We are currently in the advent season, anxiously awaiting Christ’s coming. But how exactly did Jesus come to earth? You’ve most likely heard about the virgin birth, but let’s take it a step further. Read these excerpts from the CSB Baker Illustrated Study Bible to learn more about the incarnation.

THE VIRGIN BIRTH

The birth of Christ by a virgin describes the method God chose for the incarnation. The scriptural emphasis is that Mary conceived a child due to the supernatural influence of God’s Holy Spirit without human intercourse. This means the Son she birthed was willed by God rather than caused by humans.

The biblical evidence for virgin conception seems rather scarce at first.

Only Matthew and Luke tell the story, and their stories relate different details. Mark and John seem uninterested in Jesus’s special birth, and the letters seem occupied with Jesus’s ministry. Does this mean that the virgin conception proves insignificant for Christian faith? Not at all! Although only Matthew and Luke give accounts of Mary’s virginity at the time of Jesus’s conception, all of the NT affirms it when touching on the issue (compare Mk 6:3 to Mt 13:55).

The true significance of the virgin conception concerns the very nature of Jesus.

God could have chosen to bring Jesus to earth through a special creation similar to the way he created the first Adam. However, Matthew’s and Luke’s portrayal of how God connected eternity with history places Christ’s eternal nature at the very core of the Christian faith. John’s Gospel exposes this most clearly with his opening statement about Jesus’s preexistence before his historical birth in Bethlehem (Jn 1:1–18).

Put differently, the virgin conception joins or unites the preexistent (or eternal) nature of Christ with his historical (or temporal) existence in a way that preserves both natures as coexistent. Without the virginal conception, there must have been a point of adoption, a specific historical time when Jesus became “Son of God.” The problem with the idea of adoption is that it ultimately makes Jesus 100 percent human and 0 percent God. Adoption changes belonging, not being.

Some scholars have tried to connect Jesus’s sinlessness to his virgin conception.

Such efforts, however, misread the biblical material and make sin an issue of inheritance and chromosomes. Furthermore, it seems to suggest that Mary was sinless simply because she was a virgin. It proves more helpful to say that because Jesus was 100 percent human (born of a woman), he could have sinned; but, because he was 100 percent God (born of the Spirit), he also had the option not to sin.

Opposite the first Adam, who also had the option not to sin, the second Adam, Jesus, remained sinless and restored what the first Adam destroyed (Rm 5:19; Heb 4:15). That Jesus was born of a woman secures that he can relate 100 percent to the human situation. That he was born of God’s Spirit secures that the salvation he offers is eternal, from God. The virginal conception therefore remains significant to the Christian faith.

THE INCARNATION

“Incarnation” means “infleshed” (Latin in carne) and should not be confused with the similar-sounding term, “reincarnation.” Biblically speaking, “incarnation” is a term used to express what happened when Jesus, who had been with God for all eternity, stepped onto the historical scene as a human being. The significance of incarnation, therefore, goes beyond the specific circumstances surrounding Jesus’s birth (1 Tm 3:16). John, for example, claims those who reject incarnation prove themselves to be anti-Christ (1 Jn 4:2; 2 Jn 7). Similarly, Paul interprets Jesus’s work on the cross in light of the incarnation (Col 1:22) and considers incarnation the reason Christ could accomplish what the law of Moses could not (Rm 8:3; Eph 2:15).

The biblical emphasis on incarnation moves faith from the realm of mythology to the realm of history.

God is not out there in the unknown but chose to step into history and reveal himself in a personal manner. Christ’s incarnation secures the connection between God and the issues of the human situation. It follows that Christian faith cannot be indifferent to historical issues of faith.

At the heart of the Christian doctrine on incarnation lies a statement about Christ’s being.

The NT story of incarnation shuts down any notion that Jesus was merely a pious person or prophet whom God adopted. Rather, he was 100 percent God and 100 percent man. Not “just” man, not “just” God, nor 50 percent of each. To say that Jesus is 100 percent God does not mean that he equals the Father but that his being is the same as the Father’s.

Everything about Jesus is an exact expression of God, yet Jesus is not the Father.

Opposite the early Christians, who knew Jesus as a human being and struggled to understand his divinity (Jn 10:25–30; 14:9–10, 28), Christians today struggle to understand the significance of Jesus’s humanity and find it easier to make him 100 percent God and 0 percent human. Being 100 percent God means he is the true Savior—not just one who can point to a saving God. That he is 100 percent human means he is fully acquainted with human experience. The incarnation calls followers of Christ to live lives that actively proclaim that God’s love is not long-distance love but a present and personal love (Heb 2:18; 4:15).

LEARN MORE

Get lots of other articles like these in the CSB Baker Illustrated Study Bible! If you’re wanting more information about this study Bible, we wrote a blog post on it. Check it out!

4 Comments

  1. Please remove me for your emailing list. I can’t do it on the unsubscribe section. Thank you. Stu Tweed

  2. In your blog post: How Jesus Came,

    “Only Matthew and Luke tell the story”
    wrong!
    Isaiah tells the story in 7:14
    “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

  3. Carmen Grothe Reply

    This was very informative. I just recently started Bible study and I probably should read more often. I wanted to thank you for making it possible. So easy to understand.

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