Have you considered lately what it means to be a Christian? What essential beliefs must a person embrace to be a genuine follower of Jesus? I’m convinced that the answer to these questions can be found in Matthew’s account of the virgin birth. The story of Jesus’ birth can become so familiar to us that it is easy to miss three of the most breathtaking truths of the Christian faith.
Truth #1: Jesus is God in a human body.
“They will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
As incredible as it sounds, this baby Jesus was God. This is the teaching of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The emphasis of Matthew throughout his gospel is that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Anointed King, the Christ. And so he begins by stating that Jesus is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). His genealogy shows that he is in the line of both David and Abraham. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David that from his offspring will come a king whose “kingdom will endure forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). And he is also the son of Abraham and therefore the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3; see also Galatians 3:16).
But this Jesus, son of David and son of Abraham, is also the Son of God, which means he is God the Son. The deity of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of biblical Christianity and the clear teaching of Scripture in both testaments. The seeds of this doctrine were sown in passages like Isaiah 7:14, which Matthew quotes immediately after recounting what the angel told Joseph in a dream – namely, that his bride Mary was not an adulteress, but was pregnant “because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
Truth #2: Jesus came to save people from their sins.
“You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The angel also told Joseph that this baby has come to be the Savior of his people. A Christian believes that we are in need of salvation from sin and all its devastating consequences both in this life and the next. Jesus said that anyone who sins is a slave to sin and that freedom from the power of sin is available only through his liberating work (John 8:32, 34).
Furthermore, because of God’s justice, he must punish sin. The punishment for sin is death, both physical (we end this life by going to the grave) and eternal (apart from God’s grace, we will spend the next life in hell forever). But because God is a God of grace, mercy and love, he has provided a way to be saved (rescued) from both the power and penalty of sin, and that salvation is found in Jesus. He is the one who can save us from sin because of his death and resurrection. He death paid the penalty we deserve to pay, and his resurrection is the proof that his death was the acceptable sacrifice to absorb and satisfy God’s wrath against guilty sinners.
Truth #3: We can know with certainty that Jesus is both God and Savior because the Word of God is true.
Matthew links the virgin birth of Jesus to the prophecy of Isaiah with this statement — “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Matthew 1:22). Jesus was born to a virgin because God himself had predicted this would happen 700 years ago! Note the all-important words, “what the Lord had said through the prophet”. What Matthew is saying about Isaiah 7:14 is true of every verse in the Bible. This book is the supernatural work of God to communicate his truth through human writers. Yes, men played a role in the production of the Bible – they spoke and they wrote. But everything said and written in this Book is ultimately “what the Lord had said”. These are the very words of God and since God is true and cannot lie, we can believe what he says and sing with David, “The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6)
For followers of Christ, Matthew’s account of the virgin birth is no myth. It is the historically accurate account of the coming of Deity to earth in the person of the Messiah to meet mankind’s greatest need. And these events happened exactly as God said they would, hundreds of years before. These truths are the heartbeat of the Christian faith and the lifeblood of the genuine believer in Jesus.