Why the Virgin Birth is Essential (by John MacArthur)

During this time of year, I feel like we get too caught up in the birth of Christ.  It was a great thing, but the Bible never tells us to celebrate it interestingly enough.  I love celebrating it, and would never discourage celebrating it, but I would also encourage everyone to, along with the birth, celebrate His life, death, resurrection and everything that was accomplished and is being accomplished as a result of those things.

I feel that more important than Jesus’ birth is how it came about.  I’ve struggled to put this into words, but one of my favorite teachers John MacArthur wrote a very great blog about why the virgin birth is essential.  I’ll leave the rest up to him to explain:

Why the Virgin Birth is Essential

“You may be wondering why the virgin birth—of all the miracles in Scripture—is so frequently attacked. After all, if one can believe, say, that Moses parted the Red Sea, what’s the big deal about a virgin birth? It certainly isn’t as spectacular a miracle. And Scripture devotes relatively little space to describing it. Can it really be that important?

Yes. The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines central to the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is.

If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus is God in human flesh. If the story of His birth is merely a fabricated or trumped-up legend, then so is the rest of what Scripture tells us about Him. The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ’s deity rejects Christ absolutely—even if he pretends otherwise (1 John 4:1-3).

Jesus Himself viewed the question of His parentage as a watershed issue. Matthew records one of the last confrontations He had with the Pharisees.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. (Matthew 22:41-46)

His sonship was the source of controversy on other occasions. John 8 records another run-in with some leading Pharisees. They told Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God” (John 8:41). “We were not born of fornication” is a not-so-subtle jab at Jesus. They implied that He was born illegitimately. They twisted the whole point of His miraculous birth to make Him an illegitimate child. They even said later in verse 48, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

The fact is, there is a direct parallel between those Pharisees and modern religious leaders who hint that the virgin birth is unimportant or a fable. Their challenges grow out of unbelief in Jesus Christ. They are the expression of sinful, unregenerate hearts.

Contrast their response with that of Peter. Matthew 16:13-17 records this exchange between Jesus and His disciples. Again, His sonship is the issue.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

Notice that the answers proposed by the populace were human ones. They had concluded Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. They had not yet grasped the truth of His deity. They assumed He was just a man.

Simon Peter’s response was different. He understood that Jesus was more than a human Messiah, more than an anointed prophet, more than a son of David. He was the Son of the living God. Peter knew because God had revealed it to him (Matthew 16:17). Flesh and blood cannot reach that conclusion. Science, philosophy, and human religion cannot explain who Jesus is. Their adherents will inevitably conclude that He is a great teacher, a good moral example, or even a great prophet of God. But they all miss the fact that He is the Son of the living God.

That’s why the virgin birth is so important. For Jesus to be God, He must be born of God. Joseph, a man, and Mary, a woman, cannot produce God. God cannot be born into this world by natural human processes. There’s no way He could be God apart from being conceived by God.

At this time of year, believers shouldn’t merely celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate every aspect of Christ’s life—His humble incarnation, His transformative ministry, His righteous example, and, ultimately, His sacrificial death. But none of that matters if we don’t believe God’s Word is accurate about His Son’s parentage. When it comes to the truth of the virgin birth, compromise is not an option.”

Faith Cannot Save You…

There are many theories out there about what is required of people to attain salvation.  Some believe that you have to perform religious rites and rituals such as be baptized, take the Lord’s Supper, be a good person, give money to a church or other religious institution, etc, etc.  Others believe that all you have to do is have faith.  Just say you believe certain things, say a prayer, sign a card and you’re good.  These are just a few of many different thoughts on what makes one right with God.  But what if I told you that I don’t think any of these things has any sort of power to save?  No, not even faith.  Not in and of itself anyway.  I’ll explain that in a bit.

First, I want to address the idea that works and religious ceremony can save a person.  The main passage of Scripture that comes to mind for me is Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” I believe this same concept can be found in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:5.  Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to be saved.  Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born when they are old?  Can they enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born?” So Jesus essentially says, “Let me give you another hint.” Then in verse 5, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (the washing of regeneration, not physical birth nor baptism) and the Spirit (Renewal of the Holy Spirit obviously), they cannot enter the kingdom of God.'” In other words, Jesus was saying that there is no kind of work you can do to be saved.  Salvation is all the work of God.

 blog Baptism

Some believe that “washing of regeneration” refers to being baptized.  But then that would mean that baptism is a required work before salvation.  These same people use the idea of circumcision to back up their point.  In the Old Testament, God required the Jews to be circumcised as a sign of their separation as His people.  But Paul refuted the idea that circumcision saved people in Romans 4:9-17.  He made the point that Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his faith before he was circumcised AND before there was even any law to abide by.  The law didn’t come about until Moses’ time which would have been approximately 500 years after Abraham’s time.  Just for fun, and to make my point, I am going to write out the passage below and replace the word “circumcised” with the word “baptized.”  I’ll only use 4:9-13.

