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Catechism Class, L/D 14, Q35, – The Word Became Flesh.


Catechism Class, Lord’s Day 14, Q35

The Word Became Flesh

READ Matthew 1:18-25 

In this lesson we are doing to look at a difficult subject – the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ.  It’s important; so much so that John the apostle sets this doctrine out as a test of orthodoxy in 1st John 4 :1-3. 

So, our catechist asks,

And we’ll begin to look at that question and answer in this lesson and podcast.

In order to save us, to rescue us from our sin and the consequences of that sin, Jesus became flesh – became man.  John 1:1  This lesson deals with HOW he did that.  What do we MEAN when we say that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary?

Before we go any further, let’s make something very clear.  The physical birth of Jesus was exactly like every other birth.  Mary went into labour, had all the pains of labour, and bore her Son in a completely natural manner.  What was different about the event was not the actual birth, but the supernatural CONCEPTION of Christ.  Presumably you already know how a baby is conceived.  In the case of Mary, and the baby Jesus, that part of the process didn’t happen.  Mary was a virgin, who had never experienced sexual penetration, and she was still a virgin when the baby was born.  She did not remain a virgin, despite what the Roman Catholic Church might say.  They have a doctrine of Mary’s virginity enduring before, during and after the birth of Christ.  This is just plainly unbiblical.  Matthew 13:55-56   Jesus had brothers and sisters in the flesh, born to Joseph and Mary after the Lord’s birth.   The conception of Christ was a miracle!  It was brought about by God, in a manner that had never happened before and has never happened since.  So, Jesus was CONCEIVED by the Holy Ghost and BORN of the Virgin Mary.  Let’s go back to our instructor in the catechism and see four important aspects of the birth of Christ:- 

1. Jesus was/is ALWAYS Fully DivineThe eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God.

The first thing we are taught, is that when the one, only begotten, eternal son of God came into this world he did not cease to be God!  Philippians 2 teaches us that he laid aside his majesty, and that he humbled himself to become a man, but it does not say that he laid aside his divinity.  All the time that he was in the flesh he remained God.  He was not ‘God on the inside with a human shell, either.  He was fully God and fully man at the same time.  Read  John 10:30-36   John 14:9  

To say that Jesus laid aside his divinity when he came into this world is a heresy, often known as Kenotic Christology, and often the belief of the liberal, scripture denying liberal so-called Christians. Those men who deny the virgin birth and the miracles of Christ and his literal resurrection.  Despite what a popular, ancient hymn says, Jesus did NOT empty himself of all but love.  He was God incarnate and remained so, thus his miracles can make perfect sense, – the God who created the world, and who created vines, and who engineered the process of fermentation, would have no problem, at a wedding at Cana, turning water into wine!  1 John 5:20  

2. Jesus became/was Fully Humantook upon himself true human nature from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary

Although Jesus never ceased to be fully divine, he was also fully human.   He was a man, a Jewish man. Paul tells us so in Romans 9:5  He was a human baby, born in a mucky stable.  He was a carpenter’s step-son who would have worked hard in the joinery shop at Nazareth. Matthew 13:55 He had skelfs, splinters of wood, he had calloused hands, and a sore back and got tired. He got that human nature from his mother, from Mary.  This was prophesied away back in Genesis 3:15  He was the seed of the woman!  

But why did he need to take upon himself ‘true human nature’ from Mary alone?’  Why could a man not be involved?  What does a father give to his children at conception?  Life itself of course, which begins at conception – but with that life he gives death!  From our fathers we inherit Adam’s sinful nature, we are sinners from conception, like David taught us in Psalm 51:5   Paul agreed, in Romans 5:12. 

But Christ was born without sin, without the sinful human condition.  That does not imply that the act of conceiving a baby in the natural sense is in and of itself a sinful act.  It is not, so long as it is within the marriage union of a man and a woman.  It is just to say that by the natural process of conception, we inherit Adam’s sin, and the ultimate result of that sin is death.

3. The Process of Conceptionthrough the working of the Holy Spirit.

Now we get to the actual ‘mystery’ of the Virgin Conception, and in fact it’s not really a mystery at all.  In fact the Bible tells us exactly how it happened.   In Luke 1, we discover that Mary herself, when the angel revealed God’s plan to her, wanted to know, herself, how such a thing could happen.  In Luke 1:34-35 So, let’s see how:-

  • God ordained it.  Galatians 4:4.   It was God’s appointed time, in his sovereign purpose, God sent his son into the world.
  • The Holy Spirit enabled it. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:.  Why would anyone consider this as impossible.  Christians especially should be well aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in creation.  Go away back to the very beginning of time in Genesis 1:2, and read “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”   The Amplified Bible, paraphrases this as “The earth was formless and void or a waste and emptiness, and darkness was upon the face of the deep [primeval ocean that covered the unformed earth]. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.”  In the Virgin Conception, Mary’s womb was empty, until, like in the beginning, the Holy Spirit ‘brooded’ over her, – God’s creative, life imparting spirit, implanting life where there was no life! Psalm 33:6. The Holy Spirit, in the incarnation, doing what He did at Creation.  Like he did in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.  Ezekiel 37:9.  
  • The Eternal Son wanted it!  Philippians 2:7  Now this is something that we must be aware of.  Jesus did not have to be forced or coerced into coming ion this rescue mission for you and me.  Read Philippians 2 very carefully, and see that his becoming man, was an act of unfathomable love for lost sinners, in which He willing gave himself for us.

Now, if you are still truly amazed by what God did in sending his son into this world, and still puzzled at how that could have taken place, read the words of the angel to Mary in Luke 1:37 . 

4. Two Natures -One PersonThus he is also the true seed of David, and like his brothers in every respect, yet without sin.

So, Christ did not cease being God, when he entered into the virgin’s womb and became man, and from Mary, he took his human nature, – and we have even seen a little of the truly miraculous event through which the Holy Spirit brought about Mary’s pregnancy. Now our catechist tells us that the baby born in Bethlehem was:-

  • The true seed of David.  In Romans, Paul wrote, Romans 1:3  He was the Messiah.  The Jews were expecting a Messiah, of course, – but most of them were expecting simply an anointed religious leader, a warrior who would lead them to victory.  The thought that God himself would enter this world to be their deliverer himself, was alien to their thought.  That’s why they rejected Him.  Yet he was the true seed of David, and the fulfilment of the covenant promise that God had made to David the king.  2 Samuel 7:16  
  • He is like us.Hebrews 4:15   Just like us, he was hungry, sad, he wept, he experiences our infirmities.  There’s something here that could almost pass us by if we’re not careful. Because of his humanity, Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son is OUR BROTHER!  He has carried our humanity into heaven, and because of this we too, being IN HIM, can also enter heaven’s glory.  Hebrews 2:11  Romans 8:29 Mark 3:32–35 …. So, God is our Father, and Christ is our elder brother, the firstborn (the natural son with a right of inheritance) among many brethren!  
  • He is not like us. Hebrews 7:26-27   Here’s one thing abut our humanity that Jesus did NOT partake in, – our sin.  He perfectly fulfilled the Law of God!  Where we break the commandments on a daily basis, he never did – not once.  He was without sin.  And when he was in human form, he was the one and only person of whom God could say that he was well pleased!  

Jesus then, we say, is fully God and fully man, two natures in one person.  We call this, the HYPOSTATIC UNION.  But what are the implications of this important doctrine for you and me?  We’ll look at that in our next catechism class, when we ask, in Q36, What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ? 

© Bob McEvoy, October 2021

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