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Who Gets Us?

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A number of years ago, I read a book written by a pastor whose ministry I had been following with admiration. In his book he raised the question of whether it was essential to believe in the virgin birth or if it was a doctrine that could be set aside as non-essential, with the comment seemingly to imply that it might be non-essential. This comment both surprised and disappointed me. It surprised me because the belief that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” has long been held to be a fundamental of the Christian faith, appearing in the Apostles’ Creed and other doctrines that 20th century defenders of the Christian faith maintained was a “fundamental” of the faith when it was being called into question. This comment disappointed me because it made me start to wonder whether this man who I had viewed as a good Bible teacher may be drifting from the Christian faith. I was not surprised when he continued to question key doctrines of the Christian faith, left Christian ministry, and now focuses more on “spirituality.” His trajectory has further reinforced the essential nature of this particular belief in my mind.

What has been traditionally called the “virgin birth of Jesus” may be actually better thought of as the “virginal conception of Jesus” because Mary’s virginity really concerns Jesus’s conception rather than his birth – it is not the birth of Jesus is not what flies in the face of common experience, but rather the conception! Whatever term is used, it has been a key belief of the Christian faith because it provides the foundation for our understanding of Jesus as a person. It shows us that Jesus was just like every other human, so he gets us. But it also shows him to be different from other humans and reveals that it is the eternal Son of God who gets us. 

Like Us, So He Gets Us – The Humanity of Jesus
Rather than appearing out of heaven as an adult, God chose for Jesus to be born just like every other human. He was an embryo and a baby growing in his mother’s womb. He grew up as an infant and toddler and developed as a person, learning to walk and talk. He was part of a family as a son and a brother. Therefore, a person in each and every stage is important, as they reflect the life of Jesus in a certain way. The fact that Jesus was born as an infant and grew up (rather than just being created mature like Adam) could very well be a way to elevate the importance of people in those stages; he “gets” us in a way that Adam never could. Just as the Son of God taking on human flesh reminds us of the importance of the physical world (it is not evil like some believed/believe, as God has created it and even sanctified it), so going through these early stages of life that we all do makes us recognize that God really sought to become like one of us so that He might “get” us in relating to our circumstances as is emphasized in the Book of Hebrews

Unlike Us, So HE Gets Us – The Deity of Jesus
While Jesus’s conception and birth shows that he is like every other human, the fact that he was conceived and then born of a virgin shows that he is also different from everyone else. The closest parallel is Adam, who was made out of the dust of the ground and then had the spirit of God bring him to life. Jesus is the second Adam, who undoes the work of Adam, in that Adam fell into sin while Jesus resisted temptation. While similar to Adam to a certain degree, he is also different from him not just in his actions of obedience but in his very nature. 

Jesus did not begin to exist when he came in the flesh like Adam, but had glory before the world existed (John 17:5) and existed in the beginning (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1). He is the creator and sustainer of the universe (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3). He is not lower than God, but the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3) and “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In choosing to take on flesh (John 1:14), the Son of God did not consider “equality with God as something to be exploited” but “instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity” (Philippians 2:5-6). The act of “getting us” by becoming human was an act of humility itself, and Jesus further demonstrates his humility in coming not to be served but to serve and gives his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). The fact that Jesus chose to be born of a poor girl who was likely ridiculed and rejected because of the circumstances of his birth further shows the humility of the Son of God choosing to become a human. Through this particular means, he left the “riches” of heaven and truly became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). We need to remember that the Son of God left heaven to come to earth, but in the process of taking on human flesh, he did not give up his divinity. It was not a trade of humanity for divinity but rather the divine “Word” taking on this humanity while continuing to be divine. The “He” of “He Gets Us” is the Son of God!

The Mystery and Meaning of the Virgin Conception and Birth
At times, people have tried to say that Christians just borrowed a miraculous birth, along with other elements of Jesus’s life, from other religions of the times, but when we compare the story of the birth of Jesus to stories with appearing in other religions, we see there are marked differences (see this article for more on that topic).  This idea is unique and vital to the Christian faith, and our belief that it is the eternal Son of God who “gets us.” However, I am not going to deny that the doctrine of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus is a difficult doctrine to fully understand, and not just because we are believing what would be impossible. Other questions may arise, such as the origin and makeup of Jesus’s DNA that would come from the father. If half of Jesus’s DNA was from Mary, who was the other half from? And how is it possible to be both fully God and fully man – to be 100% both?

While there are certain mysteries in this doctrine, its meaning is crystal clear. It shows us that the Son of God took on our flesh and walked in our shoes before going to the cross for our sins, showing him to be a priest who sympathizes with us in our struggles and temptations but also makes atonement for our sins (Hebrews 2:17-18). 

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also email to be added to the list that receives weekly emails with our blog posts.

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