Is this blessing upon the baptized, or upon the unbaptized also?  For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned?  While (after) he was baptized or (before he was) baptized?  Not while (after) baptized, but (before he was) baptized; and he received the sign of baptism, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was baptized, that he might be the father of all who believe without being baptized, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, and the father of baptism to those who not only are of the baptism, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was baptized.  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

To sum it all up, I believe that John MacArthur made a great point that is a bit shorter.  He said, “For the Jew, Passover is a collective symbol of deliverance and circumcision is an individual symbol of justification.  For the Christian, communion is the collective corporate symbol of our relationship to Christ; baptism is the individual symbol of it.”  These things are just symbols of, not requirements for, salvation.

Now what about faith?  Faith is great.  By grace alone through faith alone can we be saved.  But did you notice which comes first?  Grace.  Grace is what truly saves, and the only kind of grace that can save is God’s grace.  Grace is what gives us faith.  Grace is a gift of God, but so is faith.  Although the picture may be a bit cheesy, the quote on the picture below is what really grabbed my attention.

Blog Faith

John MacArthur once again made a really great point in his commentary on Romans about Abraham’s faith.  He says, “It was not the greatness of Abraham’s faith that saved him but the greatness of the gracious Lord in whom he placed his faith.  Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace.  Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.”  He continues, “Although faith is required for salvation, it has no power in itself to save.  It is the power of God’s redemptive grace alone, working through the atoning work of His Son on the cross, that has power to save.  Faith is NOT, as some claim, a type of work.” (emphasis added)  Can I get an AMEN??  😛

I think that some people do have “faith in faith,” in other words they think that if faith is strong enough, it will save.  But what does James say about this?  He says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe-and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’- and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:19-23).

The point James is trying to make is that if your faith does not move you into action, or is not accompanied by works, it is not real faith.  It is dead faith.  Likewise, good works, by themselves are useless.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 which bears the idea that love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.)  You cannot have one without the other.  If I say that I believe that a chair is going to hold me up if I sit in it, but I refuse to sit in it, I will never be able to prove that my faith is real, because it is likely not real.  The works fulfill the faith, but these works and this faith can only come by the grace of God, which alone can truly save.

I sincerely hope that this was encouraging to some and challenging for some.  But most importantly, I hope that the truth has been spoken in love.  I understand that I don’t always have everything right, and as always, I invite anyone who wishes to add encouragement or ask questions and converse about these things.  Grace, peace and love to all through the Lord Jesus Christ!

Humanity and Religion

Humanity has a love/hate relationship with religion. We love it because it makes us feel better about ourselves, yet we hate it because it holds us in bondage to rules that we’ve made up for ourselves to try (in vain) to make ourselves better. Jesus came to set us free from religion. He took on the burden of living perfectly for all who will believe and then placing that perfection on them. He says ” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
If we do not hand our burdens over to Christ, we will eventually be crushed by them. When we do, we are free to live a life of love and thanksgiving to God, and to help bear one another’s burdens; to truly love God and love our neighbor as ourselves as He commanded us to do. We can let God change us, since we cannot change ourselves, yet strive to be like Christ in all that we do.
This is not a contradiction as we may often think it is, but is rather a mystery. A fantastic and beautiful mystery that we won’t be able to fully understand, but are free to trust that it is the truth!

I WANT to Remain a Slave to the Cruel Master

Imagine for a moment that you live in slavery.  Your master is incredibly harsh and ruthless.  You get beaten multiple times a day, you basically get starved, and you know that in the end, you will be killed in a violent way.  None of the slaves that this master owns get to die peacefully but in the most painful and brutal ways.

 

Now imagine that another master comes along who is incredibly rich in every way.  He owns it all and is rich in love, humility and mercy.  He makes his slaves family.  They get their own mansions and are made co-owners over everything he owns.  He offers to buy every slave that the cruel owner owns and to adopt them into his family.  You simply have to trust him and humbly ask him if you can become his.

 

It would be incredibly stupid to refuse this generous offer wouldn’t it?  And yet you see countless numbers of fellow slaves refusing to humbly ask to become the good master’s slaves because they are too proud and they even say that they LOVE being slaves to the cruel master.  This is unthinkable!  But this is how many people live their entire lives.

 

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the cruel slave master is yourself and sin and the good master is Jesus.  We as humans love sin and we love to be slaves to our own desires.  We want to do everything OUR way and not the way that God has clearly laid out for us in Scripture.  I myself daily return to the cruel master of sin and self.  Whether it’s by giving in to my desire to judge others, to lust, to not forgive someone of some stupid little thing that doesn’t even matter, to exalt myself above everyone else in my foolish pride, and the list goes on and on.  I know that in spite of the fact that I have been adopted into God’s family, I still at times shake my fist at Him and basically tell Him that MY way is best and that HIS way is too hard and that it’s dumb.

