far as His divinity is concerned, He would be called, Immanuel, which means, "God with us." Yet He would be born of a human mother, and also be human.

Indeed, our text shows us that

Jesus was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit.

In verse 18 Matthew tells us that Mary,

"was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit."

In verse 20 the angel told Joseph,

"Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."

Jesus did not have a human father. He was born supernaturally through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let's consider the implications of this:

First, for those of you who are not Christians,

the virgin birth shows you that you are not okay as you are.

You need someone to save you.

The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin shows us that we have a great problem—even before we emerge fro our mother's wombs. We are sinners. We are born sinners. That's why Jesus was not born in a normal way with both a human father and human mother. Anyone born that way is a child of Adam and subject to condemnation. There
are two great problems with human beings that are descended from Adam in the normal way. On the one hand we have inherited guilt because of Adam's sin. We are considered guilty because Adam was the federal representative of the human race and his disobedience affected all of his descendants. The guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to us. We see this in Romans 5 which compares our condemnation in Adam to our justification in Christ. Verses 18 & 19 read,

"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass
was condemnation for all men…
For just as through the disobedience
of the one man the many were made sinners…”

All human beings were represented by Adam in the Garden of Eden. As our representative, Adam sinned and so we are all condemned in him. Adam's sin is imputed to us.

The other problem is that we inherit a corrupt nature from Adam. You'll remember that in Psalm 51:5 David wrote,

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time
my mother conceived me."

David there confessed that he, (John Calvin)

"brought nothing but sin with him into the world, and that his nature was entirely depraved."

David confesses that, (Calvin)

"he was formed in sin, and that he was a transgressor ere he saw the light of this world."

Our natures are corrupt. There as a radical problem with them. As Paul also wrote in Romans 7:18,

"I know that nothing good lives in me,
that is, in my sinful nature."

The virgin birth throws light on this corrupt nature. Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 530)

"The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God Himself."

J. Gresham Machen writes, (The Virgin Birth of Christ, p. 385)

"there is an awful gulf between man and God which none but God can bridge."

The virgin birth teaches us that our salvation has to be accomplished supernaturally, by God. It is not in our power to save ourselves. However great our efforts may be, they will fall short. We cannot save ourselves.

We see this in Jesus' words in Mark 10:25–27. When Jesus told His disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, they were amazed and asked,

"Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said,

"With man this is impossible, but not with God;
all things are possible with God."

Salvation is impossible with men. It's not something we can do.

We see this in Ezekiel 36:25–29 where the prophet talked about what God would have to do in order to save His people. God said,

"I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities
and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws.
You will live in the land I gave your forefathers;
you will be my people, and I will be your God.
I will save you from all your uncleanness."

God had to change their hearts. They couldn't do it themselves. It's like what the prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 13:23,

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?"

Unlike Adam and Eve, we don't become sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. There is something fundamentally wrong with our nature. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians Christians about the state they were in before Christ, (Ephesians 2:3)

"we were by nature objects of wrath."

Human nature is corrupt. Because of our corrupt nature, because of Adam's sin being imputed to us—Jesus was born in a different way. He came into this life by way of a virgin. If Jesus was going to save us from our sins it seems that He couldn't be born in the normal way with both a human mother and human father. No one with a corrupt nature or with Adam's sin imputed to them could save us. Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 530)

"The virgin birth… makes possible Christ's true humanity without inherited sinÖ the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ."

A savior had to be pure and holy. That He was born pure was made by Gabriel's words to Mary in Luke's gospel. When Mary asked how she could possibly have a child, since she was a virgin, the angel answered, (Luke 1:35)

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born
will be called the Son of God."

The One born to Mary was,

"the holy one,"

So for you who are not Christians—the virgin birth shows you that you're not okay as you are. Your nature is corrupt. You are, by nature, an object of God's wrath. If you're going to escape hell you need someone to change your nature. You need someone to forgive your sins, yes. But you need more than that. You need a new nature. Only God can give you that. God changes the nature of those that trust in Jesus to save them. Paul details this in the first few verses of Ephesians 2. He tells the Ephesians that they were dead in trespasses and sins, by nature objects of wrath, (Ephesians 2:4–5)

"But because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions
—it is by grace you have been saved."

You need God to save you. Go to Jesus today. Ask Him to save you. He's your only hope.

For those of you who are Christians, the doctrine of the virgin birth ought to strengthen and increase your faith in Jesus. This is because the second thing we see from our text is that

Jesus was truly human and truly divine.

Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 530)

"The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person."

Quite clearly the virgin birth shows us that

Jesus was truly human.

Mary was Jesus' mother. Jesus did not just appear human—He was and is a true human being. He was born just like any other baby. Luke 2:6-7 tells us what happened when Mary and Joseph were to Bethlehem.

"While they were there,
the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths
and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn."

We see this as well in Hebrews 2:14. It says,

"Since the children have flesh and blood,
he too shared in their humanity
so that by his death he might destroy him
who holds the power of death—that is, the devilÖ"

Jesus had a real human nature. He had a body like ours. He experienced hunger, pain, love, joy, sadness. He had a human mind, for Luke 2:52 tells us that,

"Jesus grew in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and men."

Jesus was truly human.

This has great significance for us. Louis Berkhof writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 319)

"Since man sinned, it was necessary that the penalty should be borne by man. Moreover, the paying of the penalty involved suffering of body and soul, such as only man is capable of bearing."

We see the requirement of blood being spilled in Hebrews 9:22. We read,

"the law requires that
nearly everything be cleansed with blood,
and without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness."

The fact that Jesus, as human, was sinless, is something we should rejoice in. As Berkhof continues,

"He had to be a sinless man, for a man who was himself a sinner and who had forfeited his own life, certainly could not atone for others."

But because Jesus was sinless, He could atone for our sins. He could take our place.

The virgin birth also shows us

that Jesus was divine.

Jesus is God. We see evidence of His divinity in the account of the virgin birth. He was conceived supernaturally. In verse 18 we are told that Mary was with child,

"through the Holy Spirit."

In verse 20 the angel told Joseph that what was conceived in her was,

"from the Holy Spirit."

In Luke, as we have seen, the angel said to Mary, (Luke 1:35)

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born
will be called the Son of God."

Other Scripture passages expand on this teaching. For example, John 1:1 says,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."

Jesus is called "God". When Doubting Thomas finally saw Jesus after His resurrection, He said, (John 20:28)

"My Lord and my God!

In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter wrote,

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through
the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus ChristÖ"

In Romans 9:5 the apostle Paul wrote about the Jews,

"Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced
the human ancestry of Christ,
who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

In John 8:56 Jesus told the Jews that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing His day and saw it and was glad. The Jews replied,

"You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!"

Jesus answered,

I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!"

The fact that Jesus is also God gives us great cause to rejoice in Him. It was necessary for Him to be God in order to save us. Louis Berkhof writes, (p. 319)

"In the divine plan of salvation it was absolutely essential that the Mediator should also be very God. This was necessary in order that (1) He might bring a sacrifice of infinite value and render perfect obedience to the law of God; (2) He might bear the wrath of God redemptively, that is, so as to free others from the curse of the law; and (3) He might be able to apply the fruits of His accomplished work to those who accepted Him by faith."

As Hebrews 7:26 says about our great high priest, Jesus,

"Such a high priest meets our need
—one who is holy,
blameless, pure,
set apart from sinners,
exalted above the heavens."

The last thing we should understand about the virgin birth of Christ is that

it has implications for abortion.

Gresham Machen, (The Virgin Birth, p. 394)

"The eternal Son of God, He through whom the universe was made, did not despise the virgin's womb! What a wonder is there!"

Yet, many people today hold a quite a different view. A woman's womb and the child that it contains is often regarded and something to be disposed of. If abortion was available in Mary's day, without a doubt she would have been advised to get one. After all, she was pregnant outside of marriage. She was poor and the prospects for her Son did not look good from a earthly perspective.

Yet God used exactly those circumstances to save mankind. Those very circumstances were part of the means that God used to save sinners from eternal punishment and give them eternal life! Let us never forget that and never buy into the culture of death. Rather let us embrace the culture of life that comes to us through the virgin birth of our Savior.

May God give us grace to do so.