Question: “Why is the virgin birth so important?”
Answer: The doctrine of the virgin birth teaches that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. That is, when Mary conceived Jesus, she had never had sexual intercourse. Jesus’ birth, therefore, was truly miraculous. The virgin birth of Jesus is a crucially important doctrine and one that the Bible plainly teaches in Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27, 34.
Let’s look at how Scripture describes the virgin birth. The angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary to bring her the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34, ESV). Gabriel’s reply indicates the miraculous nature of the conception: “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” (Luke 1:35). The angel points not to any human act but to the Holy Spirit and the power of God as the agency of Jesus’ birth. Jesus would properly be called the Son of God.
Gabriel later repeats the news to Joseph, betrothed to be married to Mary: “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph needed this information because, “before they came together, [Mary] was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). Accepting God’s word on the matter, Joseph proceeded to take Mary as his wife, but she remained a virgin until after Jesus was born: “He did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son” (Matthew 1:25).
The gospel writers are judicious in their wording to maintain the doctrine of the virgin birth. In his genealogy of Jesus, Luke mentions that Jesus was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” (Luke 3:23, ESV). In his genealogy, Matthew carefully avoids calling Joseph the father of Jesus; rather, he speaks of “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16).
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was predicted in the Old Testament: “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, quoted in Matthew 1:22). There is also a possible allusion to the virgin birth in Genesis 3:15, which says that the “seed” of “the woman” would destroy the serpent.
The Bible teaches the preexistence of the eternal Son of God. In Isaiah 9:6, the child who is “born” is also the son who is “given.” In like manner, Galatians 4:4 also teaches the preexistence and virgin birth of Christ: “God sent His Son, born of a woman.” The virgin birth is important because that was the means by which “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The incarnation is when the eternal Son of God took on human flesh; without losing any of His divine nature, He added a human nature. That miraculous, history-changing event took place in the Virgin Mary’s womb.
In the virgin birth, the immaterial (the Spirit) and the material (Mary’s womb) were both involved. Just as, at creation, “the earth was formless and empty” and dark (Genesis 1:2), Mary’s womb was an empty, barren place. And just as, at creation, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2), the Spirit of God came upon Mary (Luke 1:35). Only God can make something out of nothing; only God could perform the miracles of creation, the incarnation, and the virgin birth.
The virgin birth is important in that it preserves the truth that Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. His physical body He received from Mary. But His eternal, holy nature was His from all eternity past (see John 6:69). Joseph the carpenter did not pass on his sinful nature to Jesus for the simple reason that Joseph was not the father. Jesus had no sin nature (Hebrews 7:26).
The virgin birth of Jesus is an example of God’s gracious work on our behalf. God took the initiative—Mary was not looking to become pregnant—it was all God’s idea. Joseph had no role in the conception—his body was not involved—so the power had to come from God. In a similar way, our salvation is based solely on God’s initiative and God’s power—we did not seek God, but He sought us; and we did nothing to earn our salvation, but we rely on God’s power.
Unsurprisingly, Jesus’ enemies among His contemporaries denied His virgin birth. They went so far as to publicly accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan, i.e., a person of mixed race (John 8:48). Those today who would deny the virgin birth contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, call into question other miracles recorded in the Bible, and open the door to a denial of Christ’s full deity or His full humanity.