 

I know that there are many people who also struggle with a variety of things.  Many people believe that they cannot overcome their struggles and it’s true, they can’t without God’s help.  I agree that we cannot choose what our struggles are, but we can choose whether we want to overcome them or allow them to overcome us and define who we are.  Many people are slaves to the lie that their struggles define them, but the truth is, THEY DON’T!

 

There are many who struggle with things like homosexuality, lust, adultery, fornication (sex outside of marriage), compulsive lying, alcoholism, being attracted to children or animals, gossip or any other number of things, but have overcome them by the power of Christ!  Yet there are so many more who believe the lie that God made them the way they are and they can’t change, so they are going to live that way anyway because they think it makes them happy.  But they are really empty, miserable and lonely inside and sometimes outside as well.

 

A lot of the problem stems from the fact that we think we can change our lives on our own.  We try to do good but keep falling back into the same old sin over and over and eventually give up or get frustrated and wonder why we can’t fix ourselves.  It’s because only God can change us from the inside out.  We try to change ourselves from the outside but that doesn’t work.  We have to humbly admit that God exists and that He is who He says He is and that He will do everything that He has said that He will do.  We have to admit that we can’t change ourselves and we have to ask Him to change us.  That is how we become adopted into His family, by humbly asking.

 

Those who do inherit the eternal Kingdom that God has promised to bring to earth.  Those who do not, remain alone and enslaved to their desires forever.  That’s what Hell really is.  People choosing to be left to themselves and their desires away from God’s presence, utterly alone forever, and that’s exactly what they will get.  As C.S. Lewis so brilliantly stated, “There are those in the end who will say to God, “Thy will be done.” Then there are those in the end to whom God will say, “Thy will be done.”  Please don’t be one of those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

 

I say all of these things out of genuine love and concern for all.  I call it speaking the Truth in love.  This stuff does not come from me.  This is not a matter of my own opinion.  As the great singer/song writer Rich Mullins sang, “I did not make it, no, it is making me.  It is the very Truth of God and not the invention of any man.”  All Truth comes directly from the Word of God.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Go, and experience it and see it for yourself!

Grace, love and peace to all through God the Father and through Jesus Christ!

 

 

An excerpt from…

An excerpt from “The Silver Chair”:
“Please, what task sir?” said Jill.
“The task for which I called you and him here out of your own world.” (Aslan)
This puzzled Jill very much. “It’s mistaking me for someone else,” she thought. She didn’t dare to tell the Lion this, though she felt things would get into a dreadful muddle unless she did.
“Speak your thought, Human Child,” said the Lion.
“I was wondering-I mean-could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to-to Somebody-it was a name I wouldn’t know-and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.”
“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.
“Then you are Somebody, Sir?” said Jill.
“I am.”

Then the questions that followed:
-Why is it hard for Jill to think that the Lion called her instead of the other way around?
-Do you tend to credit yourself with too much power or to accept too little responsibility for events in your life?
-What are some of the repercussions of each tendency?

I am currently reading “A Year With Aslan” and today’s was really thought provoking.  It was also, I guess, proof that C.S. Lewis was reformed.

Unfortunately, …

Unfortunately, there are some people who spend their time trying to increase the percentage of their human righteousness, and thus fail to lay hold upon the totally different divine righteousness which is provided by the gospel.
Do not think that the convict is to say, “God, I have done twenty percent by myself and so I need eighty percent from you.” And do not think that the ethically good man is to say, “God, you see that I have done eighty percent by myself and so, fortunately, I need trouble you for no more than twenty percent to make up that which is lacking.”
And what is much harder (than the convict learning to curse his twenty percent of righteousness), the good man must curse the eighty percent of human righteousness, abandon all hope of salvation by means of it, and come to the cross of Jesus Christ to receive the one hundred percent of a totally different righteousness which does not come from man at all, but which is provided by the Lord Jesus Christ on the basis of His atoning death for sin and sinners. -Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse

The truth of salvation is that none of our righteous acts, whether they be many or few earn us a single ounce of favor with God.  We have to put off human “righteousness” and put on true righteousness, which is God’s righteousness.  Then we have all the favor with God that we will ever need.  If we continue to cling to our own “righteousness,” we will still be judged as having fallen infinitely short of God’s glory, and will be cast away from His holy presence forever.

For the Christi…

For the Christian, true tolerance is co-existing with unbelievers and agreeing to disagree with their beliefs and lifestyles. This can produce friendships, and we can continually pray for God to reveal Himself to them through our life. But for us to affirm their beliefs and lifestyles is showing no love to them at all, but is certainly pushing them further down the path that ends in eternal destruction.

My thought of the week from the wisdom that God has granted